Reducing Coffee Shop Waste

For many, getting a coffee to go at a favorite spot on the way to work or while dropping the kids off at school and running errands is a weekday ritual. It also warms up the body on cold mornings in northern regions this time of year. The java might taste even better if we reduce the amount of waste traditionally involved. Here’s an easy way to better cherish Earth’s resources.

Avoid the paper cup; carry a reusable thermos or insulated bottle instead as a matter of routine. Author and activist Beth Terry, in her book Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Habit and How You Can Too suggests both stainless steel beverage containers and mugs. She also recommends glass mason jars and points out that EcoJarz recently began making stainless steel caps and lids instead of plastic. (Learn more at MyPlasticFreeLife.com.) Terry further cites the unhealthy aspects of continual use of paper cups because, “Many are lined with plastic, and the plastic lids are often the equivalent of Styrofoam.”

If caught without a favorite reusable container, Treehugger.com’s Katherine Martinko recommends at least giving an old paper cup one more turn. “It’s not a zero waste solution, but if you’ve already got a paper cup in your car or kitchen, you might as well extend its life. Wash and hand it over the next time you get a coffee,” she suggests. “It will still do the job.”

For those that add cream, milk or sugar to coffee, consider the waste involved just in the plastic and wood stirrers provided by the shop that are tossed in the trash after serving their one-time function. “Avoid all of them,” advises Terry. “Carry a clean utensil in the car,” such as a bamboo utensil set or a spork (combination spoon and fork). Cutting down or weaning off of dairy, sugar and especially sugar substitutes is another healthful move.

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