Coastinista: Your Daily Cup of Conservation

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This was my intro article with Beach Carolina Magazine.  

Please allow me to introduce Coastinista, a new, and almost, daily cup of coastal conservation and eco-awareness. Let’s get right to it with your daily cup (pun intended today). I was enjoying my morning cup of java this morning and it made me think of ways to reduce waste while caffeinating.

Consider what type of coffee pot you use. Is it plastic or metal and does it use single-use plastic cups or filters? These considerations might not be at the top of your priority list when it comes to huge environmental impacts, but everything adds up. Just take a tour of your local landfill and you will see just how much it adds up.

I have been using an old fashioned percolator since as long as I can remember. There are no plastic parts, with the exception of the plastic cover on the handle. This means that no hot water ever touches plastic, which is a big deal since heating up plastic can leach dioxins into your coffee at over 100 times the “safe” level – ewh! Having a metal percolator or even a glass french press also means that it is highly recyclable if it breaks.

Using a metal percolator that has a metal filter means it is completely reusable. No muss, no fuss, and it saves dollar bills. Coffee filters, on average, run about $25.00 a year if you make one pot of coffee each day, which let’s face it – most of us do that and more. That doesn’t seem like a lot of dough, but that $25.00 buys a tank of gas in my little car or two tanks of air (underwater obsessed).

Now let’s talk single-use plastics. Coffee stirring straws are a NO in my book. First, they are plastic (like diamonds, plastic is forever!) and you are only using it for seconds and then it is tossed. It has been estimated that 138 billion plastic coffee stirrers are used worldwide!! That is a lot of plastic ending up in our landfills or worse, our oceans. Use a spoon, a wooden stirrer, or pasta. Personally, I bring a set of bamboo utensils where ever I go to avoid single-use plastics and I include a bamboo straw just in case I feel the need for a little almond milk in my dark roast.

What about the plastic “K-cups”? It has been estimated that 1 in 5 consumers are now using the single cup coffee pots. What’s the problem? That is A LOT OF WASTE!!! According to Mother Jones, all of the single-use plastic coffee K-cups solid in 2013 would wrap the Earth a total of 10.5 times! These are ending up in your backyard landfill, because most places do not accept the type of plastic being used and most consumers will not take the time to empty the coffee and then recycle them. I have even picked these up during beach cleanups. Not really sure how they ended up in the ocean, but not super surprising considering how many there are out there.

The environmental cost of the K-cup is significant, but what about your wallet? The New York Times recently calculated that K-cups coffee costs about $50 per pound! How much do you pay for coffee? Even the organic, fair trade, best coffee I ever had ranges from $10-12 a pound and most K-cups are not organic. Oh and did I mention they are made of plastic – remember my dioxin mention? Ewh!

This magical machine that delivers morning joy to our lives everyday is still something that makes life great and there is nothing like a hot cup of joe on a fall day here at the Coast, but consider these steps when breaking out your next brew:

1. Consider a Metal Percolator that uses a reusable metal filter or a French Press – They make the best (doesn’t taste like plastic) coffee!

2. Don’t use plastic stirrers at home or away from home.

3. Stay away from POLYSTYRENE (Styrofoam)! It is not recyclable in almost every part of the world and it is a form of plastic (Doesn’t biodegrade so it is forever!). Polystyrene cups are one of the most littered items on Topsail Island, NC this year, along with cigarette butts which is always at the top of the list.

4. Bring your own mug everywhere you go. Refilling is way better than recycling and most coffee shops will give you a discount if you bring your own mug. Plus, I usually have pretty rad coffee mugs that I would much rather sport around than the alternative.

5. Consider buying organic and fair trade coffee (I like beans and grind them myself to make it super freshy).

6. If your coffee pot breaks, recycle it at the nearest Electronics Recycle Station. Check with your local Solid Waste or Sanitation Department. Electronics (TVs and Computer Equip) are actually banned from NC landfills meaning that communities in NC already have a way to process your coffee pot for recycling. For a list of other landfill banns, see:

7. Compost your coffee grounds. This is just another way to reduce your waste and coffee grounds, along with other food scraps, create really great organic fertilizer when composted.

8. Bring your coffee pot with you. Traveling soon, consider bringing your metal percolator with you. Hotels mostly have plastic coffee pots or single-use plastic k-cups. Reducing waste is just as important when you are away especially in remote locations, like islands, where solid waste facilities are hard to come by and the cost of handling waste is high.

9. Enjoy!