sugar you measured out came from cane fields (former sawgrass marshes) in Florida. Water that used to flow across these marshes and into the Everglades is now drained into canals and sent directly to the ocean or irrigates fields, where it picks up nutrients and pesticides. Populations of all vertebrates—from turtles to storks—have fallen 75 to 95 percent in Everglades National Park.
When examining the waste involved, we find that the cow’s manure was rich in nitrogen and phosphorus.
Since the soils of the cow pasture were unable to absorb all the manure, it washed up into the stream when it rained, fertilizing algae which absorbed oxygen from the water, making life more difficult for the fish living in the stream. Two hours later, your body metabolizes the coffee and most of the water and nutrients are passed into the Oklahoma City sewer system where it is mixed with other organic and inorganic waste. They then traveled under the streets of the city to Oklahoma City's sewage treatment plant on the North Canadian River in Jones where the solids were filtered, concentrated, digested and sterilized with screens, settling tanks, bacteria and chlorine. An engineer deemed the sewage sludge clean enough for agriculture and a trucker hauled it to pulpwood tree farms for use as fertilizer and soil conditioner. A pipe carried the treated liquids a mile into the North Canadian River.
Coffee is the world's second largest legal export commodity (after oil) and is the second largest source of foreign exchange for developing nations. The United States drinks about one-fifth of the world's coffee. If you drink two cups a day, you'll down 34 gallons of java this year, made from 18 pounds of beans. Colombian farms have 12 coffee trees growing to support your personal addiction. Farmers will apply 11 pounds of fertilizers and a few ounces of pesticides to the trees this year. And, Columbia's rivers will swell with 43 pounds of coffee pulp stripped from your beans.
Okay, you don't want to give up coffee--What can you do? Cut back on drinking coffee—it stains your teeth and makes you jumpy anyway. (And nobody likes coffee breath, either!) Buy organic, shade-grown, fair trade coffee. Coffee grown under the shade of mixed trees requires few or no chemical inputs; the lead litter replenishes soil nutrients and the variety of tree species benefits birds and discourages pest outbreaks. Also, the farmers growing and picking it are making a living wage from their work. Many brands of sustainably produced coffee are available. Contact Use Less Stuff campaign coordinator, Susie Shields, at <Susie.firstname.lastname@example.org> or 405.702.5166 for more information.
"From Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things, by John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning, copyright 1997 Northwest Environment Watch, Seattle; used with permission."