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Iced coffee and your body


Iced coffee is ruining the environment – and your body


Even nut milks aren’t enough to make it better.

Even nut milks aren’t enough to make it better. Photograph: Glasshouse Images/Getty Images

It’s iced coffee season – and this year, the coolest accessory to beat the heat and consume your caffeine conscientiously may well be an eco-friendly stainless steel straw.

The single-use plastic straw, you’ve probably noticed, has become increasingly socially unacceptable. A number of cities around the world have banned or are considering banning the straws, and more and more companies are starting to phase them out. McDonald’s, for example, announced that it will stop using using plastic straws in its British restaurants next year and Ikea also recently committed to removing all single-use plastic products from its stores and restaurants by 2020. When multinationals like McDonalds turn away from straws, you know the movement has gone mainstream.
Perhaps you’re shrugging smugly because you’ve already stocked up on metal or paper straws: good for you! However, I’m afraid you can’t lay your conscience to rest that easily. Here’s an unappetizing breakdown of the other evils lurking in your iced coffee.

Ice coffee graphic

We recommend instead drinking water from a free-flowing stream with your bare hands, but if you simply must enjoy the perks of summer there are a few things you can do to reduce the harm you’re doing to the environment:
  • Drink your coffee black or try Ripple, a pea-based milk alternative that is more sustainable than most nut milks.
  • Carry a reusable cup and straw – a lot of places will give you discounts if you do.
  • When possible, buy ethically sourced coffee – fairly-traded coffee from companies that pay their taxes.
  • I’m sorry, there’s nothing you can do about fecal bacteria on the ice. Indeed, another study in Virginia that tested 90 restaurant ice machines found coliform bacteria in 48%. Just try not to think about it.

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