Wednesday, 11 September 2013

How do you take your coffee?

You don't always live your beliefs 100% through, 100% of the time.

That was the realisation I came to last Friday when I walked into my local coffee joint at work. Camilla, the barista greeted me by name, as always (I guess that shows I'm an honest to goodness regular there!) before putting through my order.

As I was waiting for my soy flat white, I was surprised to hear her say, "Amanda, you get quite a lot of takeaways, have you thought about getting a KeepCup? It's much better for the environment than takeaway cups."

Now, I'm the Sustainability Specialist at my work, so of course I have thought about KeepCups. In fact, we looked into getting these for the entire organisation but found the price a little restrictive, so we didn't pursue it. And of course I'd thought about bringing in my own travel mug to work, but somehow always seemed to forget it in the morning rush.

So when Camilla suggested that I get one, I was in half parts impressed that she was suggesting this to all the other customers (they have now put up little posters encouraging people to bring their own cups) and half parts mortified that I wasn't already doing it.

I mean. I am supposed to be setting an example. And that's when I realised that I can't be 100% good, 100% of the time. I try to do the best I can, but I'd say I waver on the 80 / 20 scale. And that's okay. I'm only human. If more humans tried the 80 / 20, I would argue that the world would be a much better place.

So, in support of Camilla, here are some facts that might help you make a better choice 80% of the time when it comes to your morning coffee:
  • 500 billion disposable cups are manufactured globally every year, which equates to approximately 75 disposable cups per person on the planet.
  • In the US, 58 billion disposable cups are thrown out every year. The majority ends up in landfill. Polystyrene cups are not biodegradable and will remain in landfill for up to 500 years. 
  • Whilst the paper in paper cups are recyclable, to make them heat proof, they are coated in polyethylene plastic. This means they cannot be recycled and they end up in landfill where they decompose, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas with 24 times the heat retaining power of carbon dioxide.
  • World paper use has exploded by 400% in the last 40 years. Now nearly 4 billion trees or 35% of the total trees chopped down are used in paper industries on every continent.
  • Biodegradable cups are non-recyclable. They have to go to a commercial composting facility.
  • 98 tonnes of resources are used to make 1 tonne of paper.
  • Very little recycled paper is used to make disposable cups because of contamination concerns. 
  •  71% of the world’s paper supply comes from natural forests, not tree farms or the recycled paper.
  • Making a medium sized disposable cup emits 112g of CO2 emissions. Times that by 500 billion cups per year.
So, now that you have the facts, what will you do? Are you more keen to get a travel mug and take it to your local coffee shop, or are you just as happy to get a takeaway cup as you were before?

I know I've been mortified into remembering to bring my own cup into work, that's for sure!


  1. In Winter I always take my own mug. Come Summer it varies as the recycled paper mugs at my local coffee shop are great for planting seedlings and then transferring them to pots easily - still green I hope! :-/

  2. That's really cool Lucy! I had read about some paper cups which you can do that with - which is plenty green (in my opinion). I think the point is to try to do what you can, when you can. At the end of the day, if everyone made small changes to help "green" the world, we might yet leave a better legacy to our children and their children!

  3. Nobody's perfect! When I lived in Germany, pot lucks required you to bring your own dishes (and not the paper variety), then bring them home and clean them yourself.

  4. I loved how you connected being 100% true to our beliefs all the time, to the environment, and to something mundane like getting your coffee. But that's the beauty of this essay, I guess. It's really in the daily, small things that we can show our 'truths'. And though we are only human and can falter at times, it's good to always be aware and just keep trying :-) Thanks Amanda!

  5. I say sit down and enjoy your coffee in a real cup...

  6. A mug is my first choice and then a cup. But sometimes just have to settle for what the store provides. However, after reading this, I may not be so easy going in the future.

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  10. Very cute mug and a great read! Hehe, thank you for sharing with us! :)
    Take care,

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