Coffee Consumption

Ho Ho Hooooooohmmmm
Ho Ho Hooooooohmmmm

That social obligation to buy the latest thing for the people we love is hard to resist. You find the perfect thing for somebody and then you have to get something for everybody else.

I love the idea of Buy Nothing Christmas. A complete rejection of the notion that in order to show love or appreciation I must buy something. A hug should be enough. Okay, maybe more than a hug…a card! Yeah, but not just a store-bought card with my signature, but one inscribed with some heartfelt words from…my heart.

Immediately a voice pipes up in my head, “who has time for that?” I’m a busy guy. Xmas2_012But wait, I have time to drive to a mall and spend hours shopping around, but no time to write something on a piece of paper?

Leanne has the forethought to bottle some wine and do some baking. This year she is even sewing reuseable gift bags which is great because after several years of re-using gift-wrap, we are running low. She is amazing but you should remember that it has taken her years to get to this point. Babysteps, people!

Here is a lovely idea from Adbusters. Get your friends and family to sign a contract with you to exchange no gifts. You and the signee are exempt from the present madness. I love this idea but have never had the courage to attempt it sincerely.

Maybe it counts that Leanne and I looked at each other seriously the other day and said, “no gifts”. We will see if one of us chickens out and gets the other something.

I love you Leanne!

I usually get to a few days before Christmas feeling smug that I am no mindless consumer and then I panic. There is a strong fear that my loved ones will not feel the love that I am attempting to express. I guess that just takes practice. Year by year I think I get better at sharing my feelings without gift-wrapping them.

It helps that my side of the family has adopted a Secret Santa of sorts. My Mum draws a name from a hat and assigns each of us one person to buy a gift for. It is a weighty responsibility, but it reduces the stress. Kids, of course, are fair game.

Now if, after all this and after you have poked around on this blog a bit (especially the posts about waste reduction) you still want to buy me a gift, I have one thing to ask.

Please please please please please please please please please pleeeeeeeeeeease don’t buy my one of those single-serving coffee makers with the “disposable” pods.

Grounds for compost
Grounds for compost

Yes, I do like my tasty cup of coffee in the morning and yes, it is the shiny new latest thing in the coffee merchandise market, but these things are a nightmare for the planet.

In fact I care a lot more for how my coffee was grown, processed and transported than I do about the taste. The ideal is everyone is paid fairly and that energy, packaging and water are used efficiently all the way down the line to my kitchen. Too bad we can’t grow coffee in Canada and it has to be shipped, eh?

Coffee grinder, kettle, coffee maker--simple
Coffee grinder, kettle, coffee maker. Simple

It is not the most sustainable industry in the first place, but when I brew my coffee, at least I can compost the grinds as well as the filter (if I used one–I’m using a reuseable filter now).

With these machines, they have added a huge amount of waste to the production line and to the landfill. It is very difficult to recycle and compost these capsules. They are designed to be thrown away. That is a key selling feature, in fact–convenience of disposal. Have we learned nothing since the 50s?

I took apart one of these “pods” to see what you have to do to recycle them. They are plastic on the outside with an aluminum foil lid and there is a paper filter inside filled with coffee. Theoretically you could recycle the plastic and aluminum and compost the paper and coffee grounds. Are you going to do this every time you brew a cup? Of course not.

Aluminum, paper, plastic and coffee grounds.
Aluminum, paper, plastic and coffee grounds.

Where did I get the samples here? We “won” an overnight stay in a hotel in Vancouver at a charity silent auction and took the kids last week. They love hotels. The room had one of these machines so we had to try it out. Did it taste better than the ordinary coffee makers they put in hotel rooms? I didn’t notice. It tasted like coffee to me. (And yes, we take those packages of coffee grounds from the usual machines home to compost too, if we can. Once you have seen The Clean Bin Project, how can you not?)

Nope, if you want to get me something for Christmas, get me something from Lush. I’ll explain next time! There is also Naomi Klein’s new book This Changes Everything which is awesome but I already have it so tough luck!


A hug is fine.


One of these would be OK, too
One of these would be OK, too

Published by

James Rowley

James lives in Maple Ridge, BC, Canada with his amazing partner, Leanne Koehn, and their two amazing kids in their beautiful house. He studied Science and English Literature at the University of British Columbia where he met Leanne. He also studied acting for a while at Studio 58 in Vancouver. He works as a teacher of English and curriculum writer for new Canadians.

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