February 10, 2019

The Argument over Coffee Pods that ended Us, & found Me.



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When we are wondering if they are “the One,” gift them a coffee pod machine—it will soon sort out the sweet from the bitter beans of love and compatibility.

It all started a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… No, wait. That’s someone else’s mindful journey.

My mindful journey started with the fateful choice of selecting a university and master’s majors in health science and public health. My studies of health science showed me that all that exists is connected, and public health taught me that human life depends on the health of our environment.

Without a thriving environment, public health pretty much fails to thrive too. Once I knew these two things, my journey was sealed. I am passionate about environmental issues even though my efforts have always been deadly quiet: writing, teaching, and following my own conscience.

People and everyday living challenge my conscience. The arrival of a Keurig coffee machine in my life, however, challenged me in a way that surprised me, but eventually provided me with tiny tokens to a mindfulness practice.

When my boyfriend moved in with me, we purchased a Keurig coffee machine together. Until then, I had happily survived with my generic coffee brewer. When the coffee pods arrived, to my environmentalist horror, I watched my boyfriend brew both of us perfect cups of coffee and toss the used coffee pods into the trash.

The truth about coffee pods is that only some coffee pods are entirely recyclable, leaving billions of used plastic coffee pods in landfill every year. Most coffee pods are only partially recyclable. To be recycled they need to be taken apart in order to compost the coffee, and recycle the paper and aluminum. The plastic part of these pods is nonrecyclable.

This is how the trouble between me, my boyfriend, and the Keurig coffee machine began. We disagreed about purchasing the more expensive, entirely recyclable pods. We disagreed about whether taking the nonrecyclable pods apart for recycling was a useful way to spend time.

The Keurig coffee machine has some favorable benefits over a standard coffee brewer. It takes less time, it is convenient to use, and there is  less water wasted down the sink. I do not have to wash out a pot everyday, nor do I make too much coffee and end up pouring it down the sink. This particular Keurig allows me to brew tea, coffee, and hot water in five different amounts from a 4-ounce teacup to a 12-ounce travel mug.

Like most Keurigs, this one also came with a little device called “My K-Cup.” My K-Cup is a reusable coffee filter which can be filled with any ground coffee that I choose, and I have some control over the amount of coffee used based on how strong or weak I want the coffee to be. Coffee pod problem solved. Let’s just use My K-Cup.


My boyfriend wasn’t won over on this; it took too long to spoon the coffee into the filter, empty the filter, and rinse it. I timed this process: it took me less than 90 seconds. I even kept a bucket for composting next to the sink, along with a small tub in the sink for the rinse water that we used to water plants. It still took too much time.

Little red flags started to appear.

Fine. Then I would be the onliest (yes, that’s a made-up word) one to use My K-Cup.

But I had to find ways to keep the peace. I made my coffee before my boyfriend, removing My K-Cup and replacing the original coffee pod holder assembly in the Keurig. If I did not, when I returned home I would find that My K-Cup was upside down on the counter.

As time went by, My K-Cup sometimes appeared in the trash along with a used coffee pod. Retrieving both, I contemplated our relationship. I thought about the difficulty we were having in reaching a way through this minor issue, and how it might make or break our relationship. I thought about how a person does anything, can indicate how that person might do everything.

In the case of coffee pods, I was mindful that I am willing to do more for something this small, such as take those extra seconds to honor my need to mitigate the damage I might be causing to our environment during my earthly existence. I was also mindful that I respected my boyfriend’s decision to not care, but I became just as mindful of his disregard for my caring.

As I peeled the tinfoil back from the coffee pod, tapped the used coffee into the recycling bin, and plucked the paper lining away from the plastic, each movement and motion became a prayer—a gesture of loving-kindness toward these inert materials that raised my consciousness.

This made me present to an ultimate truth: nobody sees me, nobody knows but me (except maybe the cat), but my knowing and my acting keep my integrity intact for the next challenge that might not be so easy.

We never found agreement on these things—he left, leaving me in the company of the Keurig and two boxes of nonrecyclable coffee pods.

I am using up those two boxes of coffee pods left behind. Each day, I mindfully empty, peel, and pluck, remembering with some sadness, some happiness—honoring my greater truth within the smallest of actions.

When we want to know if they are “the One,” get a Keurig and see who minds the pods.

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Barbara Kass

author: Barbara Kass

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Image: @Ecofolks/ Instagram

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