Recycling Coffee Bags with TerraCycle

We save money on fair-trade organic coffee by buying five-pound bags.  Larger bags also mean less garbage per pound of coffee, but those metallized plastic bags are still an environmental problem: Most recycling programs won’t take them, and they’re not biodegradable.

For several years, I collected coffee bags—our own and those discarded by friends, co-workers, my church, and people attending various events at church who saw my flyer on the bulletin board and tacked their bags to it—until I had enough to pack a box very full, and then I mailed it to the Netherlands, to a company that was making tote bags out of coffee bags.

That was pretty cool, but trans-Atlantic postage is expensive, and then the company began struggling economically, reduced production, and told me they didn’t need more bags.  I’m not sure if they’re still in business now.  But I never stopped collecting bags.  I needed another way to recycle them.

TerraCycle specializes in recycling unusual items that are difficult to recycle because of the multiple materials used in one item—things like juice pouches, toothpaste tubes, and three-ring binders.  Read more of this post

3 Ways to Save on Fair-Trade Coffee

Daniel and I both drink coffee, at least 3 cups a day each.  That adds up!  We support human rights and environmental stewardship by buying only fair-trade*, organic coffee for our home.  My church also buys fair-trade, organic coffee.  This coffee is more expensive than the big mainstream brands.  How can we get the most value for our money?

*(Yes, I have heard that fair-trade certification isn’t always perfect; I’m also willing to buy coffee from companies that “have a relationship” with coffee farmers and treat them well but have not obtained official fair-trade certification; what I’m looking for is some acknowledgement that the coffee is grown by people in a place and that these people deserve fair compensation for their labor and this place deserves not to be ruined.)

UPDATE: A fourth way to save money on coffee is to buy loose coffee grounds instead of individual pods!  I knew pods were bad for the environment and our health, but I had no idea how much more expensive they were until I wrote this investigative article!  If you’ve been buying conventional coffee in pods, you can actually save money by switching to fair-trade, organic coffee by the pound.

Buy in bulk.

Organic coffee in the supermarket often costs $10 or more for a 12-ounce (3/4 pound) bag–and then what will you do with that bag?  Years ago, Daniel and I made coffee one of the things we routinely bought in reused containers from the bulk section of our local food co-op.  Just recently, after he read my post about buying by the case, we talked about other products we might be able to get cheaper if we ordered a case.  It turns out that the co-op’s “case” price for coffee is a 5-pound bag.  We use about a pound of coffee a week, so 5 pounds is not an unreasonable amount to buy at once, especially since it’s whole beans that we grind shortly before brewing–it won’t go bad or anything.  This month, Equal Exchange Breakfast Blend is on sale for $8.99/pound; after the 20% discount for buying a case, our 5-pound bag costs $35.96, which is $7.19/pound–almost half the price per pound of the supermarket coffee! Read more of this post