Coffee Filters: Saving the World One Cup at a Time

By Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP:  Use a permanent coffee filter instead of a paper filter.  Little Greek Goddess Drinking Her "Coffee"Your coffee will taste better and you will be saving the environment, and money, at the same time.

Do you remember when you purchased your last coffee maker?  Do you remember seeing a black and gold permanent coffee filter?  It was probably tucked into your filter holder along with a few sample paper filters.  I’ve seen them.  Many of them.  I often asked myself, “Why would anyone use this?  Wouldn’t it be a little messy?”   Then I started to wonder about the environmental impact of paper filters. 

The white paper filter has been bleached with chlorine or chlorine compounds.  When these chemicals react to wood pulp (used to make paper products), they release a variety of chlorinated toxins called dioxin.  Dioxin is not our friend.

I have been using my permanent coffee filter for about three years.   The paper filters for my coffee maker cost approximately $4 for a box of 100.  Making one pot per day, that works out to a savings of roughly $44.00 and 1100 filters.  More importantly, however, are the reductions in the use of wood, chemicals and energy.

Recently I got some great advice on how to reuse our coffee grounds from noted environmentalist Adam Shake at Twilight Earth:

  1. Soften and add shine to hair. When washing your hair, rub coffee grounds through wet hair and rinse. For brown hair, coffee grounds add highlights.
  2. Fertilize plants. Old coffee grounds are nutrient-rich for plants that thrive in an acidic soil.
  3. Deodorize a freezer. Place a bowl with used coffee grounds in the freezer to remove unwanted odors. Add a few drops of vanilla to coffee grounds.
  4. Add used coffee grounds to the pots of indoor plants.
  5. Work used coffee grounds into your garden soil before seed planting. After your plants start to emerge, work in coffee grounds near the plants. Used coffee grounds are said to repel snails and slugs as well as adding nutrients to the soil.
  6. Use coffee grounds to repel ants.
  7. Keep cats from using your garden as a kitty box.  Spread used coffee grounds and orange peels throughout flower beds.

For more great ways to use old coffee grounds, read Green Daily’s 21 Ways to Use Old Coffee Grounds

It’s the little things we do that can really make a big difference. 

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  1. territerri’s avatar

    I had no idea there was such a thing as a permanent coffee filter. I would much prefer that over the disposables. (Seems like I’m always running out of them, even though I’m not a regular coffee drinker.) Maybe I should look into a different coffee maker, one with the permanent filter.

    What really excites me about this post though is all the different uses for coffee grounds. I TRY to grow a garden every year and seem to struggle with getting it to thrive. I’m giving the coffee grounds a try! Thanks for all the great tips!

  2. Wendy Gabriel’s avatar


    I think you can get a permanent filter for any coffee maker. I know I’ve seen them at Target.

  3. Condo Blues’s avatar

    A permanent gold coffee filter is supposed to make better coffee too. I’m a coffee snob (life’s too short to drink bad, non fair trade coffee!) and that’s what all of the “experts” say. I don’t know if I agree or not because when I started drinking coffee, I used a french press that doesn’t use filters and when I got a coffeemaker I bought a gold filter at the same time to use in it. I haven’t looked back from using one since.

  4. Wendy Gabriel’s avatar

    French press would be a great way to go too. Great point!

  5. Jenni at My Web of Life’s avatar

    What an informative post!

    Question: Do you use fresh or used coffee grounds in your hair?

    My own tip: 1/4 cup fresh grounds in a garbage pail helps to deodorize it. I’ve tried it and it works!


  6. Wendy Gabriel’s avatar


    Answer: Used grounds

    Love the garbage pail tip and will definitely give it a try!

  7. Leslie- La Mama Naturale'’s avatar

    Great tips!!! I totally think using a permanent filter over disposables is a great alternative for coffee drinkers and COFFEE HOUSES. They need to be the encouragement and set an example. 🙂

  8. Wendy Gabriel’s avatar

    You and I think alike! I twittered Starbucks today and told them the same thing!


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