Zana's Health Corner

HPHR Fellow Elizana-Marie Joseph

By Elizana-Marie Joseph

Considering Connections Between Coffee, Covid-19 and Climate Change

Food photo created by kroshka__nastya -


Coffee is a multi billion dollar industry. With a net worth of $186 billion dollars, Jeff Bezos is *arguably* worth more than coffee. But if you were to ask the average coffee drinker, most would passionately disagree. For many, coffee is priceless. Steeped with rich flavor, history and culture, this energizing drink remains incredibly popular throughout the world. 


According to the National Coffee Association, the coffee industry is responsible for 1,694,710 jobs in the United States economy. In 2015, the total economic impact of the U.S. coffee industry was about $225.2 billion. Much to my surprise, Euromonitor International, an independent provider of strategic market research, conducted a survey in 2016 which found that Americans drink more coffee per capita than bottled water.

Image created by Euromonitor International

64% of American adults drink coffee every day, and the average American coffee drinker consumes about 3 cups per day. Whether it is served hot or cold, coffee is beloved. 


We all know someone who says “coffee is life” or swears they cannot function until they have had their first cup of coffee in the morning. Their days are broken up into time blocks that exist “before coffee” (BC) and “after coffee” (AC). Similarly, it is not uncommon for regular coffee drinkers to experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms


For most coffee drinkers in the U.S. convenience is key. Nearly half of all daily coffee drinkers buy their coffee-to-go and single-cup brewing machines (like Keurig) are increasing in popularity as well. All of that caffeine and convenience comes with a hefty cost and a large carbon footprint. 

COVID-19 & Climate Change

How is your daily cup of coffee linked to COVID-19 and climate change ?

It is hard to ignore the environmental toll associated with fighting COVID-19.  A recent study looks at both the positive and negative indirect effects of COVID-19 on the environment. One of the key research findings from this study, was the unfortunate increase in waste and reduction in recycling that occurred as a result of pandemic-related circumstances. Naturally, this added waste production contributes to existing climate change concerns.  

Coffee photo created by mego-studio -
Image from Manuel A. Zambrano-Monserrate, María Alejandra Ruano, Luis Sanchez-Alcalde, Indirect effects of COVID-19 on the environment, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 728, 2020, 138813,

Early on in the pandemic, coffee shops (understandably) banned reusable cups to help minimize the potential spread of COVID-19. As time went on, we learned more about how coronavirus is transmitted and the science did not support the ban. Global health experts and environmental groups like Greenpeace, FoodPrint, UPSTREAM, and Oceanic Global, signed an open letter defending the safety of reusable materials during the pandemic.


After months of advocacy, reusable cups are slowly being reintroduced to coffee shops. At Starbucks locations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, customers had the opportunity to engage in contactless coffee services. This system requires customers to put their reusable cup into a larger ceramic or stainless steel cup that will act as a barrier between the barista and the reusable cup while the drink is being made. Contactless coffee is a safe and sustainable solution to a common challenge that was exacerbated by the pandemic. Although the practice has not been introduced to Starbucks locations in North America, there is exciting progress being made in efforts to phase out  disposable coffee cups entirely


Hopefully, by increasing efforts to combat climate change, we can save the planet and the coffee so many of us love.

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