Photo: What's the eco-friendliest coffee filter?

Allow the second R of the three Rs to prevail: Reuse! That goes for coffee filters too. (Credit: Ross Burton via Flickr)

Here's a useful tip: allow the second R of the three Rs to prevail: Reuse!

Reusable filters are even better than paper products made from 100 per cent post-consumer waste (PCW) and processed chlorine-free (PCF), especially if the metal filter is recyclable. It takes effort—energy, resources etc.—to make all paper products. Many filters on the market are also chlorine-bleached. Chlorine is toxic to produce and poisonous to fish.

If you do use good recycled paper filters, you can compost the grounds and the filter (PDF file)! Coffee grounds are excellent for the garden because they contain nitrogen. If it's snowing, mix the grounds into your indoor plant pots. Come spring, you can sprinkle the grounds around outdoor plants to create a slug and snail barrier (grounds are abrasive and acidic) or mix them right into the soil to release nutrients.

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But hold the bus. What kind of coffee are you brewing?

Coffee is the second-most-traded commodity in the world, after oil. And millions of acres of land have been cleared worldwide to grow coffee; effectively evicting all the forest inhabitants, including migrant boreal songbirds. Most coffee is produced as a monoculture crop, in direct sunlight. These plantations also require chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Make the switch to coffee that has been triple certified: organic, Fair Trade, and "shade grown". Certified by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, the shade grown certification ensures your coffee is also "bird-friendly".

"Bird-friendly" plantations not only protect some of the last remaining refuge areas for hundreds of species of birds, they also allow farmers to grow other crops as a hedge against weather hardships, pests and diseases. Coffee plants grown under the rainforest canopy use organic leaf litter as fertilizer. Insects are controlled by natural predators such as bats and birds. On top of that, the coffee farmer won't have to bathe in toxic pesticides to get you a morning caffeine pick-me-up.

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