We love a cup of coffee or two throughout the day, but we don’t love the potential impact our coffee habit has on the environment. What if we told you it is easy to have a zero waste coffee, or more realistically, a low waste coffee that tastes incredible and produces minimal waste? Read on as we show you the steps to make a zero waste coffee. We promise the environment and your taste buds will love you for it!
1. Source low waste, local and environmentally friendly coffee beans
A good, low waste or zero waste coffee starts with the bean, specifically how it is packaged and where it originates.
When purchasing coffee beans, choose those that don’t contribute to deforestation and follow eco friendly production methods. Look for official certifications like Rainforest Alliance Certification or Australian Certified Organic. Rainforest Alliance Certification requires a certain level of native vegetation to be maintained within each coffee farm, while Australian Certified Organic is focused on protecting natural habitats and biodiversity, efficient water use, and minimising the use of chemicals in fertilisers and pest and disease management (1).
The best low waste option would be to visit a local coffee farm who roast on site and purchase roasted coffee beans in bulk using your own container. Australia is home to some excellent coffee producers, and most farms can be found between Cairns and Coffs Harbour.
You can also buy your coffee beans at many coffee shops that roast their own sor try a bulk food store such as The Source Bulk Foods.
If you aren’t able to find coffee beans package free, opt for Australian grown coffee in a bigger pack. Not only will you be supporting Australian farmers and local businesses, you will save packaging waste and food miles overall. You might even save money considering the cost per kilogram is often lower the larger the quantity.
Whole beans will stay fresher longer than pre-ground beans, especially if kept in a airtight container in a cool, dry, dark spot, like the pantry. Grind the required amount of whole coffee beans with a coffee grinder prior to brewing.
After much research we are yet to find a company that sells coffee beans in compostable packaging, but we know it is just a matter of time.
Do you know of a place where you can buy coffee beans in bulk using your own container or in compostable packaging? We would love to hear! Let us know in the comments section below.
2. Use a low tech, low waste coffee brewing method
Single use coffee pods, disposable coffee filters and electronic coffee makers are resource intensive, wasteful and costly, but we have some great low tech, low waste alternatives that produce outstanding results again and again!
Classic glass and stainless steel plastic free drip coffee maker
This classic glass and stainless steel drip coffee maker features a wood collar, a twine tie (vegan), stainless steel filter and a stylish glass body. It’s timeless, beautiful, zero waste and coffee enthusiasts rave about it.
To use a classic glass and stainless steel hand drip coffee maker simply follow these steps:
- Boil the appropriate amount of water in a kettle.
- Select your whole coffee beans and grind them to a medium coarse ground.
- Put one rounded tablespoon of ground coffee per cup into the stainless steel filter cone. Feel free to use more if you prefer it stronger.
- Pour a small amount of boiling water over the coffee grounds to wet them and wait 30 seconds for them to ‘bloom’. This will enhance the coffee’s flavour.
- Slowly pour more boiling water over the grounds using a circular or back-and-forth motion as you pour to soak the grounds evenly. Keep the water well below the top of the coffee maker.
- Remove the filter and compost the coffee grounds.
- Pour your coffee into a mug and enjoy.
Other popular low tech, zero waste coffee brewing methods include using a reusable filter (like our reusable bags, here), a French press, stovetop percolator, aeropress, moka pot, Turkish pot, or a single cup pour over.
3. Use milk and sugar in recyclable packaging
If you take your coffee with milk and sugar, look at the packaging these products come in.
You can find package free sugar in bulk food stores. Alternatively, choose Australian sugar in paper packaging, which can be recycled. By choosing Australian grown sugar you are also supporting Australian farmers and lower food miles.
When it comes to milk, opt for milk in recyclable glass or plastic bottles, and avoid long life Tetra Pak packaged milks. Tetra Pak cartons are made up of several layers of polyethylene, aluminium and paperboard, and while they are recyclable, not all recycling facilities have the capacity to recycle them (2).
If you love nut milk, you could make your own using one of these reusable nut milk bags. It’s really easy!
4. Compost the coffee grounds
Finally, for the ultimate zero waste coffee, don’t let those spent coffee grounds end up in landfill! Compost them and let your veggie garden reap the benefits!
Research recommends you add your spent coffee grounds to your compost heap, Bokashi bin or worm farm in small proportions (up to 20%), instead of applying them directly to your garden. Composting the grounds will allow the toxins to decompose safely, and will enable the water holding capacity benefits to emerge (3).
If you don’t have a compost system, could you give your spent coffee grounds to a friend or community garden instead?
Take five with your delicious, freshly brewed cup of zero waste coffee knowing that your actions will have a significant, positive impact on our environment!
If you need to run, pop your coffee into a reusable coffee cup.
Further Reading & References