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5 Ways to Green Your Coffee

Coffee Smiley Face

I am a stay-at-home mom of three.  I wake up at 4:45 a.m. every morning to help my husband get ready for work.

I drink a lot of coffee.

I’m not alone.  More than half of Americans are coffee drinkers, and many of them procure that morning cup of coffee outside their home.

In 2007, Starbucks alone used 1.9 billion disposable paper cups. That’s a lot of non-recyclable paper headed for the landfill, not to mention the water, trees, and energy used in production!

Here’s some tips to shrink your coffee footprint:

Brew Your Own: Eliminate your need for disposable cups and save money in the process by making your own coffee at home- hot or iced.  Even better, take the Good Earth Coffee “Brew at Home” Pledge and Good Earth will donate $1 to The Trust for Public Land, a non-profit that works to conserve parks, gardens, and natural places.

Buy Organic, Shade Grown, and/or Fair Trade: Organic coffee is grown without the use of pesticides; shade grown coffee is grown without unnecessary clearing of rainforest, which disrupts bird habitats (shade grown is also sometimes referred to as “Bird-Friendly”); and Fair Trade refers to the practice of providing fair wages and conditions for workers.  Ideally, choose a coffee that meets all three standards.

Invest in a Reusable Filter: At this point, I hate buying any product intended for one-time use.  Although paper filters can be composted, there is still an environmental cost associated with their production.  (Also, I just think the coffee tastes better run through a reusable filter.)

Use a Thermos: Rather than leaving the coffeemaker on “warm”, making multiple pots, or reheating in the microwave, conserve energy by making a day’s worth of coffee and pouring it into a vacuum-sealed thermos.  This will ensure that you have a constant supply of hot coffee to keep you going all day.

Compost the Coffee Grounds: Finally, make sure your grounds make it into the compost bin.  Or, during the growing season, sprinkle the grounds over flower and vegetable beds as a nitrogen-rich mulch.

Of course, sometimes when I’m out and about I really need a little pick-me-up, or I’ll run into a friend and we’ll stop by the local coffee shop.  I try to keep a travel coffee mug in the car for these caffeine emergencies, but if I don’t have that, I’ll ask the barista to hold the paper sleeve and plastic cap!

Photo by ballistikcoffeeboy under Creative Commons


  1. What a great list. I’m a home brewer as well. Been sprinkling my coffee grounds on my plants and they are loving it – especially my orchids!

    For those times when your mug is missing, I recommend a CupKozy! Keeps your hands protected from the heat and clips to your keychain. I love mine 😉 http://www.cupkozy.com

    I’m taking the home brew pledge right now!

  2. For the last time — “Fair Trade” has nothing to do with “environmental green”. It’s a slippery slope. If everyone keeps dumping social or economic programs and lumps them in with environmental ones under the same “green” banner, it’s disingenuous and deceptive.

    That says nothing of all the coffee that does not get Fair Trade certification that goes way beyond what Fair Trade certifies… (If you’re buying bulk coffee from big box stores, Fair Trade may be your only indicator. But many smaller roasters have a lot better, more direct relationships with growers — and don’t require them to pay thousands of dollars a year in certification fees, don’t require them to join a co-op, and do reward them for growing higher quality coffee … unlike Fair Trade.)

  3. I’m a French Press lover! I’m an American, currently living in Europe (Portugal). The locals love their Bica’s (expresso). While I don’t too often have a bica, I’ve learned to appreciate their strong, flavorfull coffee. I switched to a French Press b/c of this and will never go back. Coffee out of a coffee pot tastes weak and is lacking in flavor. Sure, it takes a bit longer – but, oh so worth it! I wish everyone would try it for a week – you may never go back to a drip pot. What’s great is that there are no filters and no electricity used (we have a gas stove in which we heat up our water).

  4. A great post! I’m glad to see that reusable cups are your favored solution too. Those disposable cups add up to a lot of resources used, trees cut down, and waste in the landfill. Industry estimates that 23 billion disposable coffee cups will be used in the US.

    If you’re curious about a deeper look at the eco-impact of coffee cups, I’d suggest dropping by http://www.SustainabilityIsSexy.com

  5. Ooooh yes, my ex introduced me to the Bodum (a brand of French Press) and if I ever went back to making my own coffee I’d certainly get a Bodum before considering a drip coffeemaker. We had both, and the drip was tasty too, but the ease and coolness of the Bodum wins out. Especially if you’re just making coffee-for-one, a single-serving Bodum is highly efficient!

    And apparently, you can actually grow and roast your own coffee beans if you live in the southern states. I don’t live anywhere NEAR there so I don’t know how easy or feasible it is, I’ve just heard that you can…

  6. we roast at home with a roaster that costs about $100.


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