Raise your hand if you saw the title of this week’s podcast episode and low-key panicked that I was going to tell you to stop drinking coffee. No, no, no, no… Don’t worry… I’m not here to destroy lives – there are just a few things I want you to consider the next time you buy a new bag of beans or box of tea.

Listen on iTunes here.
Listen on Spotify here.
Listen on Google Podcasts here.





Numi Tea

Traditional Medicinals 

Rishi Tea (loose leaf)

Equal Exchange

Stumptown – Holler Mountain blend

Real Good Coffee Co.

Counter Culture 

Blue Bottle




Raise your hand if you saw the title of this week’s podcast episode and low-key panicked that I was going to tell you to stop drinking coffee. No, no, no, no… Don’t worry… I’m not here to destroy lives – there are just a few things I want you to consider the next time you buy a new bag of beans or box of tea.

Parents, college students, teachers, entrepreneurs and even athletes across the world quite literally run on coffee. It is one of the most widely traded commodities on the planet – with over 12 billion pounds of coffee produced annually. And it is the second most exported item worldwide. 

Whether it’s sipping an espresso at a bar in Italy, ordering through the drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts or sitting at a coffee shop on your laptop for hours, coffee culture offers something for everyone.

So it should come as no surprise that meeting that demand is, well, difficult. Over time, farming methods have evolved to maximize production, but it should also come as no surprise that it’s been at the expense of environmental and human health.

Coffee – conventional coffee – has become one of the most heavily treated chemical crops in the world. It is grown using pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. Depending on where in the world it’s farmed, it’s not a matter of “if” but “how much” poison is sprayed on the crop. The truth is, most coffee is grown in countries where there are little to no standards regulating the use of chemicals and pesticides on food. 

I’ve talked before about the dangers of Round-Up, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world – if you missed it, you can go back to season one and listen to the episodes on GRASS and ORGANIC FOOD. I think by now, most of us know from the organic food movement that we generally want to avoid consuming pesticides and herbicides. But we don’t often think about our daily cup of coffee being one of the most herbicide-soaked things we consume every day – for some of us, multiple times a day.

And that’s why, if you’re not already drinking organic coffee, it may be something you want to consider. There are no synthetic fertilizers or chemicals used in the growing or production, which means cleaner beans – not to mention cleaner air, water and land in the surrounding communities where the coffee is farmed. According to the Equal Exchange Resource Center, organic coffee is grown using organic fertilizers like coffee pulp, chicken manure or compost. Organic farms also help to combat climate change by emitting less carbon than chemical farms.

Just like the products we put on our skin every day, switching to a daily cup of organic coffee instead of conventional coffee means ingesting less pesticide residue, but it also means drinking coffee that is richer in antioxidants than conventional coffee.

And yes, I will fully admit that organic coffee is generally more expensive than conventional coffee but increased demand in recent years has influenced the price gap. So basically, as more of us demand organic coffee by drinking it, the more organic coffee beans will be grown which means the price will continue to go down. 

Of course, I can’t move on without addressing the Keurig in the room. Yes, K-Cups or single-use coffee pods. If you currently use a Keurig machine, I have absolutely no problem telling you why you should stop using it. It will be just like arguing with my dad about it. 

Here’s the deal: K-Cups are typically made of a combination of plastic, aluminum, and a filter, making them nearly impossible to recycle. As a result, they contribute to plastic waste and landfill pollution. And yes, I know there have been efforts to introduce recyclable or compostable K-Cups, but the vast majority of them still end up in landfills. 

John Sylvan, who co-invented the Keurig system, has famously expressed remorse about not having designed a more sustainable solution for the coffee pods. He stated publicly that he didn’t foresee the magnitude of the waste generated by the billions of non-recyclable pods that are disposed of each year. 

These things are truly an environmental nightmare, not just for landfill waste but also for the resource consumption of using more water and energy to heat up a single cup. And then there’s the whole health issue of heating up plastic and those plastic chemicals leaching directly into the drink you’re going to consume. Seriously, the whole single-pod situation is just… the worst all around. If you can ditch it, please do.

And actually, if you’re resistant to switching to organic coffee, the single-use pods are more expensive than buying ground or whole bean coffee. So if you do use a Keurig, then making the switch to organic beans could actually be even when it comes to your coffee budget. Just something to ponder… looking at you, dad.

Let’s move onto tea, shall we? My tea drinkers… you didn’t think you were going to get away unscathed did you?

As you may have already guessed – conventional tea is also grown using pesticides and herbicides, which ultimately ends up in the cup of tea you drink. So yes, buying organic tea is also my recommendation. But unfortunately, with tea, it doesn’t end there…

Tea bags are often made from a combination of natural fibers (such as paper or plant-based materials) and plastic. The plastic is usually added to enhance the durability and heat-sealing properties of the tea bag.

The problem arises when these plastic components break down during the brewing process. Over time, exposure to hot water during steeping causes the tea bags to release tiny plastic particles, known as microplastics, into your tea. And these microplastics are small enough to be ingested when you drink it.

This is probably not the first time you’ve heard of microplastics, but you may not have thought about it as it relates to drinking hot tea. But yes, microplastics are a significant health concern – studies have shown that microplastics can accumulate in the human body and have negative effects on human health.

So yeah, we’re drinking microplastics. And even if you purposely buy tea bags that are made of natural materials, you still have to be careful about how the tea manufacturer seals the tea bag – most of them use polypropylene, which again, results in the breakdown of microplastic particles into the tea. 

A phrase to look for in the tea bags you buy is that they say they’re “free of epichlorohydrin,” which is a chemical some manufacturers add to prevent the bags from breaking down quickly. So if you do buy 100% paper tea bags already, in an attempt to avoid plastic, you could still be ingesting epichlorohydrin which is considered to be potentially carcinogenic.

So what’s a tea drinker to do? Obviously, loose leaf tea infusers are the best option but aren’t as convenient. So my recommendation is to opt for tea bags that are completely biodegradable, plastic-free, organic, or made with plant-based materials. 

As always, I’ll add my recommendations for both tea brands and coffee brands that you should be able to find in your local grocery store or order online. Those recs will be over in show notes at

Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Clean Living Podcast — I’m your host Shannon Lohr. Can I ask you a quick favor before you go? If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts and have enjoyed the first five episodes of season two, can you please take 30 seconds to leave a review? If you click the five stars and add just one sentence on what you like about the podcast, it will mean more to me than you know. This will also help more people find out about the podcast and that would be awesome.