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Sustainable Coffee: Tips for a Low-Waste and Eco-Friendly Routine

A sustainable coffee routine is easy. Here's how to select eco-friendly beans and machines, limit waste, upcycle coffee grounds, and more.

Written by
Kylie Fuller
Published

For most of us, coffee isn't optional. More than 60% of Americans drink coffee daily, and the average person drinks three cups for a total of 400 million cups of coffee per day

While brewing your own cup (or two) every morning is greener and cheaper than going to your favorite drive-thru, an at-home coffee routine can still create a lot of waste. Just think about all the coffee filters, K-Cups, and coffee packages we go through on a monthly basis.

Luckily, you can kickstart a sustainable coffee routine by making a few simple changes. Did you know that some coffee machines are more eco-friendly than others? Or that you can upcycle your used coffee grounds? We've made of list of simple ways you can make every cup of coffee better for the planet.

5 Steps to a Sustainable Coffee Routine

1. Know Your Coffee

To start, take a critical look at your beans. Coffee farming contributes significantly to deforestation, and the planet needs carbon sinks to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When you buy Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and/or organic coffee, you support a more sustainable coffee industry. These certifications also ensure your coffee is free from harmful chemicals, like pesticides.

2. Buy in Bulk

Over 145 million empty coffee bags are thrown away every year. When you buy in bulk, you save money and your products come in less plastic packaging. You can also buy coffee that isn't sold in plastic packaging at all: Look for biodegradable, compostable, recyclable, or reusable packaging. Some local roasters even sell their beans in metal coffee tins, which you can reuse in myriad ways.

3. Invest In an Eco-Friendly Machine

Now that you have more sustainable coffee, it's time to think about your coffee machine. Some coffee machines are more energy-efficient than others. Simple, non-electric machines are typically more eco-friendly than larger, complex machines: Think French press or pour-over. Of course, drip coffee and espresso makers aren't off the table. But consider options with reusable filters and long-lasting materials like stainless steel.

4. Ditch Paper Filters

If your machine doesn't have a built-in filter (and needs one), consider investing in a reusable option. While most paper filters can be composted, the resources required to produce paper filters outweigh the benefits of composting. (Think of how many filters you use in a year!) Metal filters last for a long time and don't affect the taste of your brew as long as they're cleaned regularly.

If your machine isn't compatible with a reusable filter, bamboo filters are a great alternative to paper filters. Bamboo requires less water and land to grow, and it grows at a much faster rate. This means bamboo products tend to be more environmentally friendly than paper. They're also easier to compost.

5. Upcycle Your Coffee Grounds

Now that you've made a cup of sustainable coffee, how do you dispose of the grounds? There are many ways to use old coffee grounds. They can fertilize your garden and even work as a gentle exfoliator in a face mask. Or if you're not up for any DIY projects, simply add them to your compost.