How To Green Your Coffee Routine

by heather

Two weeks ago, my coffee pot kicked the bucket. It was one of those big plastic appliances, like the picture on the right, and it just decided to stop working all of a sudden on a Saturday morning.

Thankfully, my local recycling center takes kitchen appliances for a small fee, so I was able to recycle my coffee pot, (thank you, Recycle Livingston, I would be lost without you…).

But the death of my Black and Decker left me with a conundrum: I really didn’t want to go out and spend money on another big plastic coffee maker. In fact, I wanted to go as small and as eco-friendly as I could get.

So, I started investigating ways I could green my own coffee routine. And, I’m happy to say that I’ve succeeded. Here are some strategies and options I found during my own search…

French Press

Green Your Coffee Maker

I happened to have a French Press on hand (which I was using when the power goes out), and I’ve been using it since my big one died. I’ve really come to love the little thing, and I’m wondering why the heck I didn’t start using it years ago.


  • The french press is eco-friendly because it doesn’t use any energy. It doesn’t keep the coffee hot for hours like a regular coffee maker does; the only energy you use is heating up the water in the microwave.
  • The french press doesn’t take up a ton of counter space like a regular coffee pot. It’s very small, and can go right on the shelf with your coffee mugs.
  • With a french press you don’t have to spend money on coffee filters. This saves cash, and trees. Yahoo!
  • You also don’t waste coffee. Because you’re only making one large cup at a time, you’re drinking coffee and then making it as you go along. This keeps you from making 8 cups of coffee and then only drinking 4. So, you’re saving money on coffee too.


  • A french press is more labor intensive. The press I have makes 8 oz. of coffee at a time. So, I have to make each cup individually. (I actually kind of like this. It’s turned my morning coffee routine into something that resembles a Japanese tea ceremony. But in pajamas.) If you’re super busy in the mornings and need five cups to get out the door, this is going to be an inconvenience.
  • You’re drinking unfiltered coffee. I looked online to see if this was a health hazard, and as usual, experts aren’t sure. Some say it raises your cholesterol, others say it has no effects. I’m throwing caution to the wind and drinking it anyway.
  • You sometimes get coffee grounds in your cup. So, you can’t drink the last sip, unless you want to chew your coffee.

Now as far as I can tell, using a french press is the most energy-efficient way for us regular folks make coffee. Unless, of course, you’re a super eco-warrior living in the wild. If you are a super eco-warrior, you could go out and collect dead wood, build a bonfire, and brew coffee in a percolator over the open flames.

If you can do that, my hat goes off to you. For the rest of us, however, that’s a bit out of reach and we must settle for the humble french press.

My dad uses an electric percolator, which he adores. But since I don’t have one I can’t use my Kill-A-Watt to measure how much energy it uses versus a regular coffee pot. Just guessing, though, it seems as if it would use about the same amount of energy, since they’re both keeping the coffee hot for 1-2 hours after it’s done brewing.

Green Your Beans

According to CBS News, more than 50% of Americans drink coffee everyday. Usually we drink at least 3-4 cups. That’s a lot of grounds that are tossed in the garbage. And, a lot of paper filters too.

There are tons of ways to reuse our coffee grounds.

  • I’m currently saving all of mine in an old plastic coffee tub. Every weekend, I add water to make a “coffee ground tea”, and then I pour it on my flower beds. Coffee grounds add much needed nitrogen to the soil, and will make your plants happy.
  • You can also pile your coffee grounds around the base of your outside plants to help repel pests.
  • Coffee grounds can be dumped on your compost pile. And if you’re vermi-posting (using worms), then you can toss your grounds in there as well. Worms love coffee grounds.
  • You can use your grounds to keep your drains smelling fresh (pour your grounds down the drain, and immediately follow with at least 5 cups of boiling water; this will keep it from clogging).
  • Coffee grounds also make a great dye for fabric and paper.
  • Coffee grounds can be used as an abrasive cleaner. Mix them with a little bit of water, and then scrub them on the surface with a stiff brush. Be careful here; remember, coffee grounds are also a dye. You don’t want to do this on light colored fabrics, or countertops that stain easily.
  • You can also use your grounds as a skin exfoliator, especially on your hands after you’ve handled fish or onions. The smell of the coffee can help get those odors off your skin.
  • Ants don’t like coffee grounds. If you’ve got an ant pile, or an ant line, in your yard, then sprinkle the grounds around them and they’ll move on.

Green Your Routine

If you want to green your coffee routine on-the-go, then invest in a stainless steel travel mug.

Why stainless steel?

Because scientists are increasingly becoming concerned with plastics leaching chemicals into our food, especially when the plastic is heated (like, with hot coffee). You can find out more on the dangers of BPA and plastic leaching in, “The Dangers of BPA“.

And, you probably don’t need me to tell you that bringing a reusable mug with you to your local coffee shop saves plastic and paper. But, I had to bring it up just in case…

Last Word…

Like I said above, I’m really loving my little french press. I don’t think I’m ever going to go back to using a big plastic coffeemaker, especially once I move into my shipping container home where space will be at a premium. Plus, I love the fact that I’m using far less energy and paper with the french press.

I’m starting to realize now that my Black and Decker’s demise is serendipitous in a lot of ways…

How about you? Do you have any strategies you’ve used to green your coffee routine? Send ’em in! I’d love to read them and share them with everyone.

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Living the Rural Dream March 25, 2009 at 3:41 am

Great post! We use the French press too. I like to pour it in the press, put it on a tray and then take it back to bed or into the garden. It seems like such a quaint way to enjoy coffee 🙂 We also take a flask of coffee with us (stainless steel) whenever we take a trip out – saves us heaps of money and no more plastic/paper waste at all those garage stops!

heather March 25, 2009 at 6:58 am


It IS quaint! As soon as it warms up enough here, I’m going to start transforming my front porch into the oasis it is every spring and summer (flowers, comfy chairs, and hammock). I love having breakfast out there, and can take my press out there too!

Betsy Bargain March 25, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Great post! Just wanted to add one more option for making a single cup of coffee. I use one of those Melitta type coffee makers that sits on top of your mug, with a reusable gold filter. You just pour the water in, and wait for it to drip into your cup. Then I empty the grounds into the compost, and rinse the filter for the next use.

Cheryl Newcomb January 29, 2010 at 11:53 am

I switched to a stainless steel french press to reduce plastic contact to my coffee, from there I pur into a vintage pyrex pot that sits on a low warming tray. Only mugs and glass to sip with, thak you very much 🙂 And… my hot coffee sips with a glass straw for avoiding teeth staining! (see GlassDharma sipper size).
Now when will a truley plastic free option for brewing coffee be the norm? Stainless steel perculator, but you have to replace the plastic knob at the top with a glass one ( you can find them)
We have a long way to go on this topic. Organic Gardening Magazine (Feb/March 2010 issue pg. 74) has more suggestions!

Hillary Smith May 30, 2012 at 3:40 pm

It’s possible that drinking coffee made in French Press can raise cholesterol. If this is an issue to you, you may need to switch back to drip coffee.

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