Taking the Disposable Coffee Cup Revolution to the NEXT LEVEL – From Changing Yourself to Changing Your Community

Green Ideas — By on January 28, 2013 6:40 am

Coffee mugs and computers in Shawna Coronado's office.

January is COLD and we all will be drinking more coffee as a nation through the winter months. My friend Jessica Edmondson asked how the Coffee Cup Revolution is going and could she guest post on the issue of community involvement for reduced coffee cup waste. I said sure! Below is her post which includes a few wonderful ideas. Thanks Jessica.

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It’s true. A small but determined revolution is underfoot, one that intends to stop at nothing in order to bring down the ubiquitous and deadly disposable coffee cup. The disposable coffee cup revolution is underway and on the move.

You may have already heard the disturbing facts about disposable coffee cups: 25 billion unrecyclable coffee cups are thrown out annually in the United States alone. Worse, these cups do not degrade or decompose. That means they will lie in landfills forever, never completely decomposing.

The second appalling fact about these cups is that they’re made with hazardous toxins that, when heated, can leach out into your coffee. As Shawna so astutely pointed out in an earlier post, coffee IS hot, so if you get your daily dose of caffeine served hot, and drink it from a Styrofoam cup, essentially you’re drinking a Double Latte with a shot of toxic contaminants.

It’s time for something to be done – real action to be taken.

And it’s not just the consumers who need to make a radical change. The businesses that sell the coffee – and make a nice profit from it – need to step up to the plate as well. If consumers and businesses can get on the same playing field, then the goal of sustainability could actually turn out to be within our reach.

Here are some creative steps that both individuals and businesses can take to discourage the use of unrecyclable coffee cups.

Individuals

Well this is a radical idea, but we could all start by using our own cups or travel mugs. Many of these big coffee chains actually sell these travel mugs right in the store, so there’s really no excuse not to have one.

Another thing each individual can do is to simply ask his/her local coffee house to please not use unrecyclable, disposable cups. At the very least, we could ask them to begin stocking fully degradable cups and give each customer the option of which cup they would like. If enough consumers speak up, change can start to take place.

At Home, in the Garden

If you’re a gardener, check out Shawna’s previous post for some wonderful ideas on how you can reuse some of the disposable cups that may be littering the backseat of your car or thrown away at your workplace.

Essentially, instead of tossing them in the trash can, the next time you need a garden seeding kit, why not use those coffee cups instead? Just poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage, fill them about halfway with soil and drop your seeds in. When your plant starts growing, simply snip down the side of your cup and gently remove the root ball for planting.

Then, you can take the cups you’ve snipped and toss them into a collection container. Many annual plants that are planted in those big, beautiful pots on the deck or porch actually have shallow roots, and they simply don’t require all of that dirt that you normally fill the pot with. By filling your pot half full with the disposable coffee cups, you’ll only need to use half as much soil and water as you normally would. This will not only save you money but the pot will be much lighter and easier to move around.

Businesses

Businesses can play the biggest role in our environmentally-friendly revolution. First, they could offer an “environmental discount” to those customers who bring their own mug. And the campaigns could be very fun and informative as well, with pitches like “Bring Your Favorite Mug for Our Favorite Blends,” or “Save a Cup. Save the Earth. Save your Wallet” or how about “Drink Responsibly. Bring A Coffee Cup.”  You get the idea.

Another powerful move would be to charge more, straight away, for a drink that’s served in a nonrecyclable, disposable cup. Of course, ideally all coffee shops and chains would demonstrate their corporate social responsibility by only providing travel mugs for purchase or fully biodegradable cups to their customers. Until then though, and in this economy, offering discounts or price hikes could certainly make a difference.

Also, rewards cards always work well as incentives, and businesses could combine these with a branding promotion where if customers refill their specific (Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, etc.) mug “x” amount of times, they get a free coffee or other incentive. Businesses could have a punch card or rewards card to keep track of visits.

These are just a few simple ways that everyone, consumer and corporation alike, can help stop the senseless waste that is polluting our countries’ landfills.

This guest post was provided by Jessica Edmondson who writes about Corporate Sustainability Training for the University Alliance, a division of Bisk Education, Inc.

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