June 20, 2018 Green Living Written by Kate Harveston
coffee pods
It’s safe to say that many of us start our

day with a coffee — and maybe another coffee mid-morning, or one to get through a sluggish afternoon. It’s so convenient to drink coffee when coffee makers brew one cup a time. You can have your delicious French vanilla while your roommate opts for mocha. Pop in a coffee pod, wait a minute or two and you’re good to go — and it sure beats those long lines and prices at the local Starbucks.

While coffee pods are convenient, they are terrible for the environment. In fact, they’re so bad that one inventor of the pods said he regrets ever making them.

Standard pods are not biodegradable and end up in landfills. In 2014, companies sold around 38 billion coffee pods worldwide — which translates to a lot of aluminum, paper and plastic waste. The good news is that numerous convenient and eco-friendly options exist to help you make your coffee drinking greener!

Reusable pods

You can buy stainless steel or plastic pods that are reusable — so you only need to buy a few. Eco-friendly coffee machines are available, but if your coffee maker typically runs on the non-environmentally safe pods, switching to reusable pods is a great choice to go green. You can still drink the coffee of your choice — you just have to go the extra step of cleaning out the pod for reuse.

Compost or reuse the grounds from the pods as well. Rich in phosphorus and potassium, coffee grounds are an excellent fertilizer for plants, a deodorizer for your fridge or garbage and an exfoliator for your beauty routine.

Compostable pods

20 to 30 percent of what Americans throw away includes compostable materials such as food scraps and yard waste. It’s easy to start a compost bin inside your home or a pile outdoors.

Look for pods made from paper, compostable inks and other biodegradable materials so you can toss the entire pod in your compost bin or pile. Compostable pods save you the step of cleaning out a reusable pod and won’t make you feel guilty for drinking so much coffee.

Recyclable pods

The greenest choice is to reuse and compost coffee pods, however, recycling is still a better option than using pods that go straight in the trash. With some pods, only certain parts are recyclable, which requires taking the pod apart. It’s more convenient to use pods made from 100 percent recyclable plastics.

If the packaging does not say whether the pods are recyclable, look at the plastic number. Most recyclable coffee pods are composed of plastic number five and most non-recyclable pods are plastic number seven.

Once you brew your coffee, rinse out the grounds and recycle — it’s that easy!

Pod-less, single-brew coffee makers

To meet the demands of consumers who want eco-friendly coffee makers, numerous appliance companies created pod-less, single-brew machines. You occasionally add coffee and water to their respective compartments, but you are brewing a pod-free, single-serve coffee. Price points range from under $100 to well above so everyone can find a coffee maker in their budget.

Low-tech solutions

Still in search of that single cup of coffee? Many coffee lovers who have a little extra time on their hands choose to make their cups with French presses or pour-over brewers. This low-tech solution is easy, and the results are delicious. You still brew a single-serve coffee and only have to worry about composting or reusing the grounds afterward.

Understanding coffee and lifestyle

Another way to start a greener coffee routine may simply be to drink less of it. In moderation, coffee can have many health benefits, but many Americans rely too heavily on this drink to make it through the day.

Caffeine addiction is a real problem, as more than half of all American adults consume more caffeine on a daily basis than is recommended. Ironically, too much caffeine is actually one of the most common causes of low energy in females and males alike, even though people drink it in order to get more energy.

So consider changing up your lifestyle however suits you best. Whether you reuse, compost, recycle or choose another eco-friendly method, you will reduce the number of pods in landfills. If you drink one coffee per day, that’s 365 pods not going to waste. Help the environment even more by drinking from a mug or on-the-go thermos rather than paper or Styrofoam cups. Every little bit counts.


This is a guest post written by Kate Harveston.

Kate Harveston is a freelance writer and blogger. Her writing focuses on politics and the environment, with a particular emphasis on social change. You can follow her writing by visiting her blog, Only Slightly Biased.