It is no secret that most of America depends on drugs to stay afloat during their workweek. If you listen to the radio, you know that “America runs on Dunkin” (although that might have something to do with donuts, too), and a large number of silly home decorations revolve around the idea of not talking to someone before he or she has had her coffee. As one of the many caffeine drinkers on this planet, I also consume a decent amount of coffee and tea.
According to carbonrally.com, 40% of solid waste in the US is paper and cardboard, and 40% of that waste can be attributed to coffee cups (source). Wowzers. That’s a lot of recyclable waste that is being needlessly landfilled. Additionally, all used teabags are landfill-bound unless they are composted, and most tea bags contain a metal staple or other things that don’t break down in compost.
Now, the travel mug debate is something worth mentioning before I move on. I understand that most people are not graduate students with the luxury of waking up slowly and drinking a cup of coffee/tea at home, and sometimes you just have to stop and pick up a cup of coffee at Starbucks. This does not mean that you need 70,000 travel mugs. Stick to one stainless steel or ceramic one (no matter what companies claim, I’m still not too comfortable with drinking hot liquid out of plastic). Use it while you’re at work. Use it while you’re en route. Wash it when you get home. If you are the type to forget it, keep a regular mug at work just in case, but chances are that only having one of something will help you keep track of it better.
Zero Waste Tea
Cast of Characters
Teapot – Use for making multiple cups of tea for yourself or a group. Mine came from Pier One, but you can find them almost anywhere.
Strainer – So you don’t get your loose tea leaves in your mug. Difficult to find these days, since most people use tea balls or put teabags in their teapots (which makes no sense to me…what do you need the teapot for, then?). Mine came from Sur La Table, but you can also get them on Amazon.
Mason jar – Use to purchase bulk tea at your local bulk store (No bulk store? Buy loose tea in tins and re-use the tins for storage, gift-giving, planters, etc.).
Tea ball – Use to make a single cup of coffee. Bring it and a jam jar of loose tea with you to work if you like to keep yourself boosted all day. Found in most stores that sell kitchen items and on Amazon.
If you like two-in-one options, I got my sister and brother-in-law a beehouse teapot, which has a removable strainer that you can put the tea directly into for infusion. Try to choose ceramic and stainless steel options for durability and to avoid putting hot liquids in plastic. Additionally, if you can, compost your tea leaves when you are done with them. They make excellent compost!
Zero Waste Coffee
Cast of Characters
French press – Not only is it fancy, but you don’t have to use a filter, and coffee grounds make great compost. We swear by our Bodum, purchased at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. Choose a larger size if you are likely to have guests, because you can make a single cup just as easily with it.
Airtight storage container – Use to buy coffee in bulk and keep it fresh for a long time. If you do not have a bulk store nearby, chances are you do have bulk coffee in your local grocery store. This works especially well if you don’t have a coffee grinder, since you can get the coarse grind you need for a French press at the grocery store. Talk to customer service if there is no scale available and they will likely work with you to write the tare of your container directly on it so that they don’t overcharge you for your coffee. In the worst case scenario, you can use a lightweight mesh bag to buy the coffee (weighs the same or less than the paper bags they provide) and transfer it to a container at home. For awhile, I re-used the same paper bag to buy coffee, too, so that is also an option if you can remember to bring it with you when you need coffee. I found this container at TJ Maxx, but I would recommend getting a glass one with a rubber seal on it, such as one of these.
Again, try to find a glass and metal French press. The plastic ones are cheaper, but far less durable and, again, plastic.