You probably have your morning coffee ritual down to a science: cruise through the door of your local haunt, and then wait patiently in line while you scroll through Instagram using the free WiFi. Greet the barista, order, and continue scrolling through the deep while you wait for your drink of choice. Grab the good stuff, church it up with cream and sugar if that’s your style, and you’re on your merry way. In fact, this routine is probably so second-nature to you that you don’t think about it anymore.
Big mistake. You may have the best of intentions (heck, you may even recycle your coffee cup every day), but your daily coffee visit could be hurting the environment. Here’s how.
Single-use Styrofoam (aka the material a foam-insulated coffee cup is made from) is made from oil, which is non-sustainable and creates a ton of pollution. Even worse, fossil fuels (like natural gas) are used in the product and in the manufacturing process. 4,748 gallons of water are used to make just 10,000 foam cups; at a time when water is being heralded as the next major resource people will eventually go to war over, that’s a pretty big waste of a precious resource. The amount of energy it takes to produce those same 10,000 foam cups is equivalent to burning 450 pounds of coal.
Surprisingly, paper cups aren’t any better- in fact, they may be worse. Twenty million trees are cut down each year to make paper cups, and most of them are coated with polyethylene, a plastic made from fossil fuels. It takes 8,095 gallons of water to make 10,000 paper cups with sleeves, and the equivalent of burning 542 pounds of coal.
Recycling and Disposal
Single-use coffee cups (whether they’re paper or Styrofoam) are piling up in our nation’s landfills and take many years to decompose (a paper cup takes more than 20 years to decompose in a landfill, while a Styrofoam product can take more than a million years). And sure, you can technically recycle foam cups, but many recycling centers don’t accept foam because the volume makes it impractical for companies to collect and transport. Paper cups are recyclable, but does that really make up for the amount of energy and resources it takes to produce them?
So, with all this in mind, what’s a coffee lover to do?
Drink from a reusable travel coffee mug, of course. Many cities have already banned single-use Styrofoam (Washington, DC, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and New York, to name a few). However, many recycling companies refuse to accept single-use Styrofoam, meaning that a reusable travel mug just makes more sense (especially when you think about how much longer your coffee will stay hot in a stainless steel coffee mug as opposed to a foam or paper cup).
Find yourself forgetting your travel mug regularly? Try buying an extra reusable mug or two to keep at your office or in your bag; that way, you’ll never be caught without one!
By using a reusable coffee tumbler, you can do your small part to save the environment. Get ready for a new and improved morning ritual.