Community Food Waste

Is Your Coffee Sustainable?

For many of us, coffee is essential. A cup in the morning is a common ritual, and without it, the morning wouldn’t be complete. For something so central to our daily routines, the selection of a coffee machine can be especially important. While some look for economy, others prioritize convenience. However, daily routines are also a perfect place to make small, sustainable changes that accumulate to make a big difference.

When thinking about your coffee routine, it’s best to return to a common sustainability phrase: “reduce, reuse recycle.” While recycling is often emphasized, it’s important to consider these options in order. First, reduce to minimize the resources used to create your morning cup of coffee. The best way to do this is by sharing coffee machines. Even sharing with one other person will reduce the resources used to produce the machine and the waste created when the machine is retired by half. Sharing also creates opportunities to connect with colleagues, a strategy famously used by Steve Jobs to increase collaboration and creativity at Pixar.

It’s also important to reduce electricity usage. Energy Star now has certifications available for coffee makers, and you can check how many watts are used on the label to get more detailed information. After determining the ways in which we can reduce, we can then look to reuse. Most coffee makers will be compatible with reusable coffee filters. These filters will save both money and resources in the long run. Even the Keurig brand has a reusable filter to fit many of its machines. With so many single-use plastic products ending up in landfill, this is a great opportunity to eliminate single-use waste. Although some K-cups are now recyclable, the resources needed to produce these disposable cups and reclaim them after use is significantly larger than the resources used for a reusable filter.

The final choice to be made is what coffee to buy. The coffee market has become saturated with various certifications and ethical or environmental attributes, and it’s often difficult to make sense of them all. The St. Louis Green Dining Alliance offers an in-depth overview of sustainable coffee. They suggest prioritizing fair-trade brands, which means a third-party has ensured that the health and well-being of the workers and the community are met. Other options for sustainability include buying coffee without packaging in stores like Local Harvest Grocery and composting the coffee grinds after use.

With so many options for both coffee machines and roasted coffee beans, it’s often difficult to pick out the options that fit both your needs and the needs of the environment. Focusing on reducing and reusing before resorting to recycling will keep coffee moving in the right direction.