Monday, May 12, 2014

Ditch Disposable Coffee Cups

Coffee.  It's near and dear to my heart.  And, as a writer, one of my favorite happy places is the coffee shop.  Delicious lattes, even more yummy ambiance, and a squashy couch in which to set pen to paper. It was my mostly-guilt-free pleasure.

Until statistics concerning the consumption of disposable cups filtered into my consciousness, that is.

Did you know that (quoted from betacup) . . . ?:
  • 58 billion paper cups are thrown away (not recycled) every year
  • 20 million trees are cut down in the process of manufacturing paper cups
  • Amount of water used in the process is approximately 12 billion gallons

I didn't.  Awareness about the rather vast amount of cups I used a single time before tossing had never crossed my mind.  And this doesn't even factor in plastic or styrofoam cups.

I also didn't know that because of the fact that many cups for hot beverages are manufactured using polyethylene wax, they are not able to be recycled.  In addition, these kinds of cups create big problems for marine birds and fish, and also release methane (a greenhouse case -- hello, climate change) upon decomposition (source).

That's a lot of trees used solely for paper cups.  And I have to wonder -- how much money is spent creating these one-time-use cups?  I couldn't find any statistics on this, but would love to learn the answer if you know it!

The rather excessive use of disposable cups is probably not our biggest problem as a culture that tends to consume without too much thought as to its effects -- but I think that it is a great place to start becoming more aware of these effects, because the fix is pretty painless.  You're probably already thinking it: reusable cups and coffee mugs, of course.

A number of coffee shops already serve drinks for customers staying in the cafe in ceramic mugs.  Even more have washable mugs available for use, even if the baristas don't automatically use them, so be sure to inquire when you order.

Even better, invest in your own reusable mug.  The ones I've seen usually run between $7 and $20 (USD), and many coffee shops, eager to reward those who help them cut down on cup costs, offer discounts for patrons who bring their own mugs.  These discounts can easily help you recoup your investment in the mug and then some.  And you don't even necessarily need to purchase a travel cup -- instead, bring along a mug from your home kitchen cupboard.

Extra perks: you feel good about the super-easy and positive impact you're having on the planet, and you get to have a stylin' mug to boot.  Also, in my opinion, lattes taste better in a reusable mug -- those disposable lids add an unfavorable plastic taste that I'd rather avoid.

And please remember: as always, making sustainable-for-you changes is about progress, not perfection, and certainly not about self-flagellation over mistakes.  I definitely forget my mug at home sometimes, but that doesn't negate the efforts I've made, the successes I've seen, and the heightened heart-centered awareness that I enjoy.

Over to you -- what are your thoughts on using paper cups versus reusable coffee mugs? 


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