Mr Green finds zero waste coffee

Filed in Blog by on November 26, 2008 19 Comments
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zero waste coffee with IllyWe’ve now found two ways for Mr Green to enjoy his caffeine fix sans landfill waste! The first is at our local(ish) Taurus Crafts. In there, you can choose from about 12 different types of coffee bean which can be bought whole or are ground in front of your very eyes.

The amount is weighed out and then tipped into paper bags for you to take home and put in an airtight container. Our nearest Whittards branch, which I believe offer the same service, is too far for us to justify the trip, so we’re pleased to have found this. Plus I guess you could take your own container with you and forfeit the paper packaging too.

However, it’s pretty expensive and Mr Green didn’t feel that the price justified his pleasure as it were.

The second brand is easier to get hold of. We’ve now seen it in the Co-Op and Waitrose. it’s by a company called Illy. It comes in a steel tin, with a ring pull top and a screw on tin lid! We’ve picked up so many tins only to discover they have a foil lining, a plastic lid or some kind of mixed-media packaging inside, so I was literally dancing in the aisles when I found this one.

Mr Green is a bit of a fussy tart when it comes to his morning coffee, but he is certainly enjoying the Illy brand.

We sorted out zero waste tea between us. What about coffee? Have you found a good zero waste brand?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (19)

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  1. just Gai says:

    I buy coffee from our local deli where it is ground to order and sold in paper bags. There are a variety of beans to chose from including our favourite, Sumatra, which is fairtrade and organic.

  2. Sal says:

    We had a spate of buying illy in the tins a few years back. I kept the tins and at christmas made shortbread squares popped them in the cleaned out tins and then stuck my sons art work on the outside as a paper sleeve cover.
    If Mr Green drinks enough between now and Christmas Miss Green may have fun filling the tins with treats 🙂 please dont blame me when Mr G is bouncing off the walls on a cafeine high.

  3. esther says:

    no landfill for me here, I don’t like coffee, lol!!Good for mr Green though!!

  4. Rui Ferreira says:

    A tip. Did you know that you can use coffee beans to attract worms in either vermicomposting or just in your garden? Very useful if you need to change containers. Probably nothing new for you. Very useful though.

  5. Mr. Green says:

    Rui Ferreira said

    A tip. Did you know that you can use coffee beans to attract worms in either vermicomposting or just in your garden? Very useful if you need to change containers. Probably nothing new for you. Very useful though.

    Good tip Rui!, Used coffe grains are also excellent material to compost, providing they are used as part of a balanced mix of items.

  6. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Just Gai – good to hear you have found a solution – fair trade and organic to boot; that’s fantastic!

    Sally; I love your idea for reusing the tins. I think LMG and Mr Green will both be delighted. 😀

    Esther – you and me both. I can’t stand coffee.

    Rui – that’s great and I didn’t know about using coffee grounds to attract worms. How cool! I’ll remember that in the spring time when we start the composting again – thank you!

  7. Layla says:

    I love coffee but I don’t want to get addicted!! 🙂

    So I just say no thank you!

    My Sis is an addict though.. I wonder if something like that would exist locally.. I remember in the old times coffee beans were ground in ordinary shops.. I wonder if they still do that anywhere around here..

  8. Layla says:

    Oh, & what do you re-use the Illy tins for? 🙂

    They do look pretty!! What are they made of?

  9. Hi Mrs Green,

    I will definitely look out Illy in the local Co-op. Wittard is my bean (Colombian) supplier, using home container. One job interviewer asked if there was cocaine in that type of coffee. Stupidity lives on.

    For instant, I follow the 1 Jar 1 Lid effort where bought jars can have the lid removed and left at customer services. Telling the assistant that you use a home jar is a good riposte.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    This is our first tin, so we have no reuse for it yet, but I like Sally’s idea of decorating and filling with treats for gifts 🙂 The tins are either steel or aluminium – all easily recyclable if we choose not to reuse.

    Whittards are great John; it’s just that our local branch is some distance away. Glad to hear you are still leaving your instant coffee lids at the checkout 🙂

  11. Hi again Mrs Green,

    It is no big deal to leave the lids. I hope they think about their waste and take ownership of it, as we do with our household waste.

    Incineration is still an issue but in Scotland, where Zero Waste is a top subject Viridor complained that it should be defined eg ZeroWastePackaging. They are obviously feeling the heat. As I said on the BBC topic about PAYT, you cannot burn the air in an unused wheelie bin.

  12. Mrs Green says:

    What sort of looks, comments or feedback do you have to the coffee lid idea, John? I think I would feel embarrassed to do that at this stage. I find your confidence grows to do more outlandish things however, with practise 😉

  13. Hi Mrs Green,

    That is worth further explanation. With older staff, there is a puzzled reaction, a lack of awareness, or just plain indifference. The younger one was all smiles, possibly more understanding or appreciating the unusual activity.

    The truth is the home jar explanation cannot be argued down. It makes perfect sense and shows concern for the waste issue. Hopefully, something will click in the stores thinking. They are happy to set trends to gain a march on rivals.

    The Zero Waste chocolate is a breakthrough after a 6 month dearth. A Christmas box would be another fine addition. If we can achieve full Zero Waste across the whole range of purchases we will have reached our main target.

    Zero Waste alternatives, convenient and countrywide, could be a blog entry or even a blog in its own right. The more poeple join-in the quicker the pace of change.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    Hi JOhn, your observations are interesting. I guess younger people are used to eccentric behaviour LOL but I’m surprised the older staff were not more aware of what you are trying to do.

    For chocolate boxes. I think it is unlikely that you’ll get a zero waste ‘selection’ box, but it would be easy to make your own to give as gifts.

    Maybe we have a job for you regarding a section of the site for zero waste alternatives 😉

  15. Hi again Mrs Green,

    Customer services is designed to help consumers so maybe confrontational types are banned. No one has yet been negative. Damage limitation is one possibility. Can you imagine the publicity if I had been shown the door or frog-marched by a heavy? Zero Waste would be on the news!

    Lidls are looking into the situation regarding chocolate boxes and so far they have delivered. It is a long shot but I am hopeful. Lidls Johnstone is a new store and they are building clientele. Any time at the chocolate shelves I make a fuss looking at the good types. On 1 occasion a female customer lifted a bar seconds after me. If the bars sell well, the cause will be advanced.

    Certainly, I could contribute to a Zero Waste alternative topic, to promote good alternatives, encourage others to search, and explain deficiencies in less than practical efforts. The idea would be to streamline the process and praise (or reward) good companies.

  16. A great find Mr G. I’ve seen them on the Waitrose shelves but have never ventured further. We’re really lucky to have a coffee seller on the market that sells loose tea and coffee in paper bags. We put all our spent grounds in the our compost bin, maybe that’s why the worms look so happy. If we weren’t coffee lovers, with that news I’d be tempted to grab the used granules from our local Starbucks store, which they give away for free. 😀 x

  17. Layla says:

    Yes, a blog or site with Zero Waste alternatives would be a great idea!!
    (something a bit similar to or, but GREEN!!:))

    Also, there’s a campaign at to get amazon to start tracking their packages… & I had the idea to bug amazon & all major consumer review/shopping sites to provide all other environmentally important info as well!! – this would certainly help people decide!
    Discussed here:

    Of course there could also be a site for ‘greenest of them all’ (regularly updated, & with consumer reviews/comments etc, hopefully!)

    Glad to know the pretty box will be reused! It *is* quite pretty, so probably no trouble finding some use for it!

  18. Layla says:

    Oh, & also. maybe it’s a silly idea… (or maybe it’s silly I haven’t thought of it before..? hmm..?)

    Are you guyz on any shopping comparison/consumer review sites yet? I’d love to read eg Myzerowaste ‘shopping guide’/evaluation on or – you can publish the stuff elsewhere anyway.. including on other sites with articles, or this blog! & it’s one other way to reach ‘tha masses’!!

    (I’d be happy to give you a referral too lol!!)

    I wonder if other shoppers could re-think their purchases when seeing better solutions too..??!!

  19. Mrs Green says:

    John, that **would** make a great news item; you have to admit. Sometimes ‘negative’ publicity gets an issue into the limelight quicker than the feel good stories. We’ll think about a new site feature in the new year perhaps and see how much interest there is. It will, of course, rely on readers contributing to it; so we’ll see 🙂

    It’s great you have found a happy brand of zero waste coffee, Mrs A. I admit we would prefer to be able to buy in paper, but at least this is the second best option 🙂 Glad your worms are happy; must be all that caffeine!

    Thanks for the edenbee link, Layla; it looks interesting. I think it has got to a point where we need to vote with our money AND send letters voicing our preferences. You’ve come up with so many amazing ideas for shopping and comparisons; there is lots for me to consider in there; thank you!

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