February 19, 2012

Coffee Time - Reusable Mugs

I'm a big fan of coffee, as noted in a prior post, and will likely have a number of posts on the topic of coffee.   This is one of those posts.

Coffee is enjoyed by millions daily, the majority of whom discard the cup when the drink is finished.  I was one of those people, but purchased a reusable mug for the reasons described below.


Recycling is good, but reuse is better.  Recycling an item takes energy to produce and deliver the original product, then additional energy to collect and re-purpose the item after use, and energy to deliver the new good for future use.  With an item like coffee cups that are used and discarded or recycled on a massive scale, the amount of energy involved in producing or re-purposing those cups adds up quickly.  Cups that go directly to a landfill consume far more energy since producing a new cup takes more energy and resources than recycling a used one.

In many cases, recycling a coffee cup is not an option.  First, many communities in the U.S. do not have a regular recycling service that allows for consumers to recycle their used cups and other refuse, if they are inclined to recycle.  Second, many coffee cups are made from 6 polystyrene plastic (symbol displayed below) that is often not recyclable even if your municipality has recycling services available.  This was a big surprise to me.  My community in San Diego has bi-weekly recycling and before I learned of this limitation on plastic of this type I assumed that if it was in the recycling it would be recycled.  Little did I know that even though it went in the blue bin it would be added to the trash heap.

In addition to being good for the planet, using your own mug will save you money.  Most coffee shops will give you a small discount on each purchase for using your own mug (typically between 10 and 25 cents per purchase).

Suggested action steps:

1) If you drink coffee, purchase a reusable coffee cup and use it on every trip for a cup of joe.  I recommend one with a screw on lid so it won't spill and a non-plastic one so the flavor of coffee won't seep in.  (If you're interested in a Walking Miss Eva branded mug let me know and I can hook you up.)
2) If you forget your reusable mug, request a mug from the coffee shop and get your beverage to enjoy in the store.  Most coffee shops, including all Starbucks I believe, will accommodate this request.
3) If you go out for coffee at home and at work, purchase a cup for both locations to ensure you have one on hand when you head out.

Have a great start to your week!

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