The Coffee Cup Revolution: Let's Take a Stand!

by Nora Dunn on 25 January 2008 53 comments
Photo: Bgilliard

I can't stand walking into a coffee shop, ordering a cup of java to stay, and having my coffee served up in a paper cup. Even worse, I get not only one, but two cups stacked together, with a paper sleeve around it to prevent my tender fingers from being burned.

Had my coffee been served to me in a mug (I did say I was staying after all), I could have enjoyed a more luxurious and homey coffee experience, my fingers would remain in tact, and two paper cups and a paper sleeve could have stayed out of the landfills.

The Facts

  • When you purchase one cup of coffee (or tea) in a disposable container every day, you create about 23 lb of waste each year. -Ideal Bite
  • About eighteen percent of garbage we produce is composed of disposable containers, of which hot beverage cups represent a large portion.
  • Styrofoam cups are the worst culprits, as it never degrades. Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups every ear. Even 500 years from now, the foam coffee cup you used this morning will be sitting in a landfill somewhere. -The Recycler's Handbook
  • Starbucks just started rolling out new cups that contain 10% recycled paper. (Whoopee).

Whether made of recycled paper or not, disposable hot beverage cups more often than not end up in landfills.

What Coffee Shops are Doing About It

Despite my sarcasm, there is a slow (agonizingly slow) movement towards reducing coffee cup waste problems. More and more places are using recycled paper cups, and some will provide discounts if you bring your own cup. (However, a $0.10 discount on a $2 cup of coffee is hardly incentive if the discount is intended to be enough incentive for the masses - but you have to start somewhere I guess).

Other places yet will also offer discounts on refills for using the same paper cup they gave you last time. This is handy if you are staying for the afternoon and swilling coffee or tea, but in my mind the discount is still not much of a recompense.

What We can do About It

The next time you order a coffee to stay and they pull out a paper cup, reiterate that you are planning to stay with the coffee. If they cannot serve your coffee in a mug, then walk out. I know, I know - their coffee is the best, and you really like their ambience. But there is nothing like taking a consumer stance en mass. That is how change is affected. And if you simply must drink your java here, then read on:

Take your own mug. There are plenty of fancy little coffee thermos-mugs you can tote around with you, and many places will give you a discount for bringing your own mug too. And if you are worried about the mug in your car finding its way to the office, and the one in your office ending up on your kitchen counter all resulting in you never having the mug when you need it, then keep a mug at home, one in the car, and another in the office. That way there will always be one handy when you need a coffee or tea fix.

The first few times you walk out of a coffee shop because all they would serve are paper cups or because they won't serve you in your own mug, you may feel strange. But soon enough a feeling of consumer power will set in, and hopefully you'll tell two friends about your action plan. They'll discover for themselves the satisfaction of making positive change one cup of coffee at a time, and they'll each tell two friends too.

And so a coffee cup revolution begins.

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Anthony Marrone's picture

I love this idea! I know at the local Barnes & Noble mini-Starbucks they will offer you a mug, but I've never seen any other Starbucks make such an offer.

Guest's picture
Sarah

My coffee shop of choice happily serves me in my own mug, but they always write my order on a paper cup anyway. Any advice on how to handle a situation like that? I don't want to stir up any bad blood between myself and the baristas since I do quite a bit of work there (plus they're nice). But it certainly is frustrating when I make the effort to provide a mug and then a cup is wasted anyway.

Guest's picture
Guest

I used to work at Starbucks, and they had little sticky post-its with cup markings on them specifically for this purpose. Baristas need to be able to write down your order, because their first concern is getting your drink made correctly. If your coffee shop doesn't have these little notes...I would probably just get a paper cup. Or ask the manager really nicely about how they could solve this problem.

Guest's picture
Guest

I work at a coffee shop and I pride myself on being able to remember an entire drink order, as difficult as that sounds. At my coffee shop one employee helps a customer from beginning to end.

Guest's picture

Mention to them your green credentials, or if you have the same item every time, stick it on a post it on the cup.

Guest's picture

I would just ask nicely, I think most people will understand if you explain your feelings to them. Just don't make it seem like you are attacking or criticizing them, or putting them down. Maybe start off by saying that you are trying to be more consciences about the earth and explain what bothers you and why and if they can not do it anymore and how much it would mean to you and things like that. Just be polite and nice. Most people are very understanding; it's only when people start with an attack instead of explaining first that people get upset. :-)

David DeFranza's picture

I agree that this is something small and easy we can all do, which has a huge impact over time.

I know from working in a coffee shop in California that the odds are stacked against the ceramic mug. California requires that the cafe charge a meal tax if served in a durable cup, but does not require this for take away containers. I think it comes to about $0.10 more on your standard cup of coffee.

Using your own travel mug, however, saves you from the tax and gets a reusable mug discount!

Guest's picture

This is such an important point in a time when people seem to get one (or more) coffees a day in disposable cups. It's such a waste.

I don't know if you or anyone reading this ever visits Providence, RI, but I wrote up a post about my favorites cafes to get coffee "for here". I feel like a missed a few good ones, so I might make a follow-up post at some point.

Guest's picture
Guest

Hey from Seekonk, MA! I'll be checking out your post as soon as I get a chance. Have a great week neighbor!

Guest's picture
jdp

I don't like coffee but every winter I get hooked on hot chocolates from either the local gas/convenience store (Sheetz hot chocolate, yum) or the local coffee shop. Last year I was appalled at the waste and started reusing my cup from Sheetz. I'd take it home, wash it (styrofoam) and reuse it. This year my holiday gift to myself was a stainless steel lined travel mug I use. Sheetz didn't care but the coffee shop was a pain about it.

Guest's picture
BeeP

I bought a travel mug from Starbucks about a year and a half ago for $15, and if I bring it in and have them refill it with plain old regular coffee, they charge me $0.50.

So, not only am I help saving landfill space, I'm saving about $1.50 off my cup of joe.

I use it every day.

Guest's picture
Dwight

The little things do add up, but the big things add up a lot quicker. I burn two gallons of gasoline every day. An occasional paper cup doesn't seem so important in comparison. I avoid disposable cups out of principal, but I think we would do more good if we save on on the big things such as housing and transportation.

Guest's picture
Katie

not advocating more buying, because I'm sure everyone has a coffeecup/mug at home, but here is a cute one:

http://www.dcigift.com/product.cfm?productID=763&catID=14

Julie Rains's picture

Another great use of a coffee cup -- save money and the environment. In my neck of the woods, disposable items made a resurgence for one green restaurant because of a drought that restricted use of water for washing dishes; the company's solution was to buy 100% compostable cups and to-go boxes, and also to educate customers on composting without scaring them.

Guest's picture
Bryce

I am in complete agreement with the notion of using washable coffe mugs for in-store consumption, both aesthetically and green-mindedly. The customers' own travel mugs could be filled for take out consumption as well.

Consider this; however: I live in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina which is in the middle of an extreme drought. Raleigh's water supply is down to 90 days; Durham's is down to a mere 60 days worth or so. As part of their Level 4 (of 6) water conservation measures, restaurants are being mandated to serve their food on disposable plates and utensils, to minimize water use in dishwashing (The Duke University Medical Center -- a huge hospital-- switched to using paper plates in their cafeterias months ago). If you want water with your meal, you may need to purchase a bottle of water, rather than receive water from the tap (in a glass that would have to be washed). Your draft beer, will most likely come to you in a plastic cup, rather than a pint glass.

Really makes me wonder about balancing the equally worthy goals(within an extreme drought at least) of conserving water versus paper or petroleum (plastic).

Should the drought worsen to the point where even more extreme mandates were implemented, it is possible that restaurants, and other "non-essential" businesses would be shut down. I guess water, paper, plastic and petrol would all be conserved in that scenario, though at terrible cost (jobs).

Guest's picture
Olivia

Hey, I'm with you. For a quarter (plus tax) our local thrift store will sell you TWO mugs. For a couple of bucks you can practically stock the workplace. So indeed bring your own when you go. Our church has two huge mug racks near the coffee pot. Almost everyone has their own. Not only does it cut trash and costs, but Sunday morning coffee tastes so much better.

Guest's picture
Guest

Hi -- I used to work as a barista, and if you say you're staying, and still get a to-go cup, don't walk out! Just ask for a mug. If you're giving tons of cups, things start to get automatic, so it can be helpful to just speak up. :)

Bringing your own mug is fine too -- I can't see that anyone would have a problem with it.

The only thing I didn't like was when people brought in grody mugs: rinsing out a mug is one thing, but if soap was needed, then it really should have been done at home.

Also, if you have to get a to-go cup, you can get the reusable jackets (I think they're called coffee cozys, and you can find them on Etsy.com.) :)

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

Thank you for all the comments, everybody! It's a seemingly small thing, but will make an unbelievable impact on the environment.

As for droughts and repercussions on restaurants, I'm not sure what to think of reverting to disposable. I guess it's out of necessity. As a consumer, I would take a stand by not eating out at all. Yes - the ultimate loser in this scenario is the restaurant and its employees (because eventually it would have to shut down if business slowed), but....does anybody have any ideas of how to get around this?

And Dwight, I agree: let's attack the big problems (like gasoline consumption) to make the big headway. But my question to you is (and this is in no way an attack): you burn two gallons of gasoline a day. How will you stop doing that? (It is possible, but will you or can you)?  And if you can't, then although a little harmless coffee cup may seem a pittance in comparison, is it reason enough to throw your (not yours - anybody's) hands up in the air and consume wantonly because you don't think it will make a big enough difference?

(again - this isn't personal, as you said you avoid disposable cups out of principal. But I think there are some people out there who may feel that the small things are too insignificant to address).  

Remember the butterfly effect.....even a little butterfly flapping its wings can change climate patterns around the world. So can we with coffee cups.  

Myscha Theriault's picture

There's this GREAT coffee and sandwich / sweet shop in Tucson called Beyond Bread. They served great fair trade coffee from Peru in real cups! Free refills, too. Man, I miss that place.

And Julie . . . thanks for the link, girl!

Nora . . . a thoughtful post as usual. Good job.

Guest's picture
Greg

What about the additional cost and waist of water and electricity if a coffee shop would have to clean all of those cups?
I would think starbucks recycles all of the paper cups thrown away.

Guest's picture
steve

The manufacture of paper uses much more water and energy than washing a cup does.

regarding an earlier post about North Carolina restricting restaurants to using disposable cups: don't confuse a local water scarcity issue with the larger water picture. Again, manufacturing virgin paper cups uses a ton of water and energy at the manufacturing level, much more than the water and energy used to wash an equivalent porcelain cup. What local officials were trying to do was to avoid taxing their local water supplies during the drought. In effect, they were asking restaurants to "spend" or waste extra water at the paper manufacturing plant in order to preserve a smaller amount of municipal water. Which is a reasonable response during a drought. However, it would be a lot more reasonable if people just cut back to one or two toilet flushes a day during the drought. That would solve the "drought" problem fast.

Guest's picture
Cheryl

I am a coffee hound, and I think it tastes so much better in MY OWN mug! I always have my travel mug in the car, and get a refill rather than a new cup, it cheaper AND I'm helping the environment! Plus, most of the travel mugs hold a LOT more than the standard medium coffee!

Julie Rains's picture

"As for droughts and repercussions on restaurants, I'm not sure what to think of reverting to disposable. I guess it's out of necessity. As a consumer, I would take a stand by not eating out at all. Yes - the ultimate loser in this scenario is the restaurant and its employees (because eventually it would have to shut down if business slowed), but....does anybody have any ideas of how to get around this?"

Well, I mentioned a solution in #9 -- I live in the same state as Bryce but my area hasn't been hit as hard with the drought (thanks to the mighty Yadkin River). The restaurant I was referring to was in Blowing Rock in the mountains. Apparently they did have patrons walk out b/c of the restaurant's use of disposable plates, cups, etc. due to the drought and water restrictions. Here's a link to the article about green practices and compostable "paper" goods.

Guest's picture

I've been carrying my own travel mug with me here in the San Francisco Bay Area and had no trouble getting my coffee and tea in my mug. But I wasn't sure it would be so easy during my recent trip to Honolulu, HI. But surprise! Not a single barista in any of the cafes I visited had a problem with filling up my travel mug. Not only that, but I saw several people carrying canvas shopping bags into Safeway. Now if only my parents, who I was visiting, could take the hint from their fellow kama'aina.

Oh, also, just a note about recycled paper cups: I hope folks realize that a paper cup does contain plastic. So opting for paper instead of plastic is not exactly opting for paper instead of plastic! Any paper product that can hold liquid without leaking is coated with plastic, and while the paper might biodegrade, the plastic (except for the rare new cups coated with corn-based plastic, which has other problems) will last forever.

Great green post!

Guest's picture
Gil

If a reusable mug can't be used a coffee shops (and restaurants, as later commenters included)... then why not at least go green with disposable but 100% compostable cups, lids, sleeves (even utensils and plates)??

 

The city I live in has an Earth Day every year and they've mandated every booth to use these, and everyone does. If a college town where simple (and small) organizations can purchase these type of products to use instead of the styrofoam or disposable paper products, then why can't a larger company or restaurant. (See 100% compostable hot cups and lids and Cornstarch Plates as exampes.) They're a little bit (like a couple dollars to the 1000 count) more expensive, BUT they're good for the environment and still give the companies the ease of disposable. 

David DeFranza's picture

I think it would be interesting if, in these drought stricken areas where disposable products are mandated in restaurants, people began bringing their own reusable place settings. It would sort of be similar to bringing your own bottle of wine to a restaurant that doesn't have a liquor license.

I realize this is not a solution as these plates would still, eventually, be washed. Still, an interesting image I think. I really enjoyed reading through this discussion!

Guest's picture
Joel

The mug versus paper cup debate is actually a lot more complicated than this, especially if you consider the life cycle of each.

Styrofoam cups specifically are made from petroleum elements that tend not to be used for much other than styrofoam products. As such, they don't really tend to increase the use of petroleum, just the percentage of petroleum that's really used as it's refined. That's a good thing, right?

Styrofoam cups also take way less energy to produce. It takes the average ceramic mug longer to be less resource-intensive than the average ceramic mug tends to last. Consider the energy to fire the things, to glaze 'em, to ship them versus the light-as-air disposable alternatives, and you'll start to see where the difference comes from.

My father used to work in a chemistry lab. Once they did some bacteriological sampling of the office mugs, ceramic mugs were banned from the lab as a general health hazard. There's more living in those things than you think.

In many municipalities, using a provided mug is actually illegal as a violation of health codes, probably including most places where many of the readers are currently doing exactly that. Maybe not a big issue, but something to consider.

Now, I'm not saying that disposables rule or that durable mugs are inherently a bad idea. I'd just like many of you to realize the issue is more complex than you'd like to think, as are most resource-based issues once you consider the whole creation-shipping-usage-disposal life cycle of nearly any product.

And, as a bonus, let's not forget all the exciting chemicals that are floating just beneath that layer of chemical-rich glaze on your mugs. Checked for chips lately? ;-)

Guest's picture
Ron

I am all for not wasting anything, including energy, which is what I always think about when I read articles like this. What a waste of your own "energy".

I guess if doing things like this makes you feel good, by all means, carry around your dirty empty cup for a refill. Why not also bring last night's unwashed dinner plate for a couple donuts while you are at it?

I realize this does not apply to everyone but I've seen some pretty nasty cups come across the coffee counter towards the guy in front of me who happily strolls out wearing sandals and a smile. Disgusting.

As with most things in this religion I call “Environmentalism”, I view the author’s suggestion to be pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Guest's picture
Linh

Ron - in the grand scheme of things do you suggest we start looking for another planet to live in instead of doing small, easy, and accessible things to help maintain our home? I guess it doesn't matter that we're fighting a war over oil, because that's not really the grand scheme of things. Religion is based on things that we can't see. You can see our environment deteriorating. But maybe you're of that other religion I call "denialism." I guess if wearing blinders make you feel good, by all means, carry on too.

Guest's picture
Ron

Linh,

To your first point, I have no problem with people doing things they believe will help the planet. My OPINION was that the unhealthy option of using personal items at public places did not outweigh the utilization of a clean paper cup, the elimination of which would not save the world.

To your second point, a non sequitur to be sure, I have no problem with fighting a war for oil, for land, or simply to live the way I want to live. I would fight for the right to go to church and the right not to, and I would definitely fight for my family’s safety and well-being. American men and women are dying today for many of these very reasons and your attempt to trivialize their sacrifice simply to score a political point is very sad, indeed.

And to your final point, or more accurately, I guess it was mine, Environmentalism is a religion. Believers attest to things that are not proven, based on faith, using science speculatively to support their belief system and proselytize to others. Finally, eternal doom and death to all living things is predicted if we do not alter significantly our current way of life. Those that refuse to do so are treated as stupid, out of touch or as you put it, “in denial”.

I don’t think we should waste things. I think we should be good stewards of what we own or borrow. But if it’s okay with you, I’ll take my coffee in a nice clean paper cup and then toss it in the trash when I’m through.

Ron

Guest's picture

Me, I am too frugal (er, cheap!) to buy coffee at the shops. I make a pot on Sunday, and microwave a cup every morning. But after reading this topic, the next time I walk into a DD or Starbucks, I shall carry my mug in. It's clean enough. Until now, this just never occurred to me. Besides, it's another way to embarrass my 9 year old.
JOE

Guest's picture
Guest

Nora, thank you for posting this. I have read through everyone’s comments. Interesting to say the least. To start, I am an advocate for reusable mugs. I use my daily. The arguments against it were, well, amusing at best. My response here is to the various questions that ultimately boiled down to “what can we do?”

Unfortunately not all coffee shops have a reusable mug option or an eco-friendly alternative. Where they do not, leave. The business next door does. If no one does, collective consumer power is just that, powerful.

The issue of the drought areas concerns me. This is a bigger policy, planning and development issue. Here the restaurants are handing you disposable plates etc. How much water did it take to produce those materials compared to the water to produce and wash reusable material? Product life cycle impacts need to be taken into consideration. Are these measures of using disposable materials further entrenching the issue of a lack of water in the first place?

To the concern of offending some one because you wish to express a concern they are wasting a disposable cup been when you have brought in your own. Why should you be the bearer of the insult? You have gone out of your way to provide them with your business and to bring in your own mug for very specific reasons. How many others do they insult this way? I am more than sure if you simply let them know why you are bringing in a reusable mug and ask them nicely not to waste one, they will change. It was even noted that they are nice. Nice people will not be insulted by this request.

This is where I think most people struggle with positive environmental change… changing. So like anything, develop new positive habits one at a time. Start with carrying your reusable mug. Then start walking to the convenience store. Then… start a discussion board about making positive environmental change.

Guest's picture
RDUmom

Just thought I'd pop in and address some of the drought issue. Personally I haven't been affected by it, even though I live there. The reason? We have a spring-fed well (which I will fight to keep if ever they try to put us on municipal water).

The dwindling water supply here can be attributed largely to the very rapid expansion of the area, as well as the aggressive annexation by some municipalities. Thousands of homes have been hooked up to the municipal water supplies that used to be served by wells, and thousands more homes have been newly constructed in the area.

Water shortages showed up in some neighborhoods and towns before the drought even began. So while the drought isn't helping, it's not the only issue affecting the water supply.

Guest's picture
C-lo

I bring my insulated mug everywhere. A good place to get one is from Borders. The ones with their logo on them are usually $5-10 and you get a free cup o' joe to go with. Sometimes the server at another coffee place gets confused, and I just tell them it's a 16 ounce, and everything is right again. It would be nice to actually see the discount though.

Guest's picture
Guest

I am glad to find this discussion as my office is about to switch from paper to ceramic. I was in the office "kitchen" this morning watching somebody dumping about a teaspoon of dish soap into their mug and then use necessary 1/2 gallon of water to get that much soap out, and I of course thought of all the extra soap and extra water we will be using.

Doing a complete analysis of this situation is mind boggling. However, it is important to note that just because you are using ceramic, you could still be causing quite an impact. Just in a different area. I think for our office, it would be best if they used a less concentrated dish soap.

Here is a great article I found on the subject:
http://www.scq.ubc.ca/reduce-reuse-recycle-or-chuck-it-in-the-garbage-%E...

Guest's picture
Conductus

I found the comment about the energy cost of producing styrofoam versus a ceramic cup noteworthy. Some things that seem like "solutions" are just a different form of the same problem. Could the Prius also be an environmental problem in that respect? I've wondered that before. I have an answer, though, that doesn't require you to be a chemical engineer and do hard science. Just consider the personal cost (at least for this exercise). How much does the styrofoam cost? It costs you 10 to 25 cents more a cup. Most cafes in my area give you a discount for bringing your own mug. I assume it saves them money too--they're not just being nice. They have to buy those cups and pay a garbage bill, you know. How much does the ceramic cup cost? $7-$20 dollars, probably, right? Let's just take the big figure, $20. You will have paid for it over 200 cups of coffee if you just get a 10 cent discount, and over 80 days if you get a quarter discount. In well under a year, you pay for that cup if you're a regular coffee drinker. I have been using my own mugs for years. They break, like that chemical person up there said they do. Yet, they tend to last years, so I think they pay for themsleves.. I carry one in a towel and wash it every few days. It's no real bother. Use your imagination, now, and get a little less personal, and consider how few ceramic mugs are in the landfill, and how few there would be if everyone used them instead of styrofoam. Landfills require space, you know. Our big problem isn't just cups, it's general throw-away consumerism. The coffee cup is just an example. You save. The stores save. The earth has more space. Less ugly trash to look at (much of it tends to wind up on the street, you know). So, bring your own cup.

Oh, yes, the health issue. All those germs. How terrible. Yet you kiss people and dogs, touch everything, and still stick your fingers in your mouth to bite those nails. Yes, try to avoid being too dirty, but don't over-do clean either. We can't serilize the world, and we don't need to. You know when dirty crosses the line. Don't cross it.

Religion. Yes, environmentalism is a religion. So is everything else. I notice most people's religion is to worship their big cars and pour out libations into their mouths with styrofoam, but I see problems with their doctrine. To keep from muddying up issues with red herrings like the word "religion" brings to mind (you know, being all woo-woo spiritual, preachy, and such), let's just say there are facts, and there are opinions. The facts do seem to indicate that we are using up the world to fill our never-ending need to consume. It's my opinion that we should consume a little more responsibly. Why isn't it yours?

Do you want a ceramic cup? I've got nifty ones with tired bunnies and suns. Just go to what I listed as a homepage, which my name links to.

Guest's picture
Ron

"Religion. Yes, environmentalism is a religion......The facts do seem to indicate that we are using up the world to fill our never-ending need to consume. It's my opinion that we should consume a little more responsibly. Why isn't it yours?"

As I said, we should be good stewards of the things we own or borrow. Therefore, I do not think we should be wasteful.

What I find more interesting about your comment is your belief that we are "using up the world with our never-ending need to consume". Fascinating. I would like to ask you this: Let's assume for a moment that the world leaders gathered and decided that because we are not taking care of this planet we don't deserve to have it. Therefore, they are going to destroy it and all its inhabitants with all the weapons at their disposal. Do you think this would work? Would the earth die? Would it stop spinning on its axis? Would all life come to a screeching halt? Certainly, more delicate life forms, such as human beings, would be greatly decimated. But it is my contention that the planet would survive. It's reconstructive powers are so strong it could not become the dead planet Environmentalists think we are turning it into. If I am right, even to a smaller degree, are we really "using up" what the earth has to offer?

My larger point was this: If it is truly your desire to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, by all means, do so. Measure your "carbon footprint". Bike-ride to work. Buy supposedly energy-efficient cars. Bring your dishes to public places to avoid filling the landfills with paper cups. But do not kid yourself. You are not "saving the planet". You're doing things that make you feel good. And to that end, I see nothing wrong with it. In the same vein, don't accuse me of being heartless because I view these efforts as pointless.

Are there things we could do to benefit the planet? Of course. And as long as they are as efficient as the objects or activities they replace, I support them and will use them. I simply refuse to accept the religious tenet that sacrifice must be made to fulfill the hypocritical doctrine of Environmentalists like Al Gore. He forfeits nothing in his life while attempting to effect change in mine. And he uses schlock science to do so and nobody calls him on it.

I appreciate your comments. I know I tend to drive points home with a sledge hammer sometimes and your response was thought provoking and genial. Thank you.

Ron

Guest's picture
steve

I have also reused paper cups. You just wash them out and dry them. They don't break, and if you get the discount for bringing your own cup, they have a crazy-fast payback period.

A paper cup that is washed and reused can last for weeks. Wash it good so it looks clean and you won't gross out the barista.

Oh, and if you have styrofoam cups you can reuse them by melting them in a little gasoline and make an epoxy to repair stuff. I read about an Indian guy who repaired his canoe that way...River Bondo!

(I'm not expecting everyone to melt their styrofoam!! I just thought it was interesting little fact.)

Don't smoke while you're doing it though.

Guest's picture
Guest

Paper cups were designed for the birthday parties of four-year-olds. There's no reason why full grown adults should be consuming coffee out of their cups -- anymore than we should be eating good food off paper plates using plastic sporks.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Luis - I agree completely. We win more flies with honey...if we want to make a stand, lead by example and don't play the "born again" - it will turn people off right from the start. Thanks for your feedback!

Guest's picture
Guest

I serve coffee at church from a large cambro. We serve it in paper cups with liners. I want to be environmentally responsible but I wonder from a health standpoint is it safe to refill someones used cup. The act of pouring liquid into a cup could potentially aerolize (make airborne) any bacteria, viruses already in the cup from the user. Then it lands on the spigot. With the transmission of viruses still so much a mystery (i.e. the common cold) and H1N1 in the world; should we refilling coffee cups from either paper or plastic cups? Looked at the OSHA website and couldn't locate anything on this. I don't mean to be compulsive about it, just safe. Thanks!

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Guest #41 - You bring up some valid concerns, especially with the likes of H1N1 getting worse. It just strikes me as a shame that because we are increasinbly becoming a global village, we must increasingly live in a bubble to protect ourselves. (Seems a little oxymoronic, doesn't it)?!?! But I'm getting off-track. Thanks for your conern....does anybody have any information for @Guest about this concept? 

Guest's picture
Aussie in Perth

Wow - do Americans really only pay US$2.00 for a coffee?! Here in Australia, it's almost impossible to buy a regular size coffee for less than US$3.90 (add 50 cents for soy milk, 50 cents for an extra shot, 50 cents to upsize).

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Aussie - TELL me about it! I'm traveling/living in Australia right now, and I got some serious sticker shock when I tried to order a cup 'o' joe and a muffin, and came out with a bill for over $8.

I will say that the difference is a "regular" coffee in North America is pre-made and percolated; coffee in Australia is espresso based and made to order. It took me weeks to learn how to order a coffee with the likes of "flat white"s and "long black"s etc!

Guest's picture
Herba

Styrofoam cups should be ban in the US. They did in Quebec, so we have cartoon cup. They get hot but you can use a thick recycle cartoon over the cup. Worst case it gets thrown away, but they will degrade pretty quickly.

When at work, just use a coffee mug. You can buy nice ones with stainsless steel inside.

Guest's picture
Herba

Previous comment, I meant Cardboard cups, not cartoon cup :p
My first language is french and cardboard is carton in french

Guest's picture
Herba

Previous comment, I meant Cardboard cups, not cartoon cup :p
My first language is french and cardboard is carton in french

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Herba - Thanks for your comment. I think that if a ban were put on styrofoam, that would be an improvement, and of little detriment. I'm still not a fan of the waste factor of the cardboard cups (because many of them don't appear to be just paper-based), but reducing our consumption and finding more ecological materials to consume is a huge step in the right direction.

Guest's picture
smithJ

I'm not going to spend my life worrying about the trash.

Guest's picture
Guest

But have you taken into consideration the Amount of Water and Electricity used to wash one Mug in a dishwasher? Don't bother by hands as that uses even more water...Here's an interesting link:

http://sustainability.tufts.edu/downloads/Comparativelifecyclecosts.pdf

Guest's picture

How about trying to recycle the actual coffee grounds. Most coffee shops throw their used coffee grounds into plastic garbage bags that end up in landfills that cant breakdown because of the plastic containers. I am trying to get a movement going - first in my city then hopefully further out to get more and more shops to recycle the grounds and leaves. ProjectGreenBean.com.
Interested in knowing if anyone knows how much coffee grounds we throw away. I have heard statistics like 9oz per family per day. I am interested in more the amount of grounds. Thanks.

Guest's picture
Guest

Coffee grounds waste is such a shame too, because coffee grounds make such a great contribution to compost.

Guest's picture
J.

My coffee shop actually charges me *more* if I bring my own mug. Because it's insulated, it looks larger than its actual volume, so they charge me for a Grande although the volume is the equivalent of a Tall. It's also not eligible for their coffee/muffin combo. Yes, these are small details, but they can be very irritating when you're trying to get your morning joe and do your civic duty by bringing a mug, and you get overcharged in the process!