Live Green and Earn Points


Green sweeteners: 4 tips for your sweet tooth

By NativeEnergy |

Where does the sugar in your morning coffee come from? Imagine if it grew in your own backyard.

This story is from our partner NativeEnergy and was originally published 5/22/2012.

Where does the sugar in your morning coffee come from? Imagine if it grew in your own backyard.

That’s right: you can harvest sugar, and likely cut carbon emissions, even if you live in a cold climate. But that’s not all. Here are four ways to “green” your sweetener, from the unusual to the common sensible:

1. Grow your own

Sugar beets may not be the most attractive vegetable, with their gnarled white tubers and reaching roots. But they are just the treat if you live in a chilly region and have an available patch of land.

Like sugarcane, beets produce sucrose, the familiar organic compound in table sugar. Though it sounds strange now, growing beets for sugar is an American tradition. Historically, when sugarcane was far more expensive, they were a fixture in many backyards. Today more than half of the sugar in the U.S. comes from sugar beets.

These days, some modern homesteaders are even hosting growing events, like the Ann Arbor Sugar Beet Project. Learn how to make sugar from beets in your own kitchen.

2. Use local sweeteners

Perhaps home gardening is not for you, but you still want to use local products produced nearby. By doing so, you will reduce the carbon emissions from shipping and support your community. In addition, these products are often harvested on a small, sustainable scale and minimally packaged.

Sugarcane is grown in tropical and subtropical areas, but there are good alternatives if you live in a cool climate. In the Northeast U.S., genuine maple syrup is an excellent choice. You can also find honey at farmer’s markets across the country.

3. Choose organic options

According to the World Wildlife Fund, sugarcane cultivation is responsible for “more biodiversity loss than any other crop.” The farming process harms natural habitats and causes toxic runoff of pesticides and herbicides. But sustainable farming practices are becoming more widespread.

Organic sugarcane is farmed without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. In addition, most organic sugar is crystallized from evaporated cane juice, which reduces processing time and its resulting carbon emissions. Bonus: organic sugar is reputed to contain vitamins and minerals usually lost in the refining process.

Look for organic sugar at your grocery store or coop.

4. Go raw

Less processing usually means less carbon emissions, so “raw” and minimally refined sweeteners can be a good choice. Raw sugar, for example, requires fewer manufacturing steps and often includes minerals stripped from its more processed counterparts. Raw honey boasts nutrients and antibacterial properties, and it requires no heat at all to process.

By considering the origins of sugar, we can make informed choices, cut carbon emissions, and even participate in the process. Perhaps it will make those treats taste a little more sweet.

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  • Ann M. 2 years ago
    Use sugar in the raw!
  • Betty Jane K. 5 years ago
    I didn't know that you could make your own sugar from sugar beets so easily. The link for the "how to" was appreciated. Now I just need to find sugar beets seeds so I can try this.
  • Beth K. 5 years ago
    I love beets. But from what I understand, about 90% of sugar beets in this country are grown by Monsanto - and we all know how monstrous they are with how they genetically modify and poison our food. Buy organic as often as you can!

    I also suffer from hypoglycemia (a precursor to diabetes) and diabetes runs in my family. For the past 20 years I've chosen natural, raw sugar, agave nectar and stevia to sweeten my beverages. They have less impact on the planet, are gentler to your glycemic index and body systems and provide all the sweetness you desire. While you're at it, just choose more natural sugars in general - ie, when your sweet tooth acts up, eat a piece of fruit instead of candy, processed sugary foods or drinks, and not only will you live healthier and longer but with a well-rounded natural-foods diet you'll have more sustained energy and less risk of heart disease, diabetes or obesity. It's so easy and what nature intended!
  • kevin b. 5 years ago