Office Coffee: Reducing the Waste

In the spring of 2015, Ashley Chapman (left) and Taylor Bundy ’13 (right) began approaching office coffee with a critical eye and experimenting with various options in Vogt House and Mears House.

Last year I embarked on a mission to replace the Keurig machine in my office. I recruited my colleague, Taylor Bundy ‘13 to join me, and we spent several months researching alternatives.  

Here’s what we tried. Hopefully the explanation of our ups and downs on this project will be useful to your department.

First to the question – Why replace Keurig machine and get rid of K-cups? WASTE. K-cups create a ton of waste and until a few months ago they weren’t recyclable at all. Despite the fact that they are recyclable, there are still a big environmental impact when you think about the amount of energy that is necessary and emissions that are generated to make the cups, transport them, and dispose of them. Plus the lids aren’t recyclable, need to be separated from the pods once they cool down, and the grounds dumped out before being recycled.

Happy Coffee Drinkers

We decided we would try to work with what he had at first, so we tried out reusable k-cup filters. There are an array of filter options and I’m pretty sure we tried them all. Plastic, stainless steel, pour-over, paper filter inserts, etc. Our colleagues obligingly played along (with only a few grumbles) and tested out the options we provided. We soon found that the road to Keurig elimination was going to be a bumpy one. Our office consists of 3 buildings and 3 different Keurig machines, meaning the filters did not work the same way in each machine. There were complaints of slower brewing time, overflows, messy clean-up, grounds that weren’t course enough, and the filters were hot to the touch. After our failed attempt at replacing the k-cups and eliminating waste, we put the project on hold, and decided we needed to re-evaluate our options. Along the way, Taylor moved to New York City, and I began to lose hope that we would find a suitable alternative.

Luckily, several months later Mike Evans from the Zilkha Center was kind enough to take me to see the new coffee machine that’s currently being used by the Facilities Department. My wheels immediately began turning, and I hoped this could be our next shot at Keurig elimination. The staff in Facilities seemed to be pleased with the machine and the taste of the coffee, and conveniently it was ordered through the college’s food supply vendor, Ginsberg’s Foods. After input from OCR managers, I was able to contact the vendor and place an order for a machine. The Douwe Egberts C-60 Specialty Coffee Brewer is a machine that uses concentrated liquid coffee. Each box of liquid coffee provides about 120 (11 oz) cups of coffee. This means a huge decrease in the amount of waste created each time someone makes a cup of coffee. The coffee is delivered frozen, and can be thawed and refrigerated for up to 6 weeks.

However, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished – so we did have a momentary hiccup in the process. Upon arrival we realized that the machine would not safely fit on the countertop in our break room. We called upon Facilities to come in and modify the area to fit the machine, and somewhere along the way the waterline broke. Yes – you guessed it – the next day we were greeted with a large flood! Our building’s custodian kindly took the brunt of this dilemma and we were back up and running in no time. The outlets needed some time to dry out, so our staff did go a few days without coffee, but I heard very few complaints!

I am very much looking forward to success with this new machine moving forward, and hope to make a case for installing one in one of our other College Relations buildings. It may be a small one, but it’s still a step forward towards creating a more sustainable Williams.

-Ashley Chapman
Administrative Assistant, Development Office, Mears House
Feel free to get in touch with me – or the Zilkha Center – if you are interested in reducing your office related coffee waste or have questions about the machines/systems that I researched.