March 24, 2015

Do You Take Guilt With Your Coffee?

If you’re like any of us at WAMU, your morning doesn’t just include coffee, your morning wouldn’t exist without it. Take the majority of The Kojo Nnamdi Show producers, for example.

The Kojo Nnamdi Show producers Michael Martinez (left) and Tayla Burney (right). Photos by Ruth Tam.

Michael: I drink coffee every morning, but on Fridays, I get up extra early to prepare for The Politics Hour. I make an entire pot of coffee and start reading political news from my laptop at six. By the time I’m in the office, I’m usually three or four cups in.

Tayla: Typically I have a cup of Peet’s at home – skim milk, little bit of sugar in the raw – and the rest comes to work with me. It’s usually enough for one and a half fills of my mug, which I have an unreasonable amount of love for.

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The Kojo Nnamdi Show managing producer Brendan Sweeney (left) and producer Ingalisa Schrobsdorff (right). Photos by Ruth Tam.

Brendan: My first round begins at 6am or whenever my 19-month-old wakes up. I pick him up, walk to the kitchen, fire up the Keurig, turn on WAMU 88.5 and make a cup of coffee. Or three. I hit up Starbucks at 8:45 a.m. pretty much every day for my second round to power up before the 9:20 a.m. editorial meeting. I take four shots (quatro) of espresso over ice in a large cup.

Ingalisa: I’m a caffeine addict for sure. My morning coffee routine involves at least two cups from a basic Black & Decker drip coffeemaker. If it’s been an especially early morning, I might stop at Starbucks (though at least once a week someone makes a comment when I ask for a Tall Blonde).

Like Brendan, many coffee drinkers have turned to Keurig machines, which satisfy caffeine cravings one cup at a time. While they’ve become a hit at home and the office, use of the non-recyclable plastic K-Cups have drawn concern for their adverse impact on the environment.

The figures:

  • One in three Americans either have a single-cup brewing system at home or at work. (Harris Interactive)
  • Keurig systems account for 20 percent of the U.S. coffee business at retail. (Keurig)
  • Keurig sold 10.4 million brewers and 9.8 billion portion packs in 2014 to gain $4.6 billion in annual net sales. (KeurigThe Atlantic)
  • Five percent of Keurig’s original Green Mountain coffee cup pods are made of recyclable material. The remaining 95 percent are made of non-recyclable composite plastic. (Quartz)
  • These cups account for more than 25 percent of the U.S. market for ground coffee. (Quartz)
  • Keurig machines are catching up to drip coffee machines: Keurig machine sales have multiplied six-fold while coffee machine sales have been steady. (Quartz)

There are reusable single-serve cups. And on March 23, Keurig launched new K-Mug pods, which are fashioned to brew a travel-mug portion of joe in a recyclable capsule. The K-Mug fits with the recently rolled out Keurig 2.0 machines, but the original pods and the iterations it inspired (from Nespresso, Folger’s, Peet’s, Caribou, etc.) can only be thrown away.

One person who hasn’t jumped on the K-Cup train? Its inventor, John Sylvan, who cites their cost and effect on the environment.

“I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it,” Sylvan told James Hamblin of The Atlantic.

How do you take your coffee? Tell us us in the comments below, on Twitter and Facebook, or call 800-433-8850 on Wednesday, March 24, at 1 p.m. when Keurig founder John Sylvan and Atlantic editor James Hamblin join us to talk about coffee cups and sustainability.

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