Reducing Waste

When I think about how I’ve changed since moving to The Little House 2 ½ years ago, it really kind of amazes me (and also disproves the old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks). J

Before Dale started his new job, he was taking care of most of the household chores, and while doing dishes, he broke my carafe on my programmable 4-cup coffee maker.

I wouldn’t say I’m as die-hard of a coffee drinker as my mother, who would brew up to 4 full pots daily, but I do need my 4 cups in the morning and another small pot to keep me going in the afternoon.

Luckily, I have an older reserve coffee maker that I could use. The carafe on the older model wouldn’t fit my programmable pot and it is also much slower in the brew process. I admit that I’ve been spoiled by setting my coffee so that is already brewed when I wake up. Waiting 10 minutes for the older model to brew about killed me some mornings!


When I began looking for a new carafe for the preferred coffee maker, I couldn’t find one at Wal-Mart (the only store in town) and when I looked online, I found the replacement carafe for $9.95. Not bad, I thought, that is until I looked at the price of the entire pot, which was $19.95!

For only $10 more, I could have a whole new coffee pot and throw out the “old” back-up model.

What a waste, it is no wonder our landfills are crammed with items. Why in the world would a carafe for a coffee pot cost only $10 less than the entire pot, which also comes with a new carafe?

I may not have thought this way before our move. I probably, in all honesty, would have opted to just spend $10 more and get a whole new set up.

Although I’ve always had somewhat of a “green” mentality, it’s almost easy to ignore waste in the city somehow.

Now that we’re living in a beautiful landscape with literally thousands of miles of untouched forests, I’m more mindful of the waste we produce.

Of course, living in a smaller house also makes me more aware of everything that is brought into the house. As well, we have to watch every penny we spend now.

My new carafe came in the mail on Saturday, minus the whole new coffee pot.

Would you have purchased just the carafe or a whole new set up (be honest! I promise not to judge) How do you help control waste at your home?

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47 Responses

  1. Donna says:

    I too go to Goodwill about 2x a month to see what is available at a reduced price.I use my old carafe when I make extra coffee at Thanksgiving time for company. I never pay full price for anything. I’m a frugal shopper.

  2. Keri says:

    I would have checked out Goodwill first. If nothing, then buy carafe only. Prefer french press though. 😉 Our glass ones broke so often that we finally found a stainless steel one. Much better! Also keeps coffee hot longer! =)

  3. S.A.B.L.E. says:

    I too am a coffe lover. Morning coffee is a necessary. I’ve been using a Melita one cup filter holder for years at the office since I usually work odd hours. I get a fresh brewed cup of coffee everytime. It works great for the travel travler too. I did splurge a couple of years ago on a coffee maker with a timer, so the coffee is ready when I have to get up at o’dark early for day shift.

    I hate it that so many things are made to wear out after only a short time.

    I try to recycle household trash as much as possible and I shop at thrift shops alot. I often buy clothes at these shops to remake into other things, like an old leather jacket or skirt into pillows or wool skirts for rug hooking. I just need more time to get some of my ideas done.

  4. Mary Brown says:

    I’ve never had coffee however my hubby drinks it and it’s a drip maker with a stainless pot. I got this for free when the company I was working at closed a couple of years ago. I first look to freeycle.org for anything I need before buying it and in turn offer anything I no longer need in order to keep it out of the landfill.

    We have been able to reduce our garbage to 1/4 to 1/3 of a 32 gallon can a week. We recycle everything that can be recycled. I live in a developement that doesn’t allow composting or a vegetable garden so any table scraps and such go into the disposal. I can’t wait until we are able to move somewhere again where we can have a garden and compost bin.

    • kerri says:

      I bet your subdivision won’t allow you to hang your wash out either, Mary? 🙂 Those HOA’s drive me crazy with their anti-environment rules.

      • Mary Brown says:

        You are right but I put a clothing rack on the deck and dry somethings there anyway. I live in a single family fee simple house BUT we do have an association. When I asked why a garden wasn’t allowed they told me because vegetable gardens are ugly….can you believe that? Well I did inform the board that they are required to put it up for a vote with the homeowners. I’m working on all the homeowners to change this. Some how it’s okay to have all the little tikes big plastic toys all over the yards though….hmmm

  5. I would have spent the extra $10 and bought the new coffee pot. I would be thinking the old one may quit working and then I’d have to replace it and be out $20. I love my morning cup of fancy coffee with steamed milk. I used to be a “several times a week” Starbucks customer and enjoyed a mocha. The cost began adding up fast and so one Christmas, three years ago, my husband bought me a Starbucks Barista coffee maker, spending $300! (gasp) But, this machine has made so many cups of coffee for friends, family, me, and has well paid for itself. I make it to my liking, lots of foam, not too sweet and don’t care for outside coffee anymore. A year after he bought it we were at a yard sale and I spotted the same model and got it for $10, it was barely used and my daughter is now the happy owner.

  6. David says:

    Since you use electricity in your cabin, consider a magnetic induction cooktop. Single burner ones are available for about $100 or so. When used with a flat-bottomed pot of iron or steel (has to respond to a magnet), it is the fastest method of cooking and thus uses very little power.
    The Melita style single-cup filter could work well in your writing structure with either a small immersion heater or an electric hot pot.
    I certainly agree with the suggestion to try Linux–I use Ubuntu, and run a few Windows programs using the WINE program. The variation of Ubuntu I’m using is called “Uberstudent”–and comes with many programs pre-installed that make research for writing very easy.

  7. Gipsieee says:

    If/when I make coffee I just heat the grounds in a pot of water on the stove. It’s a little harsh, but I always take my coffee with plenty of milk, so it’s not been an issue for me.

    I have a french press for when we have company over… really, I have a french press because I thought I’d use it and then didn’t. When I unpack it I’ll probably donate it. Whoops…

  8. My husband is a coffee-aholic and he has about five different systems, none of which use any paper products. (French press, stove top expresso, etc.) He starts by roasting green beans, he’s that into coffee.

    Ways we reduce waste at our house:

    1) We buy in bulk as much as we can and bring glass jars to put the bulk products in

    2) We don’t get plastic produce bags but leave apples and oranges, etc. loose when we shop

    3) We have a tiny garbage can so that we can’t overfill it or throw stuff out.

    4) We just started bringing the non-recyclable plastic to a recycling facility that takes it.

    5) We buy Strauss milk in glass bottles that are reused. When we use milk containers we save them and bring them to Portland where they are recycled.

    Those are some of the things we do…

    • Those are really great ideas, Jennifer, thanks for sharing! I will have to incorporate some of these myself. You are very lucky to live near Portland, the greenest city in the country!

      • Keri says:

        I use a stainless steel french press (bought on sale at 50% off)…this takes a while to make coffee with but I’ve come to enjoy the process. We boil water on the stove in an old coffee carafe bought at Goodwill for a quarter. The lip is broken but it still functions so we are waiting until it completely breaks before getting another.

  9. I’m with Susan. 🙂 I use a similar method to make my coffee and it works great. I don’t think it’s anymore time consuming.

    We have a pot similar to this – http://www.sweetmarias.com/prod.chemex.php – but have really enjoyed making one cup of coffee at a time. It’s cut down on my coffee consumption and it stays hot. 🙂

    Keep up the great writing!

    As a side note, be careful about the types of plastics you purchase. I just finished reading The Story of Stuff and was horrified by the toxins that are used to make everyday products, like coffee makers, t-shirts, etc.

    • Susan says:

      Thanks for reminding me of the book The Story of Stuff….just placed a hold on it thru the library….also got that Food, Inc that Kerri mentioned recently from the library.

  10. Holly says:

    My first stop for carafes is always the thrift store! I’ve also used the Melita one-cups (in between times that I’ve had a coffeemaker — for some reason people seem to give me coffeemakers, maybe because they always see me with a coffee cup in my hand!) and I have a French press travel mug.

    As for computers, I always buy refurbished ones with software that is one generation old — that means that there is still lots of software around for it, but it is cheap!

    • When I get a new computer it is for business and I’ve never found a refurbished one that fits what I need in the updated speed or storage capacity. I need a good travel mug, I’ll look into those!

  11. I don’t throw anything before I try to fit it. Our Mr. Coffee pot stopped working. I worked on it for two days. By this time my husband purchased a new one. I made him return it. For I findly got the old one working. It creates a lot of wake-up noise, but it works. The little red ball that displays when the water well is full had come undone, and had went into a little hole where the water comes up and goes into to coffee pot. Something like that.

  12. Trash issues aside … I just have to say that in my world 4 cups of coffee is pretty die-hard. :o)

    I drink MAYBE one cup once every week or two, and only when I’m in dire circumstances and need it.

    We’ve gotten our trash down to just one bag each week, thanks to recycling, but the one place I still need to tackle is composting.

    • Given what my mother drank, Roxanne, I’m lucky I didn’t start preschool with a coffee sippy cup! I really didn’t even like it until I was in my 20s. Good for you on the trash. We only have one bag per week with others filled with recycling.

  13. Grant Wagner says:

    To be honest, I think I would have gone to walmart, and more out of laziness than anything else say “You don’t have what I need? Oh Well, I’ll take a new one. Thanks.” If they did have the perfect replacement, even at 50% of the total cost, I would have bought it.

    I think there is something here which most people don’t realize. Because these things are made in vast quantities, often by mostly neglected workers that make next to nothing, The cost of the materials outway pretty much everything else. Given that, it’s no supprise that the very expensive glass makes up most of the cost. Plastics are extremely cheap.

    Finally, for that computer, take a look at Ubuntu Linux (www.ubuntu.com). A Completely free windows replacement, runs of most hardware, and can easily add 4 or 5 years of life to you computer. And because it isn’t windows, and every program including viruses need to be writting to a particular OS, It will also protect you from most viruses and malware as well.

    • You’ve made a good point, Grant. I know first hand as well that plastics are extremely cheap, made by workers who make next to nothing as it is in a plastics plant my husband is now working! Thanks so much for the info on the computers. I love you guys, you always have such great info and ideas! 🙂

  14. Kathleen Winn says:

    I am a minimalist when it comes to brewing coffee. I discovered years ago that whether I spent fifty dollars on a new coffee maker, or just ten bucks, they both had about the same lifespan. I’ve yet to find one that lasts much more than five years or so. My solution is to buy the very cheapest coffee maker I can find. The last one I bought was a Mr. Coffee on sale at K-Mart and only cost ten dollars because it was an old model. It doesn’t tell time, grind coffee beans directly into the filter or make espresso, but it brews great coffee and that’s all I need it for. Our previous coffee pot bit the dust at about six years old, so I kept the glass carafe as a backup and tossed the appliance. I feel as you do Kerri. It’s ridiculous that manufacturers make it about as cheap to discard appliances, as to buy brand new.

    • I can’t remember the name of my mother’s coffee maker at this time, but they seemed to last and last. I’ll never forget when she was in the hospital, unable to talk and growing weaker by the day, she asked me several times if I had went back to her apartment and took care of her coffee pot! 🙂
      I still have that one in storage, but I don’t need 8 cups in the morning!

  15. Kim says:

    I recently needed a drip coffeemaker for my husband’s office. A quick trip to the hospital thrift store here in town solved the problem. I found a nice, cone-shaped filter model (those make the best coffee)… for $6.

    I too despise the lets-make-it-to-break-in-a-few-years philosophy that’s so common now. We’re about to install a 1950’s gas stove… all it needed was a good cleaning to be working as good as new. Not one part on that thing will ever wear out. There’s not a stove around today, for any price, that’s made like that. (That is SO wrong.)

    • What a find, Kim! Great job! I would love to have an old gas stove. I’ve seen them in antique stores, but we don’t have gas here and don’t want to mess with paying for high propane costs. Very cool.

  16. Kristi says:

    I have an extremely hard time replacing working items for something new. Hence my crockpot with no knob, my 30 year old silverware, ad infinitum. Fortunately I have a fearless husband who is not afraid to take the back off of things and get them going again. We try to purchase quality in the first place, but that is getting harder and harder. I also try not to own kitchen gadgets that only have one use, i.e. zesters and specialty peelers. I don’t want to clutter my house any more than I clutter the Earth. We remodeled our kitchen a few years ago, which turned out to be a year-long project. I donated a lot of stuff when packing up the kitchen and even more when unpacking. There was a lot of stuff that, even after a year, I did not miss.
    It seems the kitchen is a place that you really need to beware of clutter.

  17. V Schoenwald says:

    I do what Alexandra does, I haunt the second hand stores around town and generally come up pretty lucky. And I usually find two that fit, so I get both for the “opps” factor in my life or in other words, “Murphy’s Law” which is quite a rule in my house. I may spend $2-3 bucks for both.
    I try to fix my pots, and clean them to last as long as I can, but again, the landfill is the next rest for these items. I at this time also cannot afford a wonderful new pot that is a better model, but I am the only one in the house that drinks coffee anyway so for me, it doesn’t pay to spend $100 on a pot that only one uses.

    • V, My mother simply loved her expensive coffee pots and since it was one of her true pleasures in life, we always bought them for her for Christmas (although it was an excellent brand and I only remember buying 2 during our whole adult lives). I’m the only one who drinks coffee too, and my $20 model is good enough for me.

  18. Bobbie says:

    Right or wrong, we would buy a new one and save the reuseable parts of the old one for when the coffee pot crashes…at least that has been our pattern.

  19. Susan says:

    I use to use the electric coffee pots but got tired of them breaking down so fast, not to mention the space they take up on the counter. I now use the Melitta one cup filter cone that sets on top of your coffee cup and make my coffee fresh with each cup. I do this for both myself and husband.

    http://shop.melitta.com/search.asp?SKW=MACM

    I was able to buy mine at the grocery store. I also have the reusable gold cone filter but do use the paper ones as well sometimes. (put grounds and paper filters into the compost.)

  20. Alexandra says:

    What I would have done in this situation is go first to our Swap Shop where there is a shelf of old coffee carafes, to see if one fit my machine. If there was none, I would check the Swap Shop in the neighboring town. This has happened to me twice, since people drink lots of coffee at a B&B. Once I bought a new carafe. Once a new machine.

    I agree with you that this built-in obsolescence thing is ridiculous. If companies made sturdier products, landfills would not be overflowing with old stuff. I find that this situation is even worse since all them manufacturing jobs were outsourced to China.

    • You’re right, Alexandra, especially when there’s a new report everyday about how Chines products are toxic! Computers also irritate me. You’re forced to buy one at least every 4 years or the darned thing won’t run with the new technology.

  1. April 5, 2010

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