The High Price of Laziness

By Jill Richardson

I know I shouldn’t be, but I am shocked by Americans’ laziness.

We look for the closest parking spot to the gym so that we don’t have to walk those extra few steps. We indulge in watching more cooking shows, yet actually cook less than ever. We invented the drive-thru.

Now, nearly one in five American coffee drinkers is too lazy to make coffee.

There are foods that are very complex and difficult to make. Coffee isn’t one of them. I understand why someone wouldn’t want to make homemade butter or those little French macarons. I get why my mom only made her cheese blintzes for very special occasions. That stuff takes work.

I dread my annual tomato sauce canning marathon, and I only do it because the amazing sauce that results makes easy, delicious meals all year long. And once I put all that work in, I don’t share my sauce with just anyone.

But, coffee?

I make it several times a day. And I’m pretty lazy — I’ve been known to eat whole unpeeled carrots Bugs Bunny style to avoid cutting and cooking them. If I can make coffee, anyone can.

A traditional drip coffee maker requires a few steps. Add water. Measure coffee. Grind coffee. Add filter. Place grounds in filter. Press “on.” Wait. Your coffee is ready.

You can further reduce the required work by purchasing pre-ground coffee, or – better yet –getting a coffee grinder that does the measuring for you.

For lots of folks, that’s still too much work.

Nearly 20 percent of coffee drinkers now use coffee pods. With specialized coffee makers and compatible “pods” of individual serving sizes of pre-ground coffee, one reduces the task of making coffee to: Add water, insert pod, press start, throw pod away. Fancier machines also let you add milk to make various espresso drinks.

These newfangled coffeemakers don’t come cheap. A Keurig will run you $80 or more, and Nespresso makers start at $149. Once you’re invested, you have to buy the related brand of pods — K-cups for Green Mountain Coffee’s Keurig or Nestle’s Nespresso. That alone would be my deal-breaker, because I don’t like either brand of coffee.

In their defense, Keurig offers a refillable pod for $15 (the price of my entire coffee maker) so you can add your preferred type of coffee. Which puts the onerous work of measuring and grinding back into your coffee-making process.

While it’s easy to make fun of Americans’ drive to save time in the kitchen, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. In fact, sometimes time-saving steps constitute efficiency and ingenuity, not laziness. But in this case, the new pod systems result in a staggering amount of waste and may potentially harm your health.

According to a recent Mother Jones article, all of the K-cups sold in 2013 could circle the earth 10.5 times. And every single one now resides in a landfill. Nespresso’s pods are aluminum. They have a program to collect and recycle used pods, but unless their customers actually take them up on this, it’s little more than good PR.

Then there are the health questions generated by making your coffee in little plastic pods (in the case of K-cups). The cups are made of #7 plastic, a catch-all category of “Other” plastics not included in numbers 1 through 6. Keurig refused to tell Mother Jones what type of plastic it used, or whether or not it contained possibly-carcinogenic styrene.

These new brewing systems are little more than a clever method a few companies have discovered to sell more of their own crappy coffee, without regard for the trash they create and their potential impacts on their customers’ health.

Let’s take the waste and potential health hazards out of our coffee. We don’t need to trash the planet just to get a morning buzz.

 

OtherWords.org columnist Jill Richardson is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It. 

 

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March 27, 2014  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

2 Responses to “The High Price of Laziness”

  1. G on March 27th, 2014 4:15 pm

    In Europe, the single serve penetration is actually higher than in the U.S. So lazy Europeans as well. Perhaps people don’t mind paying a bit more for saving 5-10 mins and getting a better cup than what they can make themselves.

  2. Peter Banfield on March 27th, 2014 4:25 pm

    Hi Jill, yes, that is the system, tie the consumer to the brand, the same applies to loyalty systems for miles – it is dependent on laziness disguised as “convenience” – downside is, the loss of choice.
    I cook – but for reasons of community at night in our home – also, like your sauce, i want it my way – not an easy fits all.
    Your example of the Gym is perfect, it has nothing to do with time, I have seen people drive around a car park for ten minutes rather than walk for five.
    The other thing – if the consumer only realised what they have/are giving up in quality and choice, they would be shocked – but, yes – it is the laziness syndrome so we can spend my time being sedate.
    Life’s too short

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