To develop a roll of film and make negatives for printing, it is necessary to strip the film's exposed silver halides. Usually, this is done with conventional developing solutions. Since the developer is the primary ingredient in the process, a lot of it is used. Unfortunately, the developer is one of the most problematic chemicals used in photography. It's awful for the environment,
and it can be expensive. It smells pretty nasty, too. (Fixer, a chemical used later in the process to preserve the negatives, has similar issues, but it won't be covered in this article.) Developing solutions are even worse after they've been used. Most of the silver halides from the film are washed away in the developer (some are left over until the stop bath), leaving you with a chemical that you can't just toss in the yard.
To get rid of used developer, it has to be stored until it can be taken for hazardous waste disposal. Before I learned all this, I was used to tossing my bucket of chemicals into the soil in my backyard. It was pretty close to a storm drain, too. Not all that cool. It would be great to have a developing solution that could be thrown out the window, but even Caffenol won't get us that far (ugh, silver!). Using it as an alternative developer, however, will reduce the nastiness and eye-burning odor a bit. Even better, it's cheap! You don't often see greener options that are cheaper than their nasty counterparts.
Caffenol is a developer consisting of only washing soda (which is used commonly as a laundry detergent), coffee crystals (like Instant Folgers), and sometimes vitamin C (for making Caffenol-C). It replaces the commercial developing chemical in developing black and white
film. It was introduced seventeen years ago by Dr. Scott Williams and his class at the Rochester Institute of Technology when he experimented with his class to find a household developer. After reading a bit about Caffenol, I followed the instructions on the Photojojo blog (link below), so the steps here are based off of their methods and tips from some helpful photographers at the printing lab. Note: Every photograph in this article, with the exception of three stock images, is shot in black-and-white and developed with Caffenol-C.
Helpful links and sources: http://people.rit.edu/andpph/text-coffee.html http://content.photojojo.com/tutorials/coffee-caffenol-film-developing/ http://caffenol.blogspot.com/