In 2005, Americans used and discarded 14.4 billion disposable paper cups for hot beverages, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters of Vermont calculated. That’s so many cups that if put end to end they would circle the earth fifty-five times! Based on anticipated growth of specialty coffees, reports Green Mountain, that number will grow to 23 billion by 2010-enough to circle the globe eighty-eight times.
It’s one thing to pay two or three or even four dollars for a cup of coffee. It’s another to throw cup after cup away. If we do it every day, it amounts to almost twenty-five pounds of waste every year. The petrochemicals consumed in making the cups just one coffee drinker tosses could heat 8,300 homes for one year. Carting them to a landfill burns additional energy, never mind the fact that each one takes about five hundred years to decompose.
What good does it do if you buy the “right” coffee (i.e., organic, shade-grown, Fair Trade Certified) if you drink it out of a paper or Styrofoam cup you just toss in the garbage?
Beat the disposable rap by using your own mug. Every coffee shop sells them. Some places even give you a little discount if you use your own cup instead of theirs- if they don’t, ask for one. They’ll get the message after a while.
And if you forget your mug and need a take-out cup, ask the shop if they’re using the new ones made from recycled fibers that save trees. Do they make a difference? Starbucks’ recycled paper cup protects about 78,000 trees a year. Another option? Coffee cups you can compost.
Wondering what kind of coffee to buy? We've already figured it out!
And here are some suggestions if you're in the market for an eco-friendlier coffee pot.