Monday, January 25, 2010

Coffee Cup Love!

Back when I was just another cubicle drone, I guzzled so many cups of coffee, latte, mochas, and even carmel machiattos with little thought for tomorrow. The money I poured into them and the paper cups they were poured into are gone.

If you spend part of your life making money, and then waste that money, are you not making a little suicide?  Br-r-r-r-r-r!

Years ago, I was ejected from the world of wage-slavery (much against my will!) which compelled me to re-think everything. I found that I could make a decent coffee/latte/mocha, and at a greatly reduced price. I didn't need a throwaway cup either. Every thriftstore has a shelf of them for fifty cents or a dollar or possibly, for a very fancy one, $1.50. Why am I paying twice for a paper cup (once to acquire the cup, once indirectly from the environmental costs of disposiing of it?) when I can have a much better cup at a lesser cost, so long as I re-use it?

I was reminded of this recently by my bloggy friend Reduce Footprints' most recent Change the World Wednesday challenge:
"This week only use reusable mugs/glasses. Yep ... for seven whole days, refuse anything that isn't reusable. Bring your own mug to your favorite coffee shop ... haul your own glass to the soda dispenser at the corner convenience store ... carry your own mug/glass to fast-food restaurants. If a drink comes in something that will be tossed out ... either don't buy it or use your own vessel." 
This is something I've been doing for quite a while, so let me offer a few things I've discovered along the way.

  • Splurge on several stainless steel cups! Live Large! Get 2 or even 3 thrift-store travel mugs, so that you are never without one handy. They're cheap, and your thrift store purchases go to a charity you'd want to support anyway. (My favorite is the Mercer Island Thrift Shop ) While buying them new would only encourage the production of useless cr@p (imported in an orgy of local job destruction), this consideration does not apply to 2nd-hand items; in essence, we're mining an existing pile o'cr@p to extra usable materials, creating local jobs in the thrift store's intake area. I avoid the plastic and aluminum cups; while some people say they are safe, I can taste the difference, which suggests to me there is something there I don't want in my body.
  • Reuse anything washable. We have a special box for party supplies, such as a stack of plastic cups, forks and spoons. I suppose you're supposed to use them once and then throw them away, but I've discovered that plastic actually washes pretty easy, and can be reused quite a lot.
  • Compost paper cups. If you end up with a paper cup anyway ( happens...) give it a 2nd life. Here in Seattle, they can be put in the compost bin (a separate container from ordinary recyclables) but now that we have a yard, I prefer to tear them up and compost them myself (every yard needs a little compost pile, out of the way, in the back; not only does it reduce your waste stream, it generates usable soil with which to refresh your yard!)

I do love my coffee! and I love being in a committed relationship with real, not paper, coffee cups.


What A Card said...

That's good to know paper cups can be composted...I never thought to try! Not that I'm going to start using paper cups willy-nilly, but when I do end up with one, now I know!

Amy said...

I like your idea about the party box and reusing certain plastic items. I totally failed this week because of my twins' birthday party. I will try to remember this when I have my other child's birthday in another month and a half. hopefully this will be a much smaller scale party and we can just use real plates cups and silverware. Which makes me think that I should also add cloth napkins to my changes list.

mrs green @ myzerowaste said...

completely agree that so-called 'disposable' stuff is often reusable if you're a good custodian. Thanks for sharing your post as part of zero waste week :) A simple, yet effective move that everyone could make ...