By Virginia Eaton —
I love to drink coffee. I drink it everyday, and occasionally in the afternoon, depending on my mood. Whether it’s a morning cup or an afternoon one, it should have a strong complex flavor — I am particularly fond of espresso. When my sister bought one of those single serving coffee makers, I hit the snob button. Couldn’t imagine a decent cup of java coming out of that silly looking contraption. I expected a weak and watery mug of coffee. Instead, I had to eat crow with one of the best cups of quick coffee I’ve had! Despite the fabulous experience with the single serve, I continued with my old-school drip coffee at home until recently, when my eight-year-old coffee pot went kaput. Now I was in a quandary.
The ease of a single serve machine was alluring but, since I have a sensitive guilt complex, my psyche was struggling with the enormous amount of waste these kinds of machines produce. I want to have a positive impact on this world and the world I leave for my children. Yes, I lose sleep over this sort of thing.
Unless you’ve been living in the back of beyond the last five years, the ubiquity of machines like Keurig, Nespresso or even Cusinart has gotten your attention. It seems like every business has one, you can’t beat the convenience. At home one spouse can enjoy Black Magic while you get your hazelnut cream — numerous partnerships have probably been saved from this one invention!
Once you own the machine, you need to purchase your coffee in pods, which are pre-filled plastic or foil containers, and this is where the enormous amount of waste comes from.
The used pods cannot be thrown into the recycle bin and mindlessly tossed into the garbage. The popularity of this style of coffee has created a burden on our landfills. However, with a little bit of know-how, you can recycle and compost your pods, saving the world from a lot more plastic in the landfill.
Coffee pods are a creative construction of plastic, foil and paper, and use very hot water and high pressure to create a consistently tasty cup o’ Joe. The complex construction, however, makes recycling in one piece a problem.
But you have a couple of options, so you can enjoy the ease of single serve and still avoid some of the guilt of lots of garbage.
You CAN recycle the pods if you break them down a bit. There is a device that makes this quite easy, or a solid pair of kitchen shears works, too. Here’s how:
- Cut the top off of the pod and separate the remaining pieces.
- The plastic goes into the recycle bin
- Some places will recycle foil others not, check with your recycler
- The coffee and paper filter can go into your compost bucket (or directly into your garden if you’re like me)
Easy-peasy, right? The tough part is to separate the paper filter from the plastic. In some brands this is quiet easy, while in others it can be quite challenging.
The other option is to use your own coffee in the refillable pods that often come with your machine or that you can purchase it separately. This takes away some of the convenience of prefilled pods but with a couple of tricks (ask me how) can be as tasty as the manufactured pods and you don’t have to deal with either the recycle deconstruction or the landfill guilt.
Of course, the ultimate solution is to graduate to the French press. This is the original single serve coffee maker and, with a little practice, makes wonderful coffee. The nice thing about a French press is, if you go camping or have a power outage, you can still get your java fix!
A French press is usually a glass coffee pot with a plunger that is lined with a very fine mesh that acts like a filter. You place your coffee grounds into the glass pot, fill with hot water and let it steep briefly. When you press the plunger, it takes the grounds to the bottom of the pot and you can pour a custom made single cup of coffee.
I have come to love the single serve coffee machines, and am thrilled that with just a little work can I still have coffee grounds for my garden.
This spring I’m going to see if a used pod can be re-purposed as a seed starter (coffee grounds removed, filter still in place); there are lots of YouTube demonstrations of this and I’ll let you know how mine works out. If you use a single serve, consider breaking the pods down for the recycle bin or using the refillable pods. If that seems like too much trouble, consider a French press.
Using sustainable practices in our life makes a difference in our quality of life and the quality of life we leave for our children. Besides, if I’m going to lose sleep over something, it shouldn’t be my coffee!
Read more of Virginia Eaton’s blog posts here.
Virginia Eaton is the owner of Oakhurst wellness center Class: The Body Pastiche