Year for the Planet Week 20: Zero Food Waste – Using Coffee Grounds for Skin Care

Before you can fix the world, you have to fix yourself. Year for a Planet is a personal challenge to be a better human for the planet for a whole year. This year, 2017, is where I deal with my food choices.

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For the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about cutting down on waste.

There’s a problem with plastic waste, which is the size of islands, but there is also the problem of food waste. In the US, up to 40% of food is wasted, and in the UK, £13 billion worth of food was thrown away in 2015. These numbers are particularly heinous when you think of 795 million people in the world who do not have enough to eat.

I begin by writing about one of the main things I used to do that produced so much waste. Earlier in this project, I wrote about my addiction to iced canned coffee. It wasn’t too long ago, but it feels longer, since now I’m happy to say that I can’t even stomach the thought of that stuff. I cold brew my own coffee in large batches, and this has saved me a lot of time and money, not to mention extinguished the 3 aluminum cans of trash I used to produce every day.

But I do vividly remember the initial difficulties in breaking this habit. When you were as addicted to sugar as I was, you will have serious withdrawal issues. I felt seriously deprived, which for addicts is a major issue because willpower only goes so far. So I decided to use a different tactic, which is to find a habit I was even more addicted to that chugging processed iced coffee. And that, my friends, is skin care.

As most of my friends know, I take really good care of my skin. I’m one of those people who will never go out under the sun. I always have a sunbrella and sunglasses in my bag. I never go out without at least a layer of moisturizer and a layer of sunblock with the highest SPF I could find. If I just came from a beach, you’ll never guess, because I had a hat, a kimono top, and an umbrella the whole time.  I have been taking care of my skin since puberty, when the first attack of acne left me in despair. Decades later, I have given lots of friends facial massages and exfoliating sessions as well as skin care workshops, just to promote my values of self care.

This goes beyond vanity, and as I like to say in the first part of my skin care talks, “Ladies, we do this for ourselves; we do not do this for boys.” I think life can be pretty hard and uncertain, and taking care of myself is one way for me to resist that—to tell myself, “Girl, I got this.” It’s a nice ritual to do for yourself each day. No matter what happens, every day is spa day.

So. Back to coffee. I learned that coffee grounds can be great as a body scrub. Coffee grounds are a known exfoliator, and the caffeine is a great stimulator of blood flow. Hey, it’s even supposed to help reduce cellulite! And so this was the impetus for the first week when I decanted my cold brew coffee and saved the grounds. I mix it with some of the oils I have to make my own DIY coffee scrub, and use it on myself 2-3 times a week. There is no cure for cellulite, but it can reduce the appearance of it. Doing this has left my skin more supple and glowing, and it is a nice massage to do on myself after a hard training day.

Brewing my own coffee in batches and then finding an additional use for what I would normally discard has stopped me from producing waste, consuming refined sugars, wasting time and space from buying and storing food in single-use packaging, as well as buying additional skin care products that will then produce more plastic waste. It has also made me drink coffee with better quality, since the rocket fuel I used to drink wasn’t exactly winning Coffee of the Year. Life became easier once I fixed my worst addiction and enhanced another habit that is good for me. Hurray for positive feedback loops!

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