Making your own coffee at home, rather than hitting the local cafe, doesn’t just save you some serious cash. It’s also one of the quickest and easiest ways to make sure your coffee habits are eco friendly and sustainable.
There are loads of ways you can make your home coffee routine more eco friendly. So, whether you want to learn about organic coffee beans, eco friendly coffee machines, or the best reusable coffee pods, this article covers it all and much more.
Why Go Eco Friendly?
Making a few eco friendly changes may seem like it won’t have a huge impact, but think of those small things adding up over the decades of coffee drinking you’ll be doing. In your lifetime you could make a significant difference and maybe even inspire others to do the same.
You don’t have to go full tilt and throw out your espresso machine or buy the most expensive coffee out there. You can make a few small changes and you’ll be on track to reduce your landfill waste, decrease your carbon footprint, sustain biodiversity and help local farmers.
Environmentally Friendly Coffee Labels Explained
Organic coffee, sustainable coffee, locally produced, fair trade… the types of coffee available are endless. There are so many different coffee labels, it’s hard to know exactly what the difference is. Let’s break down what the most common labels mean.
So, what does organic coffee mean?
Nowadays, you can find organic instant coffee, ground organic coffee, or organic coffee beans in most supermarkets. This is coffee that’s been grown and produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
It’s not just great for your health either. A study in 2016 showed that organic coffee farming improves soil fertility, compared to conventional methods.
Shade Grown Coffee
If you really want to boost your eco coffee game opt for shade grown organic coffee.
Shade grown coffee is a great sustainable coffee farming option. With this type of eco coffee, farmers plant their trees amongst the jungle canopy, rather than cutting down huge areas of rainforest for planting.
This technique preserves the jungle canopy, literally saving trees and the habitats of local wildlife. There’s even research to suggest that “the flavor of shade-grown coffee is considered superior to, and less bitter than, that of full-sun coffee.”
Locally Produced Coffee
One of the quickest and most impactful ways to make your coffee habit more eco friendly is to buy locally produced coffee!
Buying from roasters within Australia instantly cuts your carbon footprint and reduces the amount of fossil fuel needed to get that coffee to your door. Even better, try buying coffee as close to your home as possible and you’ll be helping to sustain your local economy.
Fair Trade Coffee
If coffee is fair trade, it’s not automatically more eco friendly. Fair trade coffee is produced and shipped whilst paying fair prices and with humane working conditions.
Don’t get us wrong – buying fair trade is a great idea! If you’re also looking to be more eco friendly though, make sure to look for a fair trade organic coffee to get the environmental benefits as well.
Should you buy coffee in bulk?
Another great way to cut your carbon footprint and reduce fossil fuels is to buy your coffee in bulk whenever possible.
You’ll reduce packaging waste and it can reduce deliveries or trips to the store, which lowers the amount of fossil fuel you use.
Is Instant Coffee Eco Friendly?
Instant might not be your first choice for a quality cup of coffee but could it be the most eco friendly?
This varies wildly on the brand of coffee you buy, where it’s grown and produced and not to mention how you make it. If you boil a full kettle, regardless of how much water you actually need, you’re not being very eco friendly. Simply being diligent about how much water you boil is an easy step to drastically reducing your energy use.
Overall it’s unclear if instant coffee is any more eco friendly than other coffee brewing methods, as it’s still grown and largely produced in the same way.
Eco Friendly Coffee Machine Options
Now you’ve got your locally produced or organic fair trade coffee, how do you brew that coffee in an eco friendly way?
Thanks to the great range of coffee makers out there, you can enjoy a quality cup of coffee without leaving your own home. Not all coffee machines are made equal though and some coffee machines are far more environmentally friendly than others.
Energy Saving, Manual Brewing Methods
If you’re looking to go as eco friendly as possible, a non electric, manual brewing method is the way to go. You won’t use any energy and they’re, usually, low or even zero waste.
- French Press – also known as a coffee plunger, these coffee brewers use a manual plunger to separate the coffee from the grounds and have no filters or waste products.
- Aeropress – these are a great way to get espresso style coffee on the go. They usually have the option of a reusable steel filter which is better than the disposable, bleached paper filters.
- Percolator – these traditional Italian coffee makers are heated on the stove and use pressure to brew the espresso with no disposable filters or waste.
- Manual pour over – a common brand includes Chemex. These brewers can come with metal reusable coffee filters to limit the waste produced.
If you just can’t let go of that cafe style coffee, an electric coffee machine really is the only way to achieve it.
Espresso machines are still a fairly eco friendly and they don’t use any disposable or single serve parts, like coffee pods or paper filters.
When you’re looking at buying an espresso machine, make sure to choose a high quality model with durable stainless steel parts, rather than plastic. This will increase the lifespan of the machine, saving you money and reducing your landfill waste in the long run.
Drip Coffee Makers
These coffee machines have a chamber at the top for water with a basket below where the coffee sits. The machine automatically pours water over the ground and it drips into the container below.
This type of coffee maker uses a filter, so be sure to opt for a reusable option, or you can find 100% biodegradable filters if you prefer.
Again, make sure you buy a machine that’s durable and has as few plastic parts as possible to increase its lifespan. You can reduce your energy consumption by choosing a drip coffee maker with a thermal carafe. Then you can turn off the machine once brewed, rather than leaving the hotplate running.
Pod/Capsule Coffee Machines
Capsule coffee machines have earned a bad reputation in the past because of the single use, stainless steel or plastic and disposable coffee pods they use.
These coffee machines use a single serve coffee capsule. Simply pop the capsule into the machine, press a button and the coffee is brewed and poured. Some of these machines also come with a milk frother.
However, there is now a much more eco friendly way to use these pod coffee machines! There are a heap of biodegradable coffee pods on the market and even some reusable coffee capsules that are designed to last a lifetime.
We like these ones from Planet Organic.
Eco Friendly and Reusable Coffee Pods and Filter Options
If you already have a perfectly good coffee machine, there are still a few simple eco friendly changes you can make. Eco coffee pods and filters are a small change you can make that uses the machines you already have.
Compostable and Biodegradable Coffee pods
Gone are the days of single use stainless steel or plastic capsules. Today, there are loads of great biodegradable and compostable coffee pods on the market.
Biodegradable coffee capsules can be thrown out in the regular bin and will break down in landfill. Time taken to break down will vary with conditions but it takes a lot less time than stainless steel or plastic pods.
Planet Organic’s biodegradable Nespresso pods are 100% certified biodegradable and compostable pods that even contain 100% organic coffee grounds.
Reusable and Refillable Coffee Pods
The best reusable coffee pods Australia has on the market are usually made of 100% stainless steel that’s durable and designed to stand the test of time.
These stainless steel reusable coffee pods can be used with any type of ground coffee so you can easily pair them with an organic coffee brand. Simply load the refillable coffee pods with your favourite coffee, apply the lid, and use as you would any other coffee capsule.
Sealpod are a great company who make refillable coffee capsules for a range of different pod coffee machine brands. Their reusable Nespresso pods are made from high quality stainless steel and everything is 100% food grade.
Biodegradable and Reusable Coffee Filters
When looking for biodegradable coffee filters, choose unbleached to avoid chlorine leaking into the soil and preferably made from FSC certified paper. Also remember to check that the filters are home compostable approved.
Even better than biodegradable or compostable coffee filters would be reusable coffee filters. These are specific to the model of coffee machine you buy and many will include a reusable filter when you purchase.
Eco Friendly Sugar, Milk and Creamer
It’s not just how you make your coffee that affects your carbon footprint. What you put in your coffee is important too!
Sugar cane farming has a significant impact on the Great Barrier Reef’s water quality and switching to a more eco friendly sweetener, like honey, is an easy way to help the environment.
Swapping cows milk for a plant based milk can also lower your carbon footprint. I know what you might be thinking…curdled mess? But, it is possible to use vegan milk in your coffee without it curdling, if you do it right.
What to do With Used Coffee Grounds
When you’ve finished enjoying your delicious sustainable cup of coffee, don’t just put those used coffee grounds in the bin. They’re perfect for throwing on the compost pile to add nitrogen.
Don’t have a compost pile? Simply, work them straight into the soil as a fertiliser and they’ll attract earthworms and improve water drainage.
There are plenty of options out of the garden too. Used coffee grounds can be made into homemade furniture stains, natural body scrubs and even hair masks.