Zero Waste Your Coffee


Coffee.  How do we love thee?  Let us count the ways.

At home, at the shop, in a cup or in a bag, at the table, on the tree,
in the car, by sun, by candle-light,
dark for him, brown for me.*


I didn’t start drinking coffee until about three years after I got married and about three days after I had children.  I drink it to get through the day.  I drink it as a reward for completing a task, an incentive for something that needs to get done, or sometimes as a companion for something mundane like balancing the checkbook.


We keep our caffeine input high but our trash output low with three things:  a coffee maker with a reusable filter, a reusable coffee bean container, and a reusable coffee mug.

At home:  we use a drip machine with an insulated carafe to keep the coffee warm throughout the morning.  And a gold, reusable filter – we bought it aftermarket – so no paper filters in this house.  We don’t use a single-serve or capsule machine because even though some say the cups are recyclable, you need to collect the cups (ie – store somewhere in my tiny house – no thanks) and then send them back in the mail.  We prefer to grind our own each day and compost the grounds ourselves.  More work yes, convenient, not so much, but collecting those grounds has paid off in our tomato garden.

When something goes awry with the coffee maker, we try to fix it rather than replace it.  This thing broke once:

So we found another online and while we waited for it to arrive we huddled in a dank, dark corner of the house, sharpening our teeth and whispering to ourselves, waiting for our Precious to arrive.

At the coffee roaster:  we refuse the bag and use a container to get the beans.  My 5.25 cup red Rubbermaid (I know it’s plastic but I had it on hand) almost perfectly holds one pound of coffee.  We get beans every two weeks and make a family date out of going to the coffee shop.  One less breakfast for mommy to make.

At the coffee shop:  I bring a simple coffee cup.  I used to collect coffee cups, looking for the perfect mix of form and function, one that looked good, kept my coffee warm, didn’t leak and was easy to clean.

It doesn’t exist.

The ones that keep your coffee piping hot until baby’s second nap are contraptions that trap old coffee in the cavities of the lid and nothing ruins a morning with the barista like the smell of rotting cream in your cup.

Now I have a simple cup that leaks, and lets my coffee get cold, but is easy to clean and I bring it with me to the cafe.  I usually get a 10¢ discount and no waste save the water to rinse it out.

So that’s what we do.  Any other ideas I may have missed?  There’s probably a better way to make coffee that doesn’t use a machine designed for rapid obsolescence.

*My apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  We really do love our coffee though.  It has become my “most quiet need” indeed.

September 18, 2014

About Me

About Me

I’ve been passionate about combatting blind consumerism since 2008 and joined the Zero Waste movement by starting this blog in 2013, soon after my second child was born. I think it might have been trying to unwrap a toy or someone’s attempt to sell me a butt-wipe warmer that put me over the edge… read more



  1. IronMike

    OMG, I almost peed myself reading your Precious line. I quoted it to my daughter (coffee drinker) and she nodded and said "I know how she feels."

  2. Greener Daddy

    So inspiring … That is my next challenge !


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