How I love you so.
As a child of the Pacific Northwest, I started drinking coffee at the age of 12. My first cup was a raspberry mocha from Gloria Jean's (you know you're an addict when you vividly remember that first hit.) Ever since, a morning cup has been a major part of my life.
Coffee production has a number of environmental and community impacts that aren't great. However, I try to counteract some of those by buying coffee that is both organic and fair-trade (good for planet, good for people). Even two years ago, finding convenient and low-priced organic, fair-trade coffee wasn't easy. Now, Target's Archer Farms brand and Safeway's O Organics brands both offer fair-trade, organic coffee ... although, for some reason they don't often have it available pre-ground. I guess they figure that the upper-middle-class, liberal-elite, Obama-voting types who would want organic coffee have fancy stainless steel grinders at home and say things like, "I always grind my own coffee; you can really taste the mountain air!"
But now, this has entered my life:
Yes, this is our new coffee maker at work. A beautiful, single-serve Keurig coffee maker.
There are lots of benefits to this thing. Of course, it's almost impossible to mess it up - it really does seem to make a perfect cup every time. Since it's single-serve, water and coffee aren't wasted when too much coffee is made (I always tend to make too much and up throwing out burned coffee that's been sitting in the pot). I don't make as many random afternoon trips to Starbucks to fuel up, thus cutting down on the use of fossil fuels. And Keurig is owned by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, a company that is known for its social responsibility - lots of organic and fair-trade coffees are readily-available in single-serve form.
But, then there are these:
These are K-cups. To make the single-serve coffee, you have to use these K-cups, which are made out of plastic (petroleum!) and aren't recyclable. Currently, Green Mountain and Keurig are working on other options, such as paper-based k-cups, but for now, the plastic ones are dominant.
For now, my strategy is to continue to make my morning coffee at home and bring it in my re-usable cup, and restrict myself to one afternoon cup made in the Keurig. I'm hoping that they figure out a way to make their product more sustainable, however, because it's becoming a bigger piece of the market pie, and if this type of coffee maker becomes standard, that means a lot of little plastic cups entering the landfills.