Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Coffee Shop Rant

Okay, this week's suggestion might just be the easiest one yet - it won't cost you any money, it won't require a lifestyle change, AND it takes no time. Ready?

If you are eating or drinking at a restaurant or coffee shop, don't accept to-go cups, containers, or plastic utensils. The vast majority of these products are made from the types of plastic that is impossible, or at the very least, difficult to recycle.

I have been spending a lot of time working in coffee shops the past several months, and I can't help but notice how much unnecessary waste is generated at these fair-trade, eco-minded havens. Even in Seattle, a city that prides itself on environmental awareness, the majority of people in the coffee shops I frequent are drinking out of to-go containers in the shop. A quick poll of the coffee shop I am in right now offers a good illustration of this point: There are 22 patrons, and of these mostly cheerful, caffeine-swilling folk, only 3 of them are drinking out of reusable mugs.

These cups and lids represent not only the resources needed to produce and ship them, but these one-time caffeine conveyors also add to the mounds of garbage that must be trucked out of the city. Seattle, like most metropolitan regions, pays to ship its garbage to its final resting place hundreds of miles away, and many cities have to send their unwanted stuff even further afield.

So the next time you have the choice, please make the one that will produce no waste.

If you want to take your efforts a step further, bring your reusable mugs and water bottles with you and refill and wash as necessary. For extra credit bring your own to-go containers and reusable utensils. For some excellent products, check out To-Go Ware, which was founded by Stephanie Bernstein while she was still in her twenties. And, of course, always try to purchase coffee that has been grown in an ethically and environmentally responsible manner. For more info on fair trade certified products, visit the website for Transfair USA.


Jaime Quick said...

Couldn't agree more with this post! I would say that coffee shops are as much at fault here, there are very few that ask "for here or to go" anymore, they just assume to go and stick it in a to go cup.

During grad school I was a barista in a coffee shop in Australia and its quite the opposite, to go cups were so rare.....a cultural difference of how we drink coffee, but agreed that this is such a waste.

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