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Sustainability, Uncategorized

The coffee mug enigma

An empty reusable drink cup silhouetted in front of the window

Please sir, can you fill this glass

I carry a reusable mug with me whenever I know I am going, or think I might go, to a coffee shop. I do not have coffee coursing through my veins. In fact there are very few warm drinks I can have due to a sensitivity to caffeine. So perhaps this is not as virtuous as it might be for someone who would take their caffeine intravenously if they could. Overall, using my own mug is a positive experience. Many places give a discount on your drink, presumably justified because they don’t have to wash the dishes or purchase that one extra cup. But I have two issues with the reusable mug. Of course when I say issues these are not really significant problems but ones that do need to be dealt with.

First, making a reusable cup actually takes a fair chunk of resources. As a consequence, you need to use it for a fair chunk of time before you are actually doing a good deed for the environment. Last I read it was in the realm of a year and a half. This means that you need to remember to wash out that mug every time you use it for at least 18 months. This is not impossible. I’ve only recently retired my mug when it started leaking after 4-5 years. I also really recommend cleaning mugs and bottles with baking soda and water, it works wonders. So totally doable with a little attention.

The second issue is one that I run into on a fairly regular basis. No one is prepared for me to bring in a reusable cup for my cold drinks. This is the enigma. I order my drink, pass the cup over, do not receive a discount, and then they forget to use the cup, handing me a flimsy plastic thing on the other side. Why is something that is so common place for warm drinks, so hard to do for cold ones?

I used to present to elementary school students about carbon footprints. I was all about working with them to come up with tasks they could do rather than just those they had to pester their parents about. One of the ones we came up with was, since they all carry water bottles, why couldn’t they bring their juice in a reusable bottle instead of getting individual juice boxes. Yes, I realize, as did they, that their parents need to be involved in this, but perhaps all it really needed was a suggestion for it to happen. Just make sure the bottle is just as good as, if not better than, your water bottle lest you have juice spill all over your bag.

So, can we please make other cups and bottles as acceptable as the reusable coffee mug so that the next time I try to buy a cold drink it actually gets delivered in the cup I intended.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


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