Coffee is a big part of my daily routine. Not only does it give me an energy boost (and stave off those ever so pleasant caffeine withdrawal headaches – addicted? Moi?) it provides comfort and structure to my day and is my only ‘vice.’ As I’ve been working on reducing my waste, I’ve found that my consumption of coffee is an area that I ought to address, not least because it’s such a key aspect of my day-to-day life. So, with that in mind, I thought I’d share ways we can all lower our impact when it comes to enjoying a good old cup o’joe.
What’s that? You don’t drink coffee? That’s OK, that’s totally OK. Most of these tips apply to tea, too, or whatever beverage you regularly consume.
| Stop using disposable cups
It breaks my heart to think that disposable coffee cups can’t be recycled; while their components may be recyclable, they often cannot be separated, so they end up in landfill instead. Thankfully, there’s a very easy solution: ditch the disposables and invest in reusable coffee cups. My Keepcup has gotten me free coffees and discounts (purely because of its environmentally friendly credentials) as well as countless compliments – it’s a real talking point and is the perfect way to keep caffeinated on the go. I’d definitely recommend going for a glass cup over a plastic one; not only are they more eco-friendly, they interfere less with the flavour of your beverage.
During the summer months, I love iced coffees and cold brews, so I just had to pick up a stainless steel adult tumbler cup, complete with steel straw. I haven’t taken mine out for a spin yet so I’m hoping I don’t run into any issues with baristas, but it’ll also be great for transporting my own homemade iced coffee, or even an iced tea or smoothie.
| Bulk buy your beans
We’re fortunate enough to live close to a health foods store with a coffee beans dispenser. While I don’t always make it down there to bulk buy my beans, I try to go whenever I can. Just like disposable coffee cups, the packaging that coffee beans or ground coffee comes in is not recyclable, as it is lined with foil for freshness. I am really hoping that the whole bulk buying thing gains momentum in the U.K. soon, because it really is a great way to lessen your consumption of unsustainable packaging.
| Don’t use pods
Whilst we’re on the topic of packaging, coffee pods (the single-use capsules you use with Nespresso machines and the like) are pretty much the worst option you could go for. If you’re in the market for a coffee machine, please consider one which does not require disposable pods or filters – even if they claim to be recyclable/compostable – as the waste is just so unnecessary. No amount of smouldering eye contact from a certain silver-haired celebrity could persuade me to contribute to the tons of coffee capsules littering the planet, not least when a simple french press works much better.
| Repurpose your grounds
Once you’ve made your coffee, you’ll be left with mulchy grounds that you’ll be tempted to throw away. If you do decide to throw them away, do make sure they don’t go down the sink, as they can cause blockages. However, if you are able to compost your food waste, add your coffee grounds to the mix! They’re rich with the nutrients required for soil, and will be a vital contribution if you’re composting to create fertiliser for your garden.
If, like me, you grind whole beans, you’ll occasionally find yourself with leftover grounds at the bottle of your grinder that are perhaps too old to use in a fresh pot of coffee. As a natural exfoliant, coffee is a great ingredient for a homemade exfoliating face mask – simply mix a few teaspoons of the grounds in with coconut oil and apply it to your skin.
| Look for certifications, and go indie if you can
Just like in the cruelty-free beauty industry, labels and certifications hold weight in the food world. There are rather a lot of certifications you might see on coffee, the most popular being Fair Trade and the Rainforest Alliance. Both of these initiatives have come under scrutiny as the real-life benefits for the farming communities has been questioned. It’s definitely worth doing your research on certifications and coming to your own conclusions.
One way you can really diminish your contribution to big, bad corporations using certifications to make themselves look good is to purchase your coffee from smaller, independent brands who are vocal about their relationships with coffee bean farmers and their communities. When it comes to assessing brands, this guide from Ethical Consumer may come in handy.
I really hope this post gave you an insight into the ethics of your daily cup of coffee, along with some helpful suggestions for lessening your impact. If you have any ideas to add, please feel free to leave them in the comments.