How can I be eco-friendlier with coffee?
I bet you and I have at least one thing in common: we both love coffee. Summer is still hanging around, which means iced coffee and cold brew all day until the sun drops. But, again, if you’re anything like me, your “green” practices have probably gotten a bit lax with summer coming to an end.
Sometimes making your own cold brew at home is too time-consuming before a weekend road trip on the fly, so we stop at a local café and take the to-go cup with the plastic straw, instead. Before you know it, you’re at the next rest stop tossing your empty into the nearest garbage can, without a thought to recycle it. I'm not trying to make you feel bad about your your coffee-drinking habits — we're all guilty. In addition to buying Organic and Fair Trade certified beans, let’s take a look at some ways we can adapt our coffee habits to make Mother Earth a little more colorful moving forward.
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1. Buy an insulated travel mug.
While most coffee lovers push these to the side due to them being impossible to clean and unappealing to look at, if you’re working towards being more “green,” you probably should own one. Investing in a mug that you’re proud of will make it easier to use it over and over again! Here’s one I recommend that will keep your coffee at the temperature you want it all day long while making you feel like a badass. The best part? Tons of coffee shops will gladly pour your morning fix into your reusable mug when you're on the go.
2. Caffeinate your compost.
Believe it or not, a lot of coffee shops sell their used grounds to locals instead of discarding of them. Since coffee grounds are packed with nutrients, this makes them great for community gardens. Most cafés are willing to bag up their spent grounds for distribution, so if yours doesn’t advertise this, ask your barista!
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3. Cut the power.
Brewing your coffee at home can be a good way of limiting waste by using mugs instead of disposable products! But be sure to unplug all of your electric coffee makers. Even when they’re not running, they’re drawing wasted energy from a power source. If you want to have more power over your brew instead of your coffee maker taking your power from you, try brewing your coffee in a French press or Moka pot.
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4. Buy in bulk, if possible.
Buying in bulk minimizes packaging. Sometimes, buying from a small coffee shop, they may be willing to fill your own container, so you don’t waste the bag. If you don’t buy in bulk, purchasing the largest bags possible will also minimize packaging. Coffee snobs will argue that buying coffee more often will ensure the freshest beans, but with a few good tips on how to store your coffee for maximal freshness, you’ll be good to go!
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5. Ditch the plastic straws.
There's a reasons why major cities like Seattle are banning plastic straws — Americans alone use 500 million plastic straws every day. Instead of sticking a plastic straw into your favorite iced coffee drink, buy reusable ones. You can get a pack of them for as little as $10 on Amazon.
6. Brew only what you’ll drink.
You’ve just gone through all this trouble to find the strongest, most flavorful, eco-friendly beans you could possibly find. Don’t waste them! Consider one cup brewers (you can make single or double servings of coffee in a French Press or Chemex) or keep what’s left refrigerated for iced coffee the next day. My favorite way to make sure coffee doesn’t go to waste is to freeze it into coffee ice cubes!
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Now, let’s get one thing straight. Going without coffee just isn’t an option, but if you can make a few simple changes, you’ll be on your way to a “greener” cup of joe in no time. Being mindful of your coffee experience goes a long way. Stay caffeinated!
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