A few years ago, I realized how my massive coffee consumption increased my environmental footprint because it used lots of water and energy, and created lots of food and paper waste. To green my coffee routine, I decided to evaluate where I could be more efficient and less wasteful.
The odds are good that you’re like me and over 100 million other Americans who need to kick-start our mornings with a cup or two (or ten?) of coffee. For those of us who get our fix at a local coffee shop or at the office, the java is likely to come in a single use cup. It’s estimated Americans throw away 25 billion Styrofoam and 23 billion paper cups every year. That’s 23 pounds of trash, per person.
Trips to the local coffee shop are a dangerously easy way to create a ton of waste. At the time I was assessing my routine, I was working from home a lot. Sometimes, to get out of the house, I went to work at a local coffee shop. By default, the baristas assumed I was getting my coffee to go and would put it in a paper cup, with a plastic lid, and a paper insulated sleeve. Since I planned on being there for several hours and drinking several cups of coffee, I started to ask them for a ceramic mug.
For days when I was going into the office, I had a reusable coffee mug that the barista would fill.
It’s pretty common for coffee shops to give you a discount when you use a ceramic mug or bring your own to-go container, and my local shop is no different. So, as an added bonus, I was saving money.
For times when I did stay at home, I needed to change how I made coffee. Keurig machines have become all the rage and, I’ll be honest, it was very tempting to get one. Even though the coffee is only good, not great, they are extremely easy to use, really fast, don’t require any clean-up, and K-cups come in a variety of roasts and flavors. However, the waste is just too much. Most K-Cup pods are not recyclable or compostable, and refillable pods are only available for first generation machines. The negative environmental impact of the K-cup even has John Sylan, the Keurig machine’s inventor, regretting his invention.
Coffee connoisseurs favor the French press for making the best tasting coffee, and so do I. This method takes a little more time and effort than a using a drip coffee maker, but here is what I love about the French press from a sustainability perspective:
French press coffee is best served immediately because letting the water sit in the grounds will make it bitter. When I’m having a particularly rough morning, I make an extra French press pot, and pour it into my vacuum insulated thermos. This thermos is amazing, it keeps my java piping hot for up to 24 hours so I can pour a cup anytime I want.
Since I switched to making French press coffee, I have become an official coffee snob and never looked back! At home I spend a little more time making coffee than I used to, but it’s resulted in a better quality and more energy efficient cup of coffee.
Changing the way I make coffee at home and get it at the coffee shop has also significantly reduced my coffee-related trash. No more single use cups, lids, insulators, or filters. I’m also saving money by not buying coffee filters, wasting grinds, and I’m getting discounts at the coffee shop for not taking their single-use cups.
What green or sustainable changes can you make to your coffee routine?