Coffee (The Nectar of the Gods) and How to Reduce Your Waste

I am a huge coffee fiend.  I love the smell, I love the taste, I love the experience, and I generally spend 2-3 hours drinking the same cup of coffee.  I love it and no I don’t have a caffeine problem (hands shaking, scratching arms, etc).  One of the biggest things I’ve done to reduce trash production this month was buying a thermos for my coffee.  I bought a stainless steel insulated thermos from Klean Kanteen for $20.  At first I thought $20 was a little hefty but over the past year I’ve spilled dozens of coffees on myself commuting to work so the spill-proof feature (aside from environmental reasons) is definitely worth $20.

Came in 100% post-consumer plastic/cardboard packaging and all of it was 100% recyclable.

It’s great because it keeps hot stuff hot, it keeps cold stuff cold, it is leakproof (good for public transit and people on the go), and it’s made of 18/8 stainless steel so you avoid the interaction of hot stuff with plastics or styrofoam (no thanks to consuming carcinogens).  Also, it allows me to avoid using disposable coffee cups when I go to places like Dunkin or Starbucks.  Also, also, places generally only charge you for a small when you use your own mug so that helps economically (Dunkin, Starbucks, True Grounds, my employer’s cafeteria, etc).  

I’ve always known that places like Dunkin Donuts use styrofoam cups and that it’s bad for the environment, but who really cares, Dunkin Donuts is everywhere in Boston, so it can’t be that bad can it? Here’s a picture I came across that is kind of disturbing and dumb:

Dunkin's blatant disregard for the environment.

Dunkin does not recycle, period.  I’ve had my bagels double wrapped in plastic and put into a large paper bag, I’ve had my slightly misplaced order thrown away (would have still eaten it), and I’ve had the experience above of having them put a styrofoam cup around my iced coffee without me asking for it.  Also, if you get an iced coffee and want to recycle it, there are ZERO places to recycle at Dunkin, none.  Not only do they not make an effort to be green they are just incredibly wasteful.

I came across this blog through one of the green twitter users I’ve been following (also follow me @youngandurban) 

Disclaimer:  I don’t particularly like it when people express things in terms of grams of CO2, it’s probably not accurate and more importantly it’s not really relatable. What does a gram of CO2 look like anyway?  Nobody knows because it’s not tangible to the average person.  Also, I don’t particularly like massively aggregated statistics either, such as the ones presented in the article above, however, even if they might be largely overestimated it’s still unbelievably wasteful.  Here’s a few points in case you’re too lazy to actually read it:

  • Average number of coffee cups consumed by Americans every day = 400 million
  • The number of disposable cups thrown away in the U.S. every year = 23 billion
  • Pounds of solid waste created from disposable cups = 263 million lbs
  • Styrofoam cups thrown away every year = 25 million, and these do not ever biodegrade in our landfills (used almost exclusively at places like Dunkin)
  • Adding dairy to an espresso adds 2/3 of the entire drink’s carbon footprint
  • Black coffee has a carbon footprint 4-5x smaller than an equal sized latte

In addition to the coffee mug, I’ve started brewing a lot of my own coffee lately via via french press.  I used to do it off and on but throughout this month I’ve used it 4-5 days a week instead of going to Dunkin, Starbucks, or a local shop.

$25 at Bed Bath and Beyond, it paid for itself in less than 3 weeks.

It’s more or less idiotproof.  You put in 5-6 scoops of coarse-ground coffee into the cup, pour in “almost boiling” water, put the lid on it, wait 8-10 minutes, plunge down the filter, and voila you have amazing tasting coffee.  It’s helped to save me a ton of money every week (realistically $20-30/week).  Here’s an article from CNN Money that my roommate sent me.

Basically it ranks gourmet coffee as the #7 biggest waste of money in the U.S.  So for those of you who spend $4/coffee every weekday before work at Starbucks, you’re running up a tab of almost $80/month just in coffee.  Making my own coffee (Equal Exchange) I spend about $14/month.

So the gist of this blog post is this.  To easily reduce your landfill impact do two things.  #1 Buy a non-plastic spill-proof coffee mug and #2 Start making your own coffee at home.  Both will save you money and reduce your impact on the environment. 

Lastly, I just joined a petition online to have Dunkin Donuts make an effort to change their environmental practices.  I like Dunkin coffee but their complete disregard for the environment is unacceptable.  So click the link and join the cause.  If facebook can overthrow Egypt perhaps it can also help companies like Dunkin smarten up.

This entry was posted in August - Life Without the Landfill. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Coffee (The Nectar of the Gods) and How to Reduce Your Waste

  1. June says:

    I used to make my own lattes at home, now prefer French Press coffee too. Who needs to drink hot milk in the morning? I want the coffee taste.
    I had a barista tell me to steep the ground coffee for four minutes; I’ve read that elsewhere also. Longer steeping adds to bitterness.

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