August 18, 2018

Defend the Earth, Save the Coffee

A hand holding a coffee

Nicholas Crenshaw/The Cowl

by Lela Biggus ’18

Coffee is in danger and college students are perfectly poised to do something about it. Ethiopia, a country with world-famous coffee beans and an economy highly reliant on coffee exports, is feeling climate change where it hurts.

A 2017 study found that 39 to 59 percent of land currently used to grow coffee beans, plants that require very specific climate conditions, could become unusable for coffee bean farming.

Not only is this problematic for the national economy, but a shift of this proportion will have a devastating impact on the livelihoods of some 15 million Ethiopian farmers dependent on the crop.

College students should care for these reasons alone, but if there is one thing that could motivate them to get off their bums and fight back—or to do anything for that matter—it is coffee.

According to the National Coffee Association, gourmet coffee consumption among millennials (aged 18-24 years old) has increased dramatically, from 13 percent to 36 percent, between 2010 and 2017.

Millennials are also more thoughtful in their coffee consumption than previous generations, buying from cafés and companies that keep their supply chains ethical, their farmers happy, and their beans fair trade.

Coffee and its origin matter to millennials. With the amount of coffee being consumed going up and the infusion of personal values into the millennial consumer mindset, it seems that college students should be especially bothered by the effects of climate change in Ethiopia.

Combatting climate change feels impossible. It is difficult to imagine the connection between eco-friendly changes on the Providence College campus and the salvation of sacred coffee bean-growing ground in Ethiopia.

Nevertheless, if we care about coffee and we care about others, there are always things we can do to help. Clubs, classes, and individuals have made efforts to reduce consumption and waste on campus.

Friar Food Rescue, the Providence College chapter of the Food Recovery Network, has delivered leftover food from Raymond and Alumni Halls to homeless shelters. As much as students have done to make a difference, there are an endless number of ways the College can do more. Currently, only a small coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts is served in a paper cup instead of a Styrofoam one. No coffee sold on campus should come in a Styrofoam cup.

There should be compost bins in dining halls, exponentially reducing our food waste. Compost bins should ideally outnumber trash cans designated for “landfill” refuse.

These are achievable objectives, all it takes is enough students paying attention to the implications of careless consumption and waste.

We at PC will not be the first to feel climate change. When global warming negatively affects us, there is likely money and a system in place to ensure that we are just fine.

It is easy to ignore the plight of others who suffer real consequences because of our actions. It is even easier to care only about those negative effects that impact you. We should care about preserving coffee farming land in Ethiopia, but not just because we love coffee.

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