I know there are a few differing opinions about coffee around these parts (there are good things about coffee and bad things about coffee), but I consider myself to be firmly in the pro-coffee camp. Like many of you, I look forward to my morning cup of sunshine from the minute I wake up.
There are so many ways to make your coffee in the morning. Coffeemakers, french presses, percolators, instant coffee, and of course the oft-reviled, newfangled appliance du jour: the single-cup coffee machine.
I’m going to go ahead and admit to owning a Keurig. My husband and I have very different schedules and I have a low tolerance for caffeine, so I rarely need to make more than one cup of coffee at a time. In that way, a Keurig is a great choice for us. I know what you’re thinking: they’re wasteful, unnecessary, and horrible for the environment. And you’re right, in a way. Single-serve coffee machines can be all of those things. But they don’t have to be.
We’ve figured out a few ways to use our Keurig that lessen its environmental impact, and I thought I’d share them. Whether you’re new to the natural lifestyle and hoping to make some changes or you’re an old pro with a weak spot for convenience, I think these ideas can help you out.
Ways to Make Your Keurig More Sustainable
1. Use a reusable coffee pod.
If you’re only going to make one change in your morning routine, it has to be switching to a reusable coffee pod. (This one is BPA free!) It is admittedly less convenient: you’ll have to fill your pod yourself and wash it out when you’re finished, but you’ll be saving so much packaging. Check out this article by Grist with the frightening title: “Trash from the K-Cups sold last year would circle the Earth almost 11 times.” If that won’t scare you into using the reusable coffee pod 100% of the time, then I don’t know what will.
Another benefit to using the reusable basket is that you have so many more options when it comes to buying coffee. Instead of being boxed into the coffees that are sold in K-cup form, you can buy anything you want. On that note:
2. Buy environmentally friendly coffee.
Buying coffee with sustainability in mind can be an overwhelming experience. There are so many labels: organic, shade-grown, rainforest alliance certified, fair trade, etc. How are we supposed to know what to buy?
First off, you need to make sure that your coffee is organic. Coffee beans are known to be a heavily-sprayed crop, and are often grown in countries that don’t have strict guidelines on pesticides. Coffee that is USDA certified organic is much safer if you’re concerned about consuming harmful chemicals. (Good Housekeeping magazine lists coffee on its Dirty Dozen list here.)
It’s always a good idea to look for coffee that is shade-grown. Shade-grown coffee is grown under the cover of trees and discourages the clear-cutting that has taken place to make room for coffee bean plantations.
If you’re looking for all of the above, try to find coffee that is labeled Bird-Friendly. As a bonus, every time you buy Bird Friendly certified coffee, money is donated directly to the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.
For a really helpful breakdown of sustainably-grown coffee terminology, check out this article from GOOD Magazine.
3. Keep your coffee-maker clean, naturally.
One common complaint I’ve heard about single-serve coffeemakers is that they’re difficult to clean. Personally, I haven’t found that to be the case. As long as the water reservoir is taken off and washed regularly, it should stay clean.
Cleaning the inside of your machine is simple, too. Every month or so, run a solution of one part water and one part white vinegar through your coffeemaker as a way of cleaning out the build-up that may have accumulated inside the machine. Repeat until the water runs clear, and then run a few cycles with plain water to flush the vinegar. When the hot water that comes out of the machine no longer smells of vinegar, you’re finished!
A few more tips
- Keep your Keurig turned off and unplugged when you aren’t using it. No need to waste that vampire energy!
- Always compost your coffee grounds. They’re a good source of nitrogen and great for plants that like acidic soil.
- Don’t forget that Keurigs are useful for more than just coffee. They also work for tea and other hot drinks.
- Mix your coffee with good stuff. Organic natural sweeteners and organic half and half are great options for sweetening up your coffee.
So, tell me, do you use a Keurig?
How have you made it more sustainable? Please share in the comments section below!