Thursday, January 7, 2010

A New Year!

It's a new year and many of us have made resolutions to do something fabulous. Maybe it's to be more organized, to be more fit, to eat better, to drink more water, etc.

My resolution this year is to be more aware of how many disposable coffee cups I use – and use less!

It turns out they are bad for the environment and they are bad for our health. So using fewer disposable coffee cups is like two resolutions in one!

Don't get me wrong, I have a reusable one, and I use it. But there are times when I don't have it with me and I am desperate for a cup of coffee to go. So I accept a disposable one.

I have often dismissed this wasteful habit because I assumed that these cups would be recycled.

Only recently I have learned that they can't be.

Here is an excellent article from the Environment Canada website:

Sustainable Sips- The Hottest Trend in Coffee Culture!

If you need a cup of coffee to kick start your day, you are not alone!
Coffee is the number one beverage of choice in Canada and over 14 million Canadians savour the tempting taste of coffee everyday!

Before wrapping your mitts around your next steamy mug of java, skim through these tips and learn how to make the environmental impact of your coffee consumption a ‘skinny’.

Canadian coffee drinkers consume 3 cups of coffee a day, on average! Coffee helps fuel our busy lifestyles, with the majority of mugs taken ‘to go’ and served in disposable cups. These cups may be convenient, but their environmental impact lasts much longer than the morning, noon and evening caffeine boost they deliver!

Disposable Dilemma

Disposable cups are filling up our landfills and this is creating an extra large problem. Canadians use more than 1.6 billion paper and polystyrene cups each year!
Don’t let the words paper and polystyrene fool you, these cups are not recyclable.
Polystyrene cups take many years to biodegrade and produce toxic ash when they are incinerated. Polystyrene is recyclable on its own, but the production process infuses the material with chemicals that are not accepted in the blue box.
Less than fantastic plastic. Paper cups are insulated with a plastic coating called polyethylene. Polyethylene is not recyclable, so every paper cup must be tossed into the landfill.
Paper cups pile-up! Once these cups are laid to rest, they emit carcinogenic chemicals and methane through decomposition. One study reveals that 114.5 million kilograms of paper cup waste is dumped into the landfills each year. This is approximately the weight of 22 900 elephants!

Why aren’t paper cups made from recycled paper? Recycled paper has a variety of great functions, though it does not meet health regulations for a beverage container and is too flimsy to support hot liquids.

Go sleeveless! Cup sleeves may keep your coffee steaming a bit longer, but in doing so they are contributing to global warming. According to one study, each paper cup and paper sleeve combined with production and shipping creates about 0.11 kilograms of C02.

Life Cycle

The career of a disposable cup is short lived, but the environmental effects keep brewing. One study reports that North Americans use about 900 million Styrofoam cups each year, which if piled-up would fill one hundred, 75-storey office buildings!
Here are just a few of the negative impacts of disposable cups:
Paper and polystyrene cups are draining our energy and natural resources. To produce the 1.6 billion cups that Canadians are consuming each year it takes 190,235,800 tonnes of wood!
Cups must be transported from the producer to the coffee shop which emits greenhouse gases.
Disposable cups are only used for one beverage, about 30 minutes, and then tossed the garbage.
Brimming bins! When the garbage bins are full they are emptied by gas guzzling dump trucks and taken to the landfill.

Sustainable Solutions

Coffee is part of our daily routine so let’s make it a habit to sip sustainably!
Lug a mug! Carry a reusable coffee mug made of ceramic, plastic or stainless steel to divert excess waste created from disposable cups.

Is it break time yet? Reusable cups require more energy to produce, but each mug eventually reaches a breaking point where it is more environmentally friendly than a paper cup. After 24 uses a stainless steel mug breaks even with a paper cup!
One study reports that coffee drinkers use reusable cups about 13.5 million times, which prevents 266 727.27 kilograms of waste from ending up in the landfill!
Smart sleeves! Keep your mug cozy with a reusable sleeve and eliminate 2 kilograms of waste per year. There are many stylish sleeves available that are made from a variety of materials such as bamboo, silicone or felt.

Keep a reusable mug at work, at home and in your car so that you will have one close at hand for your next caffeine craving! If you do forget your mug (it’s okay- you haven’t had coffee yet…) don’t double cup or use a paper warmer. If it is cold, your mitt will do the trick!

Have more money for coffee! Many coffee shops offer you a discount if you fill your own reusable mug.

Use a reusable mug for a fresh start tomorrow morning, or better yet at your next coffee break! Disposable cups are leaving ugly coffee stains on the planet. Take action and fill up a reusable mug to give you and the environment a boost!