You know, coffee surprisingly causes quite a few waste-free dilemmas. It really doesn’t have to be that way. Use a re-usable mug when you buy it “out” and pay attention to packaging when you make it “in”. That should be pretty simple, right? Yet, here I find myself posting another blog entry about the waste dilemmas of coffee.
I got re-started thinking about this tonight over at The Daily Muise (which is a great northern blog), because she mentioned her new single-cup coffee maker. It’s a Keurig, which means you have to buy little individually-packaged single-use plastic cups of ground coffee with little non-recyclable closures on top. With apologies to miss Muise (she’s tough, I think she can take it), here’s what I think:
This could get pretty rant-y pretty fast, so I’m going to hit it point-form:
Cost: The machine itself is crazy expensive for something that is engineered to heat, then drip water. Then there’s the cost of the coffee, and the fact that because the cups are patented, the proprietors have a monopoly and you have no choice but to pay up. You pay more, not for better coffee, but for the layers of plastic it comes wrapped in, and for the (hilarious) pleasure of not having to undergo the tortuous task of using a tablespoon to scoop and dump grinds yourself.
Freshness / taste: For something that is essentially instant coffee, and that comes in flavours like “donut shop” I find this point pretty laughable; but let’s humour it, because I had a coffee freshness brainstorm a while ago as well. Here’s how I solved it.
Convenience: You don’t want to wash your coffee pot, or tip your filter into the garbage/compost. I understand groggy mornings, but… that’s a bit lazy isn’t it? You still have to wash out your travel mug at the end of the day. BTW, vinegar through the brewer works great – or use a french press. It’s so easy.
“It’s Less Wasteful”: The reasoning that REALLY makes me laugh is the argument that these machines are less wasteful because you don’t waste grinds or pour leftover coffee down the drain. Really? let’s think about that for a second. Really????? I find this so ridiculously ironic. Sure, it’s easy to make too much coffee, which ends up getting stale in the fridge, or down the drain, or giving you stomach cramps because you drank far too much of it. It’s also pretty easy to not make too much. A good solution is to use a french press which is infinitely volume-adjustable, uses no filter paper, cleans up easily, and doesn’t need to be plugged into the wall. You can also make some pretty wicked mocha-chocolate-fudge-sauce for your ice cream with the extras if you still can’t drink it all.
Embarassing: Am I alone in feeling embarassed that North Americans are so susceptible to convenience-based advertising and pretty countertop trinkets that they would adopt this trend with enough vigour to make Keurig one of the few companies doing well during a recession?
Redemption: Never fear, if reading this has given you pangs of buyer’s remorse, I have a happy solution for you. You can go back to drinking real coffee including non-Keurig-approved brands if you like (even fair trade or organic coffee if you really want to remove some greenie-guilt). You can keep it fresh between your single servings even if you buy it in bulk. You can keep using your K-brewer. Thank goodness some reasonable person invented this dear little thing. My mind is at rest now that I know there is a solution for the Keurig, a ridiculous machine of garbage-birthing nonsense.
Now go get a re-usable K-cup for your Keurig so you can be on top of all the new trends and still avoid producing unreasonable amounts of single-use-plastic garbage. Then pat yourself on the back for doing one more thing to cut down on your waste this week.