It is often assumed that most of our conveniences in life result in being some of the least sustainable actions. And coffee is no exception. It may simply be an accepted norm that conveniences have consequences, but these actions don’t always need to have such a significant footprint.
There are opportunities within our convenient lifestyles to not only reduce the amount of waste, but to continue to maintain and even increase the quality of these convenient experiences.
Single use products that take no measurement or preparation are typically wrapped in individually prepared packages, creating a significant amount of disposable, nonrecyclable waste. Yet, with significant improvements in brewing technology, buying bulk beans — either whole bean or ground — has become easier than ever before. Not only does this remain convenient, but the price per serving is much less.
The big challenge here is making a single cup…and fast. Many times, I’ve measured the time it takes for a single capsule-cup brewer to heat and extract coffee, comparing it to a water kettle heated to nearly a boil and poured over a bed of ground coffee. The timing is very similar, but the waste is much less using a manual pour-over, which is simply a paper filter and the coffee grounds. You’ll also benefit from better flavor and coffee extraction using a pour-over method.
What You’ll Need:
- An electric water heater
- A “starter” pour-over brewer, such as the OXO pour-over coffee maker
- #4 paper filters
How to Brew:
- Heat water in the electric water heater. To speed up the process, only add enough water for a single serving.
- Insert a paper filter in the cone in the coffee maker.
- Add a level ¼ cup of medium-ground coffee into the filter.
- Pour water to the “12” line in the water reservoir to brew a full 12 oz. cup of coffee.
On the Road
One place where people will continue to go, no matter what, are gas stations. And if there was a good way to quickly drop in/out of a location and do more than one activity at once, such as getting your coffee, you are being more sustainable by making fewer stops. But the most common reason why people make two stops instead of one is quite obvious. The coffee is perceived as lower quality.
Convenience stores have invested heavily in the past several years to turn this perception around. They are using better equipment and coffee but also investing in more sustainable attributes and brewing methods. Some gas stations and convenience stores have started to recognize the value of having exceptional-tasting coffee and are willing to invest in better brewing equipment.
Some of the more popular pieces of equipment are known as “bean to brew” — a full-service experience that goes from grinding whole bean coffee to brewing a finished cup within a few minutes. This may add a few seconds to the experience but is definitely worth the wait. Shop owners are coming to realize the cost savings through purchasing bulk coffee in whole bean, rather than purchasing individual packets that usually cost significantly more per unit.
Plastic-Free Coffee Packaging
Plastics have done wonders for our world, especially within the medical and food industries. But there are ways to reduce the use when plastics are not essential to maintaining quality experiences. Plastic-free coffee packaging is one of those ways. The Heritage Coffee Series from Arbor Day Coffee is packaged and shipped with compostable materials, eliminating a significant amount of waste in the process.
Although some steps seem to be small, simply reducing waste can make a huge impact over time. I encourage you to take a look at your daily coffee routine and find ways to make it more sustainable.