How Far Will You Go to Avoid Trashing a Coffee Cup?

May 2009

coffee2A few afternoons a week, sometime between lunch and the end of the day, I treat myself to coffee. It's a liquid pick-me-up and my excuse to take a walk. I started this p.m. ritual when 5280 was still located on Curtis and 15th streets. Come 3:30 p.m., I'd abandon the keyboard for a latte. The habit quickly became a regular one--and as it intensified, I developed a nagging sense of guilt. It wasn't the money or the coffee that I felt bad about. It was the cup, which I couldn't recycle. So I tossed a travel mug in my bag. But I still found myself returning to Starbucks and opting for a paper cup. My travel mug was bulky, with a frustrating lid. It had no sipping spout, which meant waiting to enjoy my milky drink until I was back at the office. That wasn't realistic, so the travel mug simply sat at the bottom of my purse.

At the beginning of this year, though, 5280 moved offices. Of course, Starbucks is still within walking distance, but now so are Common Grounds and the Tattered Cover--and I've taken to frequenting the independent options. That change of habit has again forced me to evaluate my coffee-cup usage. This time, I've decided to take drastic measures and institute a ceramic-only cup rule. That means before I head out for a cup of joe, I swing by the staff kitchen and pick up a mug (or glass, if I'm ordering iced coffee). That move, while not totally environmentally friendly, is about as green as I can get. Sure, there's still a fair amount of water and energy used in cleaning my ceramic cup, and I will have to use the mug hundreds or in some cases thousands of times before I match the natural resource waste and pollution caused by just one paper/cardboard or plastic cup. But I've got years to drink coffee out of a real cup, and the longer I do (I'm aiming for the ideal 3,000 uses per ceramic cup), the more I outweigh the negative impacts of the non-disposable mug. In the meantime, local businesses have taken a liking to my non-trashable container. I've gotten smiles and friendly comments from the Tattered Cover baristas, and on a couple of occasions, Common Grounds has given me a discount because of it. While this cup strategy may be a bit extreme (besides my co-workers, I've yet to see anyone else walking down the street with a quivering mug of hot coffee), I've finally found a coffee-cup solution I can stick to. Have you? I'm looking for more options.

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