Join me in saving money and the environment (make your own iced coffee this summer)

Join me in saving money and the environment (make your own iced coffee this summer)

As temperatures in New York start to rise, we are embarking on my favourite time of year. Pleasant warm and sunny days also mean it is cold brew and iced coffee season! 

Maggie Sullivan with her reusable glass iced coffee jar

Personally, I do not wait for warmer weather to drink iced coffee, but drink it all year. I enjoy the taste and it is less likely to spill when I am rushing through the throngs of people on the busy New York streets or the subway on my morning commute.

However, as a 365 days a year cold coffee drinker, I recognised my coffee habit was not only costing me quite a bit of money, but also creating a substantial amount of plastic waste. As a millennial living alone in an expensive city, saving money is a top concern for me, as well as making efforts to reduce my personal carbon footprint. 

So, I started to make my own cold brew, giving myself the financial boost rather than Starbucks, and decreasing my personal plastic waste.

The costs

There are many versions of cold coffee beverages (iced coffee, frappuccino, cold brew, to name a few), all of which vary in taste and style, but do not vary in their higher cost. I have found no matter what your cold coffee drink of choice is, it is more expensive than hot coffee. 

Iced coffee takes less time to prepare, as it is just regular brewed hot coffee chilled with ice or in the fridge. Maybe cold brew costs more because there is more labour and time involved. This method requires grinds to be steeped in cold water for at least 12 hours and then manually filtered. 

Plastic cups and straws are also more expensive than the standard paper cups used to serve black coffee. I reckon the price hike can be from 30-75% here in New York.

I also find that I tend to consume more than one cup a day (maybe since it's quicker to drink). It's an expensive habit. If I purchased every single cold coffee I drink at $5 (about £3.50), I would spend more than $2,000 (about £1,500) annually. That is money that I could use on plane tickets for holidays, dining out or investing for my retirement.

The plastic

As I said before, another reason I decided to switch to homemade cold brew was the amount of plastic waste that 365 plastic cups and their straws produce. I have been shocked by a claim that if we do not curb our plastic use there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050.

In the US our contribution to this waste in the form of plastic straws is estimated to be able to wrap the circumference of the earth 2.5 times a DAY.

In the UK, 2.5bn disposable cups are thrown away each year, of which less than 0.25% are recycled, according to an environmental audit committee report. 

The UK is set to ban the sale of plastic straws and drinks stirrers to tackle the escalating plastic waste problem. Environment secretary Michael Gove said it is "vital we act now", with 8.5billion straws thrown away every year.

A combination of reducing use and recycling is one of the only ways we can tackle the growth of plastic waste. 

The solution

I've been making my own cold brew for about three years and even though I will still at times buy an iced coffee on the go, I have been able to reduce my annual costs by about 75%, money which goes towards an annual winter break for some warmth and sun during the bitter New York cold. 

I steep my favourite coffee in room temperature water for at least 12 hours and then strain using a French press. However, there are a variety of ways you can make your own, and you can choose from a variety of stylish reusable tumbler options to carry.

I hope you join me in saving money and saving the environment by tweaking your daily iced coffee routine this summer!

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