Thinking about taking the Water Challenge but haven’t yet decided?
We’ve ranked your favourite drinks by their impact on the environment, which just may encourage you to sign up ASAP!
How green is your coffee? Unfortunately, the answer is likely not very. Coffee's biggest problem in terms of its environmental impact is its water footprint. It can take up to 140l of water to make one cup of coffee.
Another issue is that coffee farmers and businesses are finding ways to keep up with the demand for coffee, and this often involves adapting destructive practices harmful to the environment. This practice involves needing more land to grow coffee, which has seen 2.5million acres of forest in Central America alone cleared to make room for coffee farming.
Coffee processing plants often discharge waste into rivers creating pollution and contamination problems that can cause problems in the water systems and kill aquatic plants and animals. Take away coffee cups also add to the damage to the environment, with one billion disposable coffee cups used in Australia alone, every year.
So, your first step is to give up coffee for 30 days for the Water Challenge! But what then? One Green Planet says:
“Coffee has a large and increasing effect on the environment from start to finish and the best way we, as consumers, can reduce the impact on the environment, animal species and the farms producing the beans are to make informed decisions with our buying power. You can buy organic, carbon-negative and non-GM brands, but the best certifications to look out for are Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance certified products. Always use a reusable coffee cup for your take away coffee orders and try and buy your coffee from local and smaller retailers.”
The major issue with almost all soft drinks from an environmental point of view is their packaging, which is often a one-off disposable package, made to be disposed of once the drink is consumed.
You might be surprised to learn that out of all the packaging soft drinks can come in, glass actually has the most negative impact on the environment. A report conducted by The Conversation found that glass takes more resources and energy to produce.
You may instinctively reach for a glass bottle to avoid buying plastic, but glassmaking involves mining raw materials such as silica sand and dolomite, and that can release pollution which, when inhaled, can cause the lung condition silicosis. To melt these materials into bottles also needs an incredibly high temperature, and the process to reach this temperature is predominately powered by fossil fuels.
In fact, The Conversation found that bottles have about a 95% bigger contribution to global warming than aluminium cans.
However, other alternatives are not much better. Recycled aluminium is the least environmentally damaging single-use container for a soft drink because it can constantly be recycled with no change in properties. The issue is that people do not always recycle, with just over 60% of aluminium cans being recycled in Australia.
So, whilst buying aluminium soft drinks and ensuring you recycle is the most environmentally friendly way to consume soft drink, giving it up for a month can help reduce the 1 billion aluminium cans that end up in landfill each year in Australia.
You may be thinking about cutting out alcohol during the Water Challenge for health reasons, to save money or to say goodbye to hangovers, but did you know you’d also be making the planet happy too?
Once again, producing alcohol requires a huge amount of water, a resource we know that 785 million people around the world don’t access to for drinking, cooking and cleaning, and certainly not to be making alcohol. Because our society consumes so much alcohol, the key ingredients are being mass-produced, such as grapes, hops or barley. To grow these crops on a mass scale requires huge amounts of water, much of it freshwater.
Alcohol is also a large contributor to deforestation, as mass land is needed to grow the crops. As we know, cutting down trees is terrible for the environment since they’re essential for absorbing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases. It also destroys the habitats of many different types of wildlife.
The other major issue with alcohol is not just in the production process. Many drinks are typically served in glass or aluminium cans, and as we learnt above, these are not always easy to recycle and can cause environmental harm when being made.
Because drinking alcohol is so common in our society, it’s easy for us to ignore the problematic nature of mass-producing alcoholic drinks. Taking a 30-day break will not only help your health, but it will give you pause to consider how to be more green in your consumption.