Greener You

How to Make Your Daily Cup of Coffee Eco-Friendly

It's time to adopt a morning coffee routine that's kinder to the environment.

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Coffee is a necessary pick-me-up for the majority of us. According to the National Coffee Association (NCA), 62 percent of people in the U.S. sip on a hot or cold brew everyday. But, like nearly everything else we do in our daily lives, drinking coffee can have a negative impact on the environment. From the way the bean is harvested to the single-use cups, straws, and to-go lids we drink out of, your typical cup of coffee can have a surprisingly large ecological impact.

But there’s good news: You can make your go-to caffeine habits more sustainable. Here are six easy ideas.

1. Choose an ethical coffee brand

As demand for coffee is steadily increasing around the world, so is its impact on the environment. One of the industry’s biggest faults is deforestation, which comes as a result of climate change and increased consumer demand worldwide. 

While most actions related to coffee sustainability are out of consumers’ hands, choosing an ethical brand is a great place to start. Most people want to buy coffee that’s certified good for the earth. Additionally, one study found that many people are willing to pay more money for coffee with ecolabelling. 

A label alone doesn’t necessarily make coffee sustainable for the planet or ensure its farmers are guaranteed good wages and working conditions. But, according to Smithsonian Magazine, coffee with the following labels are worth looking out for:

  • Fair Trade Certified
  • USDA Organic seal
  • Bird-Friendly Certified

2. Bring your own mug

According to the NCA, 48 percent of daily coffee drinkers buy from local establishments. While that’s great for local businesses, it also means that millions of single-use plastic and paper cups are used and discarded daily. Worse, many waste facilities can’t recycle coffee cups, so they end up in the landfill and take decades to degrade.

To limit the amount of single-use cups you’re using, some coffee shops – like Starbucks – will allow you to bring your own reusable coffee mug. Just bring in a clean cup and hold onto your lid. You can pop on the lid once the barista hands over your prepared drink. Plus, you can score a 10-cent discount on your coffee.

Find out if your favorite coffee shop accepts reusable cups. If that’s not an option, you can try limiting the number of days you opt for takeout coffee per week. As a bonus, see if you can skip the plastic or paper straw and use a sippy cup lid instead. The less plastic you consume, the lesser your impact on the environment.

3. Brew your coffee without electricity

Nearly every home appliance requires electricity, including your automatic coffee maker. You can use less energy (and hopefully lower your electric bill in the process) by making coffee with a manual brewing method instead. There are different types of manual brewing methods to consider based on your preferred taste and aroma. 

For instance, those who enjoy rich coffee can switch to a French press. Alternatively, you can try the pour-over method for a lighter flavor; this method gives you more control over the coffee flavor. There’s also the Aeropress, which is perfect for making a single cup of coffee you can take with you on the go.

4. Recycle your coffee pods

Coffee pods are incredibly convenient, but not every type is recyclable or simple to dispose of ethically. Some coffee companies, such as Nespresso, require their pods to be recycled directly at a factory. And according to WIRED, that puts the recycling rate at only 25 percent. 

If you’re not already recycling your coffee pods, putting in that extra effort can go a long way for the planet. Just look into your preferred brand’s recycling options if you’re unsure.

Or, alternatively, purchase reusable coffee pods instead. Just make sure the one you choose is compatible with your coffee maker!

5. Get a reusable coffee filter

Make your morning coffee more eco-friendly by switching to reusable coffee filters. You can find cloth or stainless steel filters (which also happen to be dishwasher-friendly) to fit all types of coffee makers. 

Simply wash the coffee filter thoroughly instead of reaching for a disposable filter everyday. Not only will you produce less garbage, but you’ll also save money by not having to buy filters regularly.

6. Reuse your coffee grounds

Instead of throwing out old coffee grounds, why not use them to fertilize your garden? 

Nutrient levels in the soil are absorbed by plants as they grow, and your leftover grounds contain some particularly beneficial ones. Coffee grounds include minerals such as nitrogen, calcium, and iron that optimize plant growth and foster foliage. Another benefit? Coffee grounds attract worms, which help your garden thrive.

Reusing coffee grounds couldn’t be easier to do! Just spread the grounds in the soil around your plants to reap the benefits.

For more eco-friendly tips and tricks beyond coffee, keep reading: