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Zero Waste Coffee: 3 Ways

Are you a self-proclaimed coffeeholic? Do your Starbucks baristas know you by name? While buying coffee outside may seem convenient, it really does a number on the environment and your wallet. Here are 3 ways to lower your impact and save money by making coffee at home.

Coffee time used to be a way to greet a brand new morning, with family or friends and to get ready for the day ahead. People used to actually sit down to have a cup of coffee in the morning BEFORE leaving to work. That's right. It wasn't always a grab-and-go kind of lifestyle.

Nowadays with the hustle and bustle of the work-all-day and play-all-night kind of routine, there's no time to just sit and drink… coffee, that is. This is why so many people avoid making it altogether and go to Starbucks every morning, spending no less than $4 to get their favorite cappuccino or Americano, only to feel lethargic again after lunch. The way we drink coffee is really taking a toll on the environment and our wallets.

I have no issue with Starbucks or other coffee shops. If you truly love your local coffee shop and want to support them, by all means go ahead, but consider bringing your own travel mug. I promise, it will taste better without those plastic-lined cups and you'll feel better, knowing that you are not contributing to the ever-growing trash in landfills all over the world. In fact, you may even end up spending less money in the long run, because some coffee chains will refund you for the price of their cups. Starbucks, for instance, gives you 10 cents back for every disposable cup you do not use.

If you already make coffee at home, consider switching your coffee maker to something more sustainable. Is it an automatic-drip coffee machine or a single-serve? Keurig machines are notoriously known to have a large carbon footprint because the amount of k-cups trashed into landfills could "wrap the planet more than 10 times" [source: StoryofStuff]. That says a lot, considering how small the cups are! Other automatic coffee makers, like the drip coffee machines, use paper filters. Hence, they're not as bad as those k-cups, but they still waste paper, and are filtered through plastic. This is the reason why, when I was in the market for a coffee maker, I opted for a non-automatic one, such as the first two that I'll be mentioning below.

1. French Press

Yes, it may sound super fancy, but it's really just a machine that lets the coffee grounds marry the hot water and then pushes down the grounds with a super fine filter so that you are left with just the coffee. It's similar to steeping tea and then straining out the tea leaves. The great thing about this is that it uses a stainless steel filter, so there is no plastic that is touching your hot water, unlike the filter in the automatic machines. These are very affordable if you choose to buy the glass kind, but I feel that the double-wall stainless steel ones are worth the investment, as they last longer (don't break) and also keep your coffee warm for a longer amount of time.

2. Moka pot

Moka pots are stove-top coffee makers that make you a wonderful cup of coffee in just about 5 minutes. This is probably my favorite brewing method, as it is quick, affordable, and very easy to clean. This is the classic Italian way of making coffee, or café. It was invented in the 1930's and it still works the same way. The only drawback with this is that you can't make more or less coffee - it's always going to have to be the same amount. I always opt for a larger size such as the 10oz because honestly, caffeine doesn't affect me too much. However, if you find that one shot (2oz) of espresso is enough for you, opt for the smaller size.

3. Instant Coffee

Okay, I hear you coffee snobs… but hear me out. While it may not always have the best flavor, it has the lowest impact. This is due to the energy required to roast the drip coffee beans - be it dark, medium, or light and also because instant coffee is actually lighter to ship across the world. Another huge perk is that this is literally the simplest and quickest way to make coffee, and involves zero clean-up and no coffee grinds left for composting or trash. Personally, I opt for instant most mornings. It's the most convenient way to brew, and if you experiment with it, you might actually find a way to make it to your liking!

There are a few more brewing methods that are low-waste, such as stainless steel pour-over cones and percolators, but they each come with their own set of problems. The pour-over cones tend to get clogged up with the coffee oils no matter how much you clean them, and the percolators might still get a little bit of those coffee grounds into your drink. However, if you have had success for an extended period of time with either of these methods, do let me know in the comments below! I'd love to hear your feedback.

Happy Coffee-making!


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