When was the last time you bought a coffee, tea, etc. to go? Was it at Starbucks last weekend after an exhausting but fun shopping day? Or was it at your local bakery, which you visit every morning to get your daily caffeine? Or at a festival? A party? Fact is, there are countless places where you can get some to go drinks. And that’s fine, I’m not telling you to stop drinking coffee in the morning or to skip all the parties. Do it, enjoy your life, have fun. But let me ask you one question: The last time you bought a to go drink, did you take your own cup with you? If yes, congrats, you’re doing a great job! If not, you really should read that post. It’s time to change! And no, I’m not talking about some super-hard-to-achieve habits you won’t stick to anyways. It’s all about small, sustainable choices. Small changes, that will make a huge impact.
Some facts about disposable cups
Going back to my first question… When the last time was you bought something in a single-use cup. Let’s change that question a bit: How often per year to you buy disposable cups?
Worldwide, about 500 billion disposable cups are used per year. Isn’t that insane? And exactly these cups need 20-500 years to decompose, depending on the actual material.
The problem with paper cups
Now you might think: “Great, what a good thing that my coffee is in a paper cup, at least I’m not harming the environment!” Cute thought, really. There has been a time when I actually believed in that. But then again, you just have to remind yourself of what happens to paper when you make it wet. The water soaks through it. Ever noticed that this rule doesn’t apply to paper cups? That’s because the inside of these cups is covered with a layer of plastic. Although it is way less plastic than in other cups, at some points, paper cups might be even worse than the ones made entirely out of plastic.
So, let’s just recycle it?! Or not…
Recycling cups has always been an issue. They can be made out of recycled materials, however it’s very difficult to recycle them again. Especially paper cups are creating a huge problem in the recycling industry. To be able to recycle paper cups, you need to separate the paper from the plastic coverage first, which is very tricky. Usually, special technologies are needed for that process.
Even if your cup is labeled “biodegradable”, that doesn’t mean you can throw it on your compost or out of the window and wait until it decomposes. Even for biodegradable cups, a special heat is needed to make them break down. For that, a specific process is needed, which regular recycling facilities often can’t handle. You’d have to look for some special bins for biodegradable cups which often aren’t easy to find
The change you can make
That one habit you have to have is so easy, yet so few people are actually doing it: carry your own, reusable cup with you. It’s a one-time investment, a small change which, if enough people stick to it, will have a huge impact on our environment and our health.
At the beginning, it can be hard to remember that. Don’t give up when you forget your cup at home once. Prepare the cup the night before or set yourself an alarm clock. If you’re very committed, promise yourself to not buy any coffee or other to go drink, unless you have your own reusable cup with you. It takes about 21 days to develop a habit. Stick to it and I promise, you will feel better, just by thinking about the huge amount of waste you’re saving per year. And there is even a bonus: more and more coffee shops and bakeries are giving keepcup-discounts, which can range from 10 cents to 1$.
You can find reusable cups everywhere. Almost every single coffee shop is selling some. Or you check out pages like solcups, stojo (their cups can be folded, so you even save some space in your bag), frankgreen, jococups,…
You could also try to convince your local coffee shop to “rent out” reusable cups. That means, when buying a coffee, you leave a certain deposit for the cup, which you get back as soon as you return it.
You see, it’s all pretty simple. Just dare to take the first step! Take small, sustainable choices!