Sustainable ways for coffee-junkies

Today we have a different coffee drinking culture than we had only a few years ago. With over 2 billion cups of coffee drunken every day worldwide, convenience became more important.Single-serve-pod-machines are on the raise and a more and more growing business. Other trends like coffee-to-go makes our coffee consumption worldwide unsustainable.

While big coffee-producers are active with efforts to make their coffee more sustainable, there is only so much they can do, without changing their business concepts. But every single person has the opportunity to decide every morning how sustainable their coffee should be.


What is unsustainable about our today coffee drinking habits?

  • Single-serve aluminum or plastic pods:
    These one-portion cups are very convenient for the quick morning coffee. They changed the coffee drinking habits worldwide and are still a growing business. But the cups are rarely recyclable. Even-though most companies claim that their cups are recyclable, this is only the case if the cups are completely clean and a recycling machine for small parts is available at the recycling plants. Therefore, most of the cups end up in the landfills of his world.
  • Paper cups:
    Coffee-to go comes in paper or plastic cups that can be conveniently carried and drunken on the way. This is not only an unnecessary waste of resources, but most of them can´t be recycled. While the paper is recyclable, the inner, waterproof layer is not. The cup first must go through a process to divide these both layers.
  • Coffee beans production:
    In a thriving and global business as the coffee market, companies have tough price competition. This leads often to the suffering and exploitation of local farmers.
    As sun-grown coffee beans are popular, often wood and rainforest needs to be cut down to have massive plantations.
  • Transport:
    Coffee beans are often grown, processed, packaged and sold in different countries. This leads to long transportation ways.
  • Packaging:
    Coffee is often packaged in foil packaging to save the flavor and freshness of the coffee beans and ground. These packages are often not recyclable.


How to drink more sustainable coffee

There are some little ways to make your morning coffee not only more sustainable but also delicious.
Some of the ideas were copied from old coffee-drinking traditions, others are new inventions.

  • Reusable Equipment:
    If you already have a single-serve pod machine, you don´t need to get rid of it. But there are compatible 100% biodegradable or biopolymer capsules. Other companies are producing capsules that can be filled with your own coffee and reused many times.
    You can also find more and more reusable filters on the market that fit to your drip-machines.
  • Avoiding packaging:
    If you buy coffee in bulk you are saving on plastic waste as you don´t need to have little packaging. You should also try to avoid foil packaging. Rather go for the plastic containers, that can be recycled.
  • Buy Fairtrade:
    There are other certificates than Fairtrade out there but Fairtrade is one of the best-known certificates. If you buy Fairtrade coffee you know that it comes from a good source, the farmers have been paid a decent price and no workers were exploited.
  • Don´t drink from paper cups:
    It is convenient to have a coffee-to-go. But instead of wasting resources, you should bring your own metal coffee-to-go cup that can be reused. Some coffee stores will even give you a discount if you bring your own cup. And if you have time and want to relax a bit, it is always nice to just sit down in the coffee store and enjoy the coffee from their ceramic mugs.
  • Safe water and energy:
    You should always only heat up the amount of water that will be used for the number of cups that you are planning on preparing/ drinking. Heating up too much water costs energy and is more time-consuming.
  • Old-fashion coffee-making:
    Coffee-lovers have a long history and there are plenty of ways to produce amazing and delicious coffee in a sustainable way. I will introduce you here to four coffee-makers that are affordable, environmental friendly, easy to use and sustainable:

    1. The French press
      The French press is an easy system in which you fill coffee grounds in a glass container, fill it up with hot water and let it stand for a few minutes. After the waiting time you press down a reusable filter that is connected to the lid of the glass. The coffee from the French press is cheap and easy to make. With the type of coffee, the amount and the shorter/ longer waiting time you can decide how strong your coffee will be.
    2. Turkish coffee
      For the lover of strong coffee, the Turkish coffee brewing method is very easy. Very fine coffee grounds are stirred into boiling water. The coffee is drunken without filtration. For this method you can use a special Turkish coffee pot or just a regular pot.
    3. Drip-machine
      Combined with biodegradable filters, this machine is environmental friendly even though it uses electricity. You should try to not make too much coffee so you don´t through away cold coffee afterwards. This way it also uses less energy.
    4. The Moka pot
      This is a traditional way of making Espresso. Espresso coffee grounds are compacted into the small holding device in the middle of the coffee maker. While heating the coffee maker up on the stove, hot water is forced through the coffee ground and strong espresso comes out from a tube into the top chamber of the coffee maker. The coffee ground stays at the bottom.


As you see, there are simple and sustainable ways to get your daily coffee-fix. They are not expensive and some even safe you a substantial amount of money compared with the one-serving pod machines.

A lot of coffee-lovers trust the traditional ways of brewing coffee over the new coffee-habits of capsule machines. The variety of coffee beans in different tastes and from different origins are amazing and can please every taste.

So, you can start today to make more sustainable choices and be surprised how good your next coffee will taste.

Written by Lilly
I´m a born and raised big-city girl on the search for a more sustainable and simple life. In order to find a fulfilled and happy life I am exploring the simple, Old-fashion lifestyle.