The Scary Environmental Impact If Microsoft Used Only Keurig
Single-serve coffee mkers have taken office environments by storm, and there’s no more popular pod-based coffee machine than the Keurig. However, even the creator of Keurig, John Sylvan, has spoken out against his invention’s negative impact on the environment.
“I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it,” Sylvan said to The Atlantic.
And Sylvan knew way back when he invented the K-Cup and Keurig that it would definitely sell.
“It’s like a cigarette for coffee, a single-serve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance.”
Talk about a negative connotation.
Unlike some competitors in the pod coffee machine market, Keurig Green Mountain’s K-Cups are not biodegradable or reusable. K-Cups have been publically condemned as a “scourge” on the planet, Sylvan has said — a sentiment he doesn’t completely disagree with. As a result, in the last year or two, Keurig Green Mountain announced that it would develop a fully recyclable version of its K-Cup by 2020, five years from now. Still, many people don’t believe that the company is working hard enough or fast enough on sustainability efforts, and that our continued use of non-biodegradable coffee pods would have a severe impact on the planet.
If a Big-Name Company Goes Totally Keurig
Imagine if a big-name company decided to go completely Keurig, lining each of its office spaces with K-Cups for its employees to use. What kind of global impact would that have on the environment? For the sake of argument, let’s use Microsoft for its global footprint.
- Microsoft has 59,853 U.S. employees
- Microsoft has 117,354 worldwide employees
According to the article in The Atlantic, in one year, discarded used K-Cups could circle the Earth an estimated 12 times. Doing some math, that means each K-Cup accounts for roughly 1.68 inches lined up. Let’s go back to Microsoft.
If every one of Microsoft’s U.S.-based 59,853 employees drinks one K-Cup a day, that would mean in a single day, they would discard 1.59 miles of K-Cup waste. If you count that for the average work year of 262 days, that’s 416.58 miles — roughly the distance from Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia. In a year for the entire global workforce? Microsoft is looking at 814.82 miles, or roughly the distance from Boston to Louisville, Kentucky.
But let’s get more specific. Statistic Brain says that 54% of people drink coffee, and of those people, the average is 3.1 cups of coffee a day. Using that data, we can calculate a closer estimate of just how much K-Cup waste Microsoft would really produce.
In one year, using 54% of the workforce drinking 3.1 cups a day:
- 63,371 estimated coffee drinkers worldwide at Microsoft
- 196,450.1 estimated cups of coffee, and K-Cups used, each day
- With 262 work days, that’s 51,469,926 cups of coffee each year
- At 1.68 inches per cup, that’s 1,364 miles of K-Cup waste each year
- Microsoft yearly would use enough K-Cups to travel from Boston to New Orleans
- In the five-year span until Keurig develops fully biodegradable K-Cups, that’s 6,820 miles – longer than the distance from Boston to Tokyo
If just one company goes completely Keurig K-Cups, the environmental impact is astounding — something to take to heart when shopping for your organization’s morning brew.