Vote with your cup

Posted: November 30, 2010 in Greener Living
Tags: , ,

Starbucks claims that they will begin to work on a recyclable paper cup, in this article available on the New York Times blog.  Some recycling facilities don’t recycle Starbucks cups, due to that waxy, plastic-y coating on the inside that makes them waterproof.  In theory and practice, I support recycling.  However, there is still so much waste and destruction that goes into creating the cups, even if, in the end, they are recycled.  The recycling process itself then takes more energy and chemicals to reengineer the cup into something else.  Sure, it’s a hell of a lot better than throwing in the landfill to slowly rot, but I think we are working on the wrong problem.  We’re operating on the assumption that it is okay to go to a place and purchase a non-essential good for pleasurable consumption in a disposable container.  Maybe it’s not.

So while the head honchos at Starbucks get crackin’ on the recyclable cup conundrum, here are some Rad Alternatives.

Rad Alternative #1: Stop drinking coffee.

Whoa, Nelly.  That is radical indeed.  I pretty much only drink organic green tea at home these days.  I love the taste, it’s quick and easy to make, and I’m not as jittery.  Plus, green tea is hella good for you.  I drink free coffee at the restaurant if I work a double shift, and I go out for a girls’ coffee night with some seriously rad friends of mine once a week.  I still love coffee, but I’m not a pot-a-day junkie anymore.

Rad Alternative #2: Make your own damn coffee.

Alright, I know this might sound crazy, but you can make your own coffee!  This is better than going to the Bucks for a couple reasons.  One, you save money, and you can invest your daily latte money in a mutual fund and retire with enough money to be able to go volunteer with the Peace Corps in your old age instead of living off Social Security and working part-time as a greeter for the Evil Empire.  Or, if you’ve got your radical retirement plan in place, you can donate that money to Amnesty International.

Okay, aside from the money you’ll save, you’ll save time.  It doesn’t seem that way, I know; you want to dash out the front door as quickly as possible so you can wait in line for five minutes.  Or you could just make your own latte in less than five minutes.  You’ll save gas, if you typically drive to the Bucks and idle there waiting for your tasty treat.  You’ll be able to control the quality of your drink.  I’m not a great barista, but I got a little espresso machine/milk steamer from one of my girls’ night coffee chicas when I got married, and I do alright.  I can use products that I know are organic and fair-trade and cruelty-free.  There’s a small upfront investment, but you’ll save money in the end.

Rad Alternative #3: Carry a reusable cup!

This option is the easiest thing in the world to do.  You don’t have to quit drinking coffee or make it yourself.  All you need to do is bring your own cup along.  This probably means you can’t use the drive-thru at some Bucks locations, but we both know a quick step inside to interact with the people is good for you anyway.  If you are worried about remembering to clean the cup, it’s no big deal.  You can put a tiny dot of soap in it in the morning and blast it with hot water if you forget to put it in the dishwasher the night before.  I will even allow you to buy 2 cups so that you always have a clean one.  (I’m firm, but fair.)

If you already have a reusable cup, you should start using it today.  From this day on, you are a reusable cup user.  If you don’t have a reusable coffee cup, the Rad thing to do is to check out the local thrift stores and see if you can find one there.  Remember, it’s all about reducing consumption, Radigans!  If nothing shows up at the thrift stores, a natural, hippie-granola store might have one.  Whole Foods and markets of its ilk probably will.  Discount stores will.  If you can wait for some shipping time, why not get a reusable mug that supports a cause you love?

Rad Alternative #3 Bonus Points

If you still plan on going to coffeehouses frequently, make sure you ask for fair-trade coffee.  The world’s coffee workers and their environments are being exploited!  Organic, shade-grown, fair-trade java gives you a boost without first stepping on the weary backs of the Third World to get it.  Ask for fair-trade.

Also, look into non-mega-chain coffeehouses in your neighborhood.  I found an adorable one down my street.  Now, girls’ coffee night features local artists’ work on gallery walls, fair-trade coffee for purchase in bulk, and the occasional local band performing.

  1. dedalus9 says:

    Since I generally spend a bit of time at a coffee house, I just ask for a mug. Even Starbucks usually has a few mugs they’ll be happy to use. There’s no point to getting one to go – I’ve got a french press at home and a coffee pot at work if I need it.

    btw, heard of Just read an article about it. Like a socially conscious facebook, developed by one of fb’s cofounders.

    Enjoy your site! Cheers.

    • theradgal says:

      Yeah, if you’re hanging around, a mug is the way to go. I recently read that 80% of Bucks drinks are in disposable cups, so I was approaching the post from that angle. Very good point.

  2. joannebrokaw says:

    Great ideas! I like the bring your own cup idea. Although I hate Starbucks coffee. Blech.You’re right on the money with considering where your food comes from, how it was grown, how it got to your table or take out cup. I”m trying to be a more educated consumer. 🙂

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