11 Tips to Make Your Morning Coffee Eco-friendly

11 Tips to Make Your Morning Coffee Eco-friendly

Did you know that over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day?

Coffee has come a long way since its discovery over a thousand years ago in the Ethiopian highlands.

Legend has it a local shepherd named Kaldi discovered coffee. He noticed that his goats became energetic and wouldn't sleep through the night after eating berries from a certain tree.

Goat jumping excitedly onto rock

It's now the centre of a is now a multi-billion pound industry. When something gets that big, chances are that the environment is going to suffer somewhat.

We all love a morning 'cup of joe' but there are lots of things we can do reduce the impact of our favourite pick me up and make our coffee eco-friendly.

1. Reduce your coffee intake

OK, let's take care of the elephant in the room. The cultivation, processing and transport of coffee is extremely resource intensive.

Simply drinking less coffee is probably one of the best things you can do to protect the environment. This isn't about stopping altogether, just being mindful of your consumption.

If you are already on two coffees for the day and are about to go for your third, hold off. Or perhaps give up coffee on the weekend.

2. Buy Sustainable coffee

Coffee is one of the world's most popular beverages and 80% of it is produced by 25 million smallholders.

As a counter to point 1. Coffee is a vital cash crop for many developing countries. Simply stopping consumption would hit farmers hard.

What we can do is support sustainable farming practices. When you are shopping for coffee look out for these two certifications, Fairtrade and Soil Association.

Fairtrade guarantees that farmer receive at least the Fairtrade Minumum Price for their coffee. This is set at a level which aims to cover their costs of production and acts as a safety net if market prices were to fall.

The Soil Association works closely with small scale farmers. It ensures that organic farming practices are being use especially in relation to pesticide and fertilisers.

If you are looking for eco-friendly coffee suppliers that are certified with both these schemes check out:

3. Make coffee at home

When you make coffee at home, you know where the coffee has come from, where the coffee grounds go and how its served.

With the cost of an Americano around £2.50 from a coffee shop it's also a lot cheaper to make it at home.

Next time you plan to meet up at a coffee shop, how about arranging it at home?

4. Reduce energy

There are some great eco-friendly coffee machine on the market that use less energy than their traditional counterparts.

But, what if is you don't use a machine and just rely on a trusty kettle? Here are a few tips to reduce your energy usage:

  1. Don't boil more water than you need
  2. Clean the kettle of limescale regularly. Being coated in limescale reduces its heat transfer efficiency.
  3. If you don't have a kettle or can pick one up secondhand, Invest in an temperature controlled kettle. When you brew coffee you need hot, not boiling water, so why not invest in a kettle that will only raise the temperature to a level you need.

5. Try cold brew coffee

Heating water for your morning coffee takes energy - whether that's electricity for a kettle or gas to heat a saucepan. Do away with all that and try a cold brew coffee, perfect for those hot summer days and a super eco-friendly way to make coffee!

To get started, grab some coarse coffee grounds and add them to a large jar or jug. You wan to add about 8x times more water than coffee, c. 50g to 400ml cold water.

Let it steep for 12-24 hours, depending on how strong you would like it. Pour the coffee mixture into another jug through a sieve, gauze etc. anything you have to catch the coffee grounds. Done!

The cold brew coffee will last around 2-3 days in the fridge. How you serve the coffee is up to you, drink it neat for an espresso type drink or dilute with still or sparkling water for a refreshing pick me up.

6. Use a hand coffee bean grinder

If you like to buy your own beans, rather than relying on a electric grinder give a hand grinder a go. Just like their mechanical counterparts, with a good quality grinder you will be able to select your coarseness.

I find it therapeutic to grind my own beans by hand and it makes me feel like I actually did something worthwhile to make the coffee, rather than just adding hot water!

7. Reusable filters

Certain brewing methods use paper filters. One example being the pour over method. The paper removes fines from the coffee and absorbs some the aromatic oils. This creates a lighter bodied, sweeter coffee in comparison to other methods.

The problem for the environment is that paper filters are single-use. The reusable alternatives on the market are either cloth of metal based.

If you like the style of coffee that a paper filter produces its best to opt for a cloth filter. The material will replicate the filtration and absorption properties of paper. Why not try making your own? Head here for instructions.

A metal filter relies on a fine mesh to remove material. This means that more fines and oils will seep through. Resulting in coffee which is similar to one a french press would produce.

8. Reusable Nespresso coffee pods

Nespresso machines, along with the capsule system, are a quick and convenient way to make great espresso coffee. But disposing of the single-use coffee pods is a big issue.

The official coffee pods are made of aluminium and can be recycled. But a vast amount will end up in landfill. Even those coffee pods that make it to a recycling plant, the process of cleaning them is labour intensive and energy intensive to recycle.

We decided to sell our own machine a few years ago and start using a french press. If you can't say no to your machine just yet, get your hands on some reusable coffee pods to make your coffee more eco-friendly.

There are a number on the market but the basic premise is you have an open pod, you fill it with ground coffee and seal the pod.

Having had a look at reviews on the we there seems to be a bit of nack to get them to produce coffee rather than brown water. The top tips from users are:

  1. User a fine coffee grind
  2. Don't compress the coffee grounds to much in the pods otherwise the water can't get through
  3. Don't overfill the reusable coffee pods

9. Recycle coffee grounds

You'll find lots of articles on the web about all the things you can do with used coffee grounds. Some of my favourites are:

  • Protecting plants from creepy crawlies - Slugs and snails don't like the caffeine in the coffee grounds and won't cross soil sprinkled with them.
  • Absorb odours - If you rub your hands with coffee grounds after handling onions or garlic they will absorb the odor.
  • Compost and Fertiliser - You can throw coffee ground straight in the compost. They count as green material and will add nitrogen to the pile. Or you can add them straight to the soil to give a nitrogen boost. Apparently, root vegetables, especially radishes and carrots, love them!

For a full list of things you can use coffee grounds for head to this Buzzfeed article.

10. Get a Reusable coffee cup

By this point in the list you have bought and made your super eco-friendly coffee at home. Now it's time to head out the door and enjoy your coffee on the go. The next thing you need is a reusable coffee cup.

A Google search for reusable coffee cup will bring up thousands of results. But i think the choices boil down to three main factors:

  • Collapsible- If you want a discrete cup that fits into your pocket or a small bag you need a collapsible coffee cup like the Pokito. It's ingenious design also allows you to transform the cup into three different drinking sizes.
  • Rigid - By their very nature collapsible cups can be a little flimsy. If space isn't at a premium or your prefer something rigid you can't go wrong with the rCUP. It's made out of recycled paper cups, keeps your drink warm for 80 minutes and you can operate the lid with one hand.
  • Glass - I don't get a plastic taste from the above two reusable coffee cups but you might be more sensitive. If that's the case a glass version is the way to go, check out the KeepCup. They downside of glass being its weight and susceptibility to breakages.

Don't forget, while you are out and about you can also use you reusable coffee cup to get discounts at coffee shops. Here is a list of the big chains and their discounts.

But don't forget to ask smaller chains, its likely they will be offer a discount too.

11. Drink in or use a sustainable disposable Cups

It's happened to the best of us. You are out and about and head to the local coffee shop. To your horror you realise you've left your reusable coffee cup back at home.

The best eco option now would be to sit in, use a cup and saucer, and enjoy your coffee break.

If you absolutely have to keep moving you have one last ace in the hole. Find a coffee shop that provides biodegradable or easily recyclable takeaway coffee cups. There are more and more biodegradable and sustainable options entering the market many of which are derived from plant based material

Some takeaway coffee cups may look like they are made from paper, but many are coated with a thin layer of plastic inside. The coating prevents hot liquid from seeping through to the paper and making your cup a soggy mess. The problem is that this also means that they are not easily recyclable, if at all.

One more last thing, remember to say no to a lid.

So there we have it, 11 ways to make your coffee habit a bit more eco-friendly.

Andy Smith
Andy Smith

Founder of Reco, a marketplace and community dedicated to find shift from a single-use mindset to a multi-use one. #SingleUseSucks

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