Kick the K-Cups: How to Make Coffee Consumption Sustainable at Home

espresso brewing, disposable coffee pods on table

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Coffee is part of our modern-day culture. If you consume it, then you know that sipping coffee is synonymous with starting the day off right and, for many, an essential morning ritual.

It’s reported that 64 percent of Americans drink coffee today with addiction affecting a whopping 75 percent of regular drinkers (Read: How I Cured My Caffeine Addiction (and you can, too)).

While a Starbucks retail chain store can be found in virtually every city across the U.S., many savvy consumers are ditching the baristas and green-and-white siren-donned cups. In an effort to save money, gas, and time, they’re brewing their daily cup of joe from home with single-use K-Cups.

Are K-Cups Sustainable?

The Wall Street Journal reports an estimated 20 million homes own a coffee pod machine, accounting for consumption of more than 30 billion packs of Keurig Green Mountain pods sold to date; that’s enough to circle the Earth more than a dozen times.

While this homebrew permutation is fiscally responsible, it’s completely unsustainable. Don’t be fooled by the Kelly-green Keurig mountain logo; these K-Cups aren’t just bad for Mother Earth, they’re unhealthy for you. Coffee is a crop that is sprayed with dangerous pesticides and is wreaking havoc the planet and our well-being.

With over 200 varieties of Keurig flavors offered, after searching the company’s website, I was only able to find only one brand, Newman’s Own Organics. that offers USDA-certified organic and Fair Trade options; in a mere three flavors. 

coffee fruit growing on the tree

So, while, saving gas by not driving to the coffee shop is a good thing, these cute little pods add up to a lot of not-so-cute waste.

Invented by John Sylvan (who, by the way, doesn’t use a Keurig or K-Cups and says he regrets inventing them) in 1997, K-Cups are comprised of four different types of plastic topped with an aluminum cover — making them completely un-recyclable.

While Keurig Green Mountain has plans to make their consumer cups fully recyclable by the year 2020, we’re holding our foam on that one. Keurig does, however, now offers a K-Cup take-back program, Grounds to Grow On, that provides shipping for used K-Cups to be recycled. But it’s only available for businesses.

In the meantime, millions of pods are making their way to landfills where they won’t biodegrade.

While we await a plethora of pods to pollute our planet, there are some sustainable actions that you can take, starting today:

  1. Kick the caffeine habit.
  2. Sign the change.org petition initiated by KillTheCup.org and hashtag #killthecup.
  3. Use a recyclable pod for your espresso.
  4. Use a handy tool to make your K-Cup pod fully recyclable.

Confused about options three and four above? Here are two environmentally friendly ways to sip your drip from the comfort of your home — guilt-free.

A Recyclable & Compostable Coffee Pod

ground coffee for espresso

If you’re the type who prefers shots of espresso and own a Nespresso OriginalLine machine model, then you have the power my dear, and Glenda, the good witch, has waved her magic wand.

 

Woken is spearheading the coffee-pod movement by offering eco-friendly and recyclable pods made from bioplastic. Woken’s single-serve espresso pods are 100 percent compostable. According to the company, “In 90 days, your used pods will biodegrade back into plant and soil. And you’ve managed your own waste.

In addition to their eco-friendly bio-capsules, the company is taking a stand for the planet through their energy use. Woken utilizes green energy to produce their product. Each stand-alone capsule is produced exclusively with energy from wind, sun, hydropower, and biogas.

Woken’s boxes are fully recyclable and they offer a monthly subscription program straight to your doorstep.

Now, if Woken could please add an organic option.

How to Recycle Your K-Cup

According to Keurig Green Mountain’s Chief Sustainability Officer Monique Oxende, K-Cups can be recycled if the pods are disassembled; disassembly being the operative word here, as most consumers don’t have the time or a tiny toolbox. So, meet Recycle A Cup.

The innovators at Recycle A Cup were tired of the vast waste of K-Cup pods and created a solution. Their simple tool cuts and separates the pod, lid, and coffee grounds so each part of the pod can be recycled, including the foil lid. At $5 a pop, I’d say the Recycle A Cup is a great gift for yourself or a fellow coffee drinker — and a wise investment in our future.

After your K-Cup pod is cool, just load, twist, separate and recycle. If you need to find a recycling center, check with your local municipality or right here on Earth911

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Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."
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