Making coffee is an essential part of many people’s morning routine–Americans gulp down around 400 million cups of it every day. One method for making the perfect cup of coffee has been criticized. Canada’s Competition Bureau recently fined Keurig Canada millions for damages due to false claims that their plastic K cups are recyclable. In reality, they can only be recycled in Quebec and British Columbia.
While coffee pods might have a handy recycling symbol, it is actually much more difficult to break them down into a recyclable form .. Let the pod cool, then remove the foil and place the ground in the compost or trash. Next, you will need to dig beneath the pod to remove the paper filter. According to the Toronto Sun, the city of Toronto was reverting 99 tons of pods from recycling bins to landfills each year.
Single-use plastic is a disaster for the environment. It can be a K-cup or a water bottle, straw, or grocery bag. In 2019, people produced more than 130 million tons of single-use plastic waste worldwide. There are many options for personal change.
Switch to a low or no waste coffee-brewing method
The easiest way to reduce the amount of coffee-brewing waste? Switch to pods. Luckily, these days, there are loads of ways to make your coffee at home that don’t require a ton of time or skill. A Moka pot or Turkish Pot is a great way to make zero waste coffee and it tastes great, especially if your preference is for strong coffee. For something milder, but still zero-waste, a French press may be the best option.
[Related: For a better cup of coffee, use fewer beans]
Manual coffee makers such as a Chemex, Aeropress, or pour-over single require filters. Luckily, these are often compostable, or in some cases, you can find reusable ones for pour-over or automatic drip coffee. Just do your research on the brand and type of filter you choose before tossing it in your compost bin (the bleached white ones tend to not be as compostable).
Make sure to use a reusable cup
Sometimes, it’s a day that calls for a fancy latte at your favorite coffee shop. This is where the problem lies with those nasty takeout cups. Starbucks alone distributes 6 billion of them worldwide each year, and in general, nearly 50 billion cups get trashed on an annual basis. Not to mention, even the most “recyclable” seeming receptacles are a bit of a farce–as of 2018, only three out of 450 of the US’s paper recycling mills can process plastic-coated paper.
The easiest way to deal with this is to take a reusable cup or mug with you when you go for a cappuccino. Starbucks just brought back their reusable mug policy this summer–and dozens of local coffee shops in places like New York City accept reusables. San Francisco even imposed bans on toss-away cups back in 2019. It doesn’t matter where you live but it’s worth the effort to bring your own.
Buy responsible beans
Your coffee-making and coffee-carrying habits can have a greater impact if the main ingredient is also sustainable. Coffee beans farming can be very labor intensive. The trees start producing little fruits three to four years after they’re planted. The beans are found within these fruits. They must then be removed, cleaned and shipped to the roaster.
[Related: 5 cool ways to upcycle old coffee sacks]
To feed our growing demand for coffee, growers often have to resort to tearing down forests to farm more land. The crop also has a pretty substantial ecological footprint–one cup of coffee requires 140 liters of water to cultivate, process the beans, and then transport them to your coffee machine. Certifications like Rainforest Alliance, USDA organic, Fairtrade America, or Fair Trade USA can help you determine which beans to buy at the store. Additionally, there are a handful of US