Make Your Keurig Coffee Maker More Sustainable

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Make Keurig Sustainable

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!


About Emry Trantham

Emry is a writer, teacher, photographer and mother. She is interested in all things DIY and is willing to try any project at least once. She loves spending time with her kids and loves gardening, projects, and chickens.

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  1. Emily says

    Bottom line, we have the right to exercise “choice” and whether a consumer chooses to use a Keurig or not is a personal decision. It’s fits some people’s needs and for other people, alternatives are a better fit. I’ll bet that people who are anti-Keurig have other habits that might be viewed as environmentally unfriendly. I highly doubt that even “green” consumers are totally environmentally friendly in all that they do. I like using my Keurig when I’m pressed for time. I use my refillable pod or even better, my Hamilton Beach The Scoop, when I am able to take the time to prep my coffee and deal with used grounds. I like having choice. I clean my Keurig regularly with vinegar and wash the water tank out on a regular basis. I haven’t experienced any health issues. There’s lots of other “things” in our food sources that do bother me….like packaged baked goods and lunch meats. I simply avoid those. I judge no one. Eat what you want, drink what you want. It’s more about having the “choices” available to exercise that freedom.

  2. Alma says

    I was a big believer in the keurig until I wound up in the hospital for the last 6 days with a bacterial infection that has caused so many problems to my body. My daughter being the concerned adult sent me this today. It’s very worth reading. I’m not sure what a big fan of keurig I am now unless someone can prove different. Not to long ago I posted on this very site how much I love my keurig.

  3. Danielle says

    We use a Keurig and felt really bad about all the waste we were producing! Sure, it’s nice to just pop that pod in and be on your way, but it is so bad for the environment! So, for the last year, we have taken the extra time every morning to use the reusable pod and it works great. Yes, we complain about how it takes longer and we have to clean out the pod, but in the end it is better. We can also use the grounds for our tomato and pepper plants!

  4. Patt Graeser says

    I’ve also read that report before, Zina. In Keurig’s defense, I’d have to say that there is always water in most electric coffee pots. It gets run thru every day, so it would be hard for mold to grow in it. Mold grows when water is stagnant for long periods of time. Also, people think nothing of spending billions of dollars a year to buy bottled water – in plastic bottles, so why anyone would think having a cup of hot coffee run thru a plastic container for a minute or less is any worse, I don’t know. The covering on the KCups is made of a light aluminum foil. We cover our baking dishes with aluminum foil and bake food setting right on aluminum foil and we don’t think a thing of that, either. The woman who wrote that article may very well have kicked her Keurig to the curb, but I’m sure not going to do that to mine.

  5. Zina says

    It was mentioned that, “I know what you’re thinking: they’re wasteful, unnecessary, and horrible for the environment”.

    This article is very interesting, and mentioned something far more important when it comes to the K cup machines…

  6. alma says

    we have a keurig that has a tank on the side. we do make coffee one cup at a time, but, it holds several cups of water. because of this, we can not put vinegar in it to make one cup to clean it. any ideas on how to clean?

    • Lisa says

      Alma…I would put the vinegar right into where you put the water and run it like you were making a cup of coffee about 8 times only without the k-cup or filter. That’s how I always cleaned all my keurigs when the descale light went on. If I had any doubt that the water wasn’t clear yet, I’d run it through a few more times.

    • Patt Graeser says

      Alma, you most definitely can clean your Keurig with vinegar. You should either check the instruction booklet that came with it, or if you don’t have it, type into your browser “Cleaning Keurig brewer” and it should come up. You do have to run the brewer several times with plain water after the vinegar has gone thru the machine to remove any residue and taste the vinegar leaves behind.

    • Emry Trantham says

      Hi, Alma! I think everyone has answered your question, but yes, you can either empty you tank or wait until it is empty to pour the vinegar into it. You’ll have to fill it with water next, and run a few cups through to get rid of the vinegar smell, and you’ll be fine.

  7. Lisa says

    Unfortunately, today’s keurig doesn’t allow the use of reuseable filters. I use to use them all the time until I upgraded to the 2.0. They thought of everything. You can no longer use them or any k-cup that doesn’t have the keurig logo. A digital screen comes up and tells you why it’s not brewing your coffee. It’s such a racket just like cell phone chargers, always having to buy a new one with each phone. I can string several Christmas trees with all the chargers I have from past phones.

  8. Bev Meadows-Lein says

    Last summer I composted the grounds and paper filter out of the plastic cups then used the cups for starting seeds. I had a fabulous harvest of basil. The small cup size makes great starters for small seeds which also have smaller root systems as seedlings. I kept them and will re-use them again this next season too.