Search for A Greener K-Cup – Can a Keurig Be Eco-Friendly?

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Your Coffee Addiction is Ruining the Planet

So said the headline that prompted my 2014 New Year’s Resolution to diminish the environmental impact of my K-Cup addiction. I do love my Keurig for the ease of the one cup brewing, and avoiding the hassle of cleaning an entire coffee pot.

But primarily made of non-recyclable foil and plastic, K-cups have really been piling up in the landfills. Plus I haven’t had much luck with the selection of organic varieties available in standard K-cup.

The most obvious solution was buying my own grounds and using them with a Reusable K-Cup. Seems simple enough, but no matter how many different brands and amounts I tried, the coffee just came out too weak or too strong. There was also the problem of messy grounds getting everywhere.

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I also tried the Ekobrew refillable cup, which was much better in terms of ease-of-use and clean-up. Definitely a superior design, but I was still having problems with the coffee coming out a bit too weak or too strong. Other folks seem to have more success with this one, but I did try two different kinds of grounds just to be sure it wasn’t the coffee.

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Next I discovered a brand of organic coffee that boasted a more “sustainable and eco-friendly” K-Cup. Kilambe Coffee uses less plastic and foil in the pods themselves – and brews a delicious cup of coffee – but they are all individually packaged in foil! I know they do this for the “freshness” but it entirely defeats the purpose of sustainability. At least regular K-Cups just come in a cardboard box!


I had just about given up hope on keeping my New Year’s resolution, regretfully drinking the Maxwell House pods my husband stocks up on at CVS. But then I discovered the San Francisco Bay Coffee OneCup.

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They had all the organic and fair trade certifications, but was the packaging really better? They are certainly smaller and use less plastic, and rather than being individually packaged for freshness, they are grouped into half dozens with compostable bags. But when I watched this video to illustrate how to compost my pod and was disappointed to see the whole thing tossed in the trash.

So I took to the brand’s Facebook page to get more information. And I was pleased with the immediate and transparent reply:

“We completely understand and agree. We too wanted to make sure this wasn’t just a product we could “say” was better but actually was. 97%+ of the OneCup will bio-degrade in normal landfill conditions. We are working on gaining the full 100% Bio-Degradable but it is taking some time. We are close. Additionally we wanted to go farther and make as much of the OneCup ‘Compostable” (better than Bio-Degradable) as we could. The Bio-lidding, the ring and the coffee are compostable. Again our goal is to be 100% compostable (in home composting) but for now we know that the public can feel better about throwing our product away than the traditional plastic cups. 97% will Bio-Degrade in a landfill. I hope this helps.”

So while separating the mesh from the packaging to make the whole thing compostable isn’t realistic – and likely not even possible in home composting conditions – at least the pods are biodegradable in normal landfill conditions. And considering the entire lifecycle of the product, it’s good to know that less petrochemicals (i.e. plastics) were used to manufacture the pods and packaging.


Plus the pods sell for 37 cents a piece on Amazon versus around 60 cents a piece for an organic Green Mountain K-Cup.

Most importantly – how is the coffee? Delicious – and strong enough to fuel this blog post during the 2 p.m. slump.

I’m also curious about the iGreenPod, a 100% biodegradable coffee pod recently funded by a Kickstarter campaign. It sounds like they are starting to ship out the first batch and I will be anxious to check them out as well!

Disclosure: While writing this post, San Fransisco Bay Coffee sent me some extra product to review. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here.

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