If you’re like me and you often need a morning caffeine fix before you feel like you can really get the day going one of the first new habits you need to get down pat is your zero waste coffee routine.
In the U.S. we consume about 4,43 kg of coffee per capita (source). That makes our nation one of the leading consumers of coffee worldwide, with more than 400 million cups of coffee made per day (source). Think about how much useless trash that produces. Especially when more sustainable solution have existed for years.
It hasn’t always been this way
I remember when I first started going to Starbucks with my mom when I was in high school. We would eat in and have our coffee out of those giant mugs that warm your hands up nicely.
The culture has changed and we continue to move towards rapid consumption in every aspect of life. Now it’s nearly impossible to find a place in NYC where you sit and get your coffee in a ceramic mug and take a few minutes to relax.
Can we be more European about coffee?
This is one aspect where Europe has a far superior culture. There are local coffee shops everywhere. Coffee culture is continuing to grow with beans imported from other countries and specialty shop popping up everywhere.
But, in Spain, where the consumption per capita is just slightly lower than the US there is far less consumption of paper cups. France has even banned the use of disposables almost two years ago now (source). Most people take the 5-10 minutes to stop and smell the coffee beans and more importantly relax.
Making Zero Waste Coffee At Home
Buying coffee beans / grounds zero waste
Before we leave the house each morning we like a nice hot cup of coffee while reading emails and preparing to take on the day.
Going zero waste meant that we needed to find a new source for our ground coffee. After a bit of searching I was able to find a specialty store in my neighborhood that has a select of coffee around the world that you can have ground based on the machine you use.
I also found eco coffee (make with other grains) and coffee beans at my local bulk store. Do your research and test some flavors to find the right coffee for you. Before you invest see if the store has samples you can try to make sure it fits your need.
Zero Waste Coffee Machines
There are many ways to make coffee. If you are a coffee fiend, I’m sure you have your preference.
To reduce as much waste as possible I recommend going with a traditional Italian Coffee Maker or French Press. With both, the only waste you will get in the coffee grinds. And they are simple and easy to use devices.
If you have a capsule machine like a Nespresso, try these refillable metal capsules. Try to avoid using the plastic ones that can ruin your machine.
The cost of zero waste coffee
It’s very important to note that buying coffee outside of the supermarket is going to cost you more. You are now investing in a premium product. And premium products come at a premium price.
To give you an example, a 250g box of Marcilla Coffee costs us around 2,50€. A 250g bag of specialty coffee costs us 8€.
We help to reduce this increase in cost by drinking more tea and sometimes doing a mix with premium coffee and eco coffee, or buying regular supermarket coffee less often at time we feel we are spending too much.
Zero Waste Coffee On-the-Go
Don’t have a coffee maker in the office?
Skip the instant coffee and try this Portable Hot & Cold Coffee Maker. It’s zero waste, and a super cool gadget. You can even take it on the go camping.
Or why not make coffee at home. Invest in a nice thermos, like this Eva Solo 16 oz. Thermo Flask, and it can keep you coffee warm for more than 8 hours, keep you caffeinated throughout your entire day.
Be extra careful because coffee tends to stay quite hot for a long time.
Zero Waste Coffee and Entertaining
When we want to entertain we opt for the French Press or Italian Coffee Maker. It take a bit of extra time, but the coffee it always excellent.
We usually make several batches in advance and save it in a large thermos to keep it warm from when we are ready for coffee time. I use this Ikea Vacuum Flask.
Here are three beautiful options for vacuum flasks:
And we also use ceramic mugs for guest instead of paper or styrofoam products. We prefer to use our dishwasher for the extra clean up than to create extra trash in a landfill.
We compliment the coffee with a nice sugar pot and milk. Check out this Elegant Sugar Pot from Anthropologie.
It make for an elegant zero waste coffee entertaining experience!
How to zero waste at the coffee shop
BYOC: Bring your own cup
There are a plethora of new brands springing up to meet your zero waste needs when going to a coffee shop.
I have this cute bamboo and silicone mug from eCoffee. They come in a large number of patterns with 3 different sizes. I have the 8oz or 250ml cup that fits the coffee machines found here in Europe. In the US you could also go for the larger versions.
Another great option, that is becoming widely popular in zero waste circles in the glass and silicone KeepCup. You can even choose to customize them colors if you go straight to their website.
If you want something really different, this Wooden Travel Mug from UncommonGoods is quite intriguing and very different.
Forgot the cup? We can’t all be perfect all the time. Before getting my eCoffee Cup I went to the coffee shop each morning for my Americano and opted out of the top.
This is another way to reduce plastic waste when you don’t have another solution. It can be a dangerous if you have a long walk. Thankfully we have a coffee shop across the street.
But of course it just put’s a band-aid on the problem.
Here’s a little link that I just found from and organization called I Go Topless about the 23lbs of waste produced each year per person if they just consume one paper cup per day.
It’ll definitely help you to remember that cup.
Other ways to reduce waste
Skip the sugar packets, stirrers, and napkins. Bring your own if you really need them.
Tuck a few sugar cubes or a few spoonfuls of sugar into a reusable container or napkin. Keep a metal spoon or chopstick on hand for stirring needs.
There are always solutions if you make the time to find them.
Go straight for the shakers or skip the sugar all together. You’ll appreciate your coffee more. 😉
It pays to reduce waste
Many companies are joining in on this great movement and offering a discount if you bring your own mug.
Check out this map from Responsible Cafes that will let you search cafes in your area that give you a discount for bringing your own cup. Even Starbucks and Costa Coffee will give you a discount.
Storing coffee at home
Here’s my storage solution. It’s a tin tea container that a friend gave me when she was moving away from Spain. It’s beautiful, it reminds me of her and I love that I gave it a new life in my kitchen.
Give your coffee grounds a new life
Speaking of the reincarnation of things. It’s time to make those coffee grounds go to good use.
When you’re making coffee don’t throw away the grounds. There are a plentitude of uses for the grounds, including as fertilizer for your plants.
And that’s my last tip for making your coffee routine zero waste!
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