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Make your own wood-craft travel mug. [Photograph: Woodcraft.com]

For those of us who want to live green without sacrificing our to-go cup of morning brown, here are some ideas to keep your commute caffeinated and your conscience on nature's good side.

Buy an Insulated Travel Mug

This seems obvious, but many an eco-minded coffee lover is undone by how undeniably crappy the majority of insulated travel mugs are: They're ugly, they leak, they crack, they're impossible to clean, and—maddeningly and inexplicably—they often come in off sizes (or are too laughably enormous to be respectable).

Leave it to us to track down mugs that fit your daily dose, be that an 8-ounce latte, 12-ounce Americano, or 16 ounces of plain ol' joe.

(Of course, the greenest thing you can do is take a second to sit down a savor your cup in the cafe of your choice, but we understand your busy schedule and say yes, you can take it with you.)

Grab a Cold One, Too!

Iced-coffee junkie? Great, but don't junk that cup—get a reusable version instead. These two both even come complete with straws, making them entirely guilt free (unless there's a whipped cream–covered frozen blended thing inside, but that's a different story).

Hands-free: Eco-sleeve

Ever think about the landfill contribution you're making every morning with that double-cup action you're rocking, or the little cardboard sleeve that gets tossed aside every morning? Sure, we've all got to protect our palms, but at what price? Thankfully (and predictably) craft heaven Etsy.com has approximately a metric ton of reusable coffee sleeves to choose from, whether you like your cup to ride in retro, cutesy, upcycled, mustachioed, or just plain functional style. Just remember to slip it off before you toss your cup. (Aren't you listening? Just bite the bullet and get a travel mug already!)

Caffeinate your Compost

Even if you're not the type to brew your own at home, you might be able to participate in this soil-enriching part of the circle of life by finding a local coffee shop that distributes or will donate grounds collected throughout the day. Fresh coffee grounds are great nitrogen-rich additives in active compost, which makes them great for worm farms, community gardens, potted herbs, and window boxes.

Most cafes end up trashing the grounds at the end of a busy day, but many are willing to bag up some of their spent grounds for distribution to local plant lovers. If your neighborhood cafe doesn't advertise its compost as a giveaway, ask your barista. Chances are he'll be much happier giving you the fertilizer than dragging it out to the rubbish pile after closing up shop.

Cut off the Power

Don't forget to unplug those electric kettles and Mr. Coffee pots—even when they're not running, plugged-in appliances draw wasted energy from an outlet.

Do you have any other ideas for greening your morning cup?

About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista and an audacious eater, but she remains a Nervous Cook.

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