Drinking Sustainably


Water is necessary for all human life.  The Mayo Clinic states that, “Water is your body’s principle chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.”  (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water/NU00283)  Water (not bottled water) is readily available and healthy.  People should drink it every day.  However, sometimes plain water can seem monotonous.  People enjoy drinking beverages with varying tastes, and often these beverages contain chemicals (such as sugar, caffeine, or alcohol) that can result in physiological changes.  Below I will address more sustainable ways to obtain and consume these various delicious beverages in ways from making them yourself to choosing to buy from socially and environmentally just companies.

Coffee:  Coffee is a drink (usually served hot) which is made by brewing or infusing very hot water with roasted and ground coffee beans.  These are actually the fruit of the Coffea Arabica tree.  The drink contains the stimulant caffeine and is often paired with cream and sugar.  The resulting drink is generally valued for keeping people awake and alert.

In countries like Ethiopia, one of the oldest producers of coffee, drinking this beverage is traditionally part of a complex social ceremony.  Through brewing and drinking the coffee, community ties are strengthened and values reaffirmed.  However, in the United States, coffee is often consumed solo and for the sole purpose of helping people work more (and likely spend less time building community than making money).

Most of the world’s coffee is produced in places like South America and Africa:  in other words not the Northwest.  However, sustainable and possibly healthier options do exist.  For instance, Guayaki (a high ranking company on http://www.betterworldshopper.org produces a tea called Yerba Mate.  This tea contains some caffeine, though generally not as much as coffee, and unlike coffee is not highly acidic.  However, if you really need your coffee kick or claim that you really just like the taste, fair trade companies such as Equal Exchange (http://equalexchange.coop/products/coffee) are the best option to buy from.  Though these companies must still invest in transportation for their products, they respect the farmers producing the coffee and support the local communities.  Another way to act more sustainably and strengthen community is by supporting local coffee shops (such as Cornerstone Coffee and Union Block Coffee in McMinnville).

General coffee information:  http://www.zecuppa.com/coffee-terms.html


Tea/Tisane:  In the United States, most hot drinks consisting of an infusion from the leaves of a plant are refered to as tea.  However, in many other regions such as Europe, a distinction is made between tea (brewed with the leaves of a specific plant) and tisane (made from other plants).  Tisane is also often called herbal tea in the United States.  (http://www.livestrong.com/article/519558-benefits-of-tisane-tea/)

Herbal Teas can have many health benefits and can also be made from plants easily grown in a home garden.  Herbal teas should not be made, however, without knowledge of the effects of the plants being used.

Country Living provides a number of ideas for good tasting teas that can be made from a home garden (http://www.countryliving.com/outdoor/garden-plans-finder/herbal-tea-garden-plan-2) including rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, and others.  MindBodyGreen’s website includes more healing tea ingredients (http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4350/15-Best-Herbal-Tea-Ingredients-for-Healing.html).

Being more thoughtful about what you drink (be that through making an alternative beverage yourself, buying wine from local vineyards, or purchasing coffee from socially just businesses) is more sustainable in numerous ways.  These drinks can be healthy alternatives to packaged and pre-prepared beverages.  They also result in education about the nutritional value of different foods, many of which you can grow yourself.  Finally, learning about what you consume and drinking it more thoughtfully can strengthen community by building a body of knowledge about how to be healthy and sustainable and by simply spending more time preparing beverages and sharing them with others.

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