When you’re imprisoned at the TECH Center, kicking yourself for leaving that Mosaic paper until the last minute, the remorse and self-loathing you’re feeling doesn’t sting as much when you know you picked an environmentally-friendly caffeinated companion. Sprinting around the city with a paper Starbucks cup in hand sleeve is so Lindsay Lohan circa 2007. Please, don’t follow in her ecologically large footsteps. The Earth can’t really handle more LiLos – for a multitude of reasons, but that’s for another column – as Americans alone consume approximately 56 billion disposable paper coffee cups annually. Although some companies have been attempting to lessen the negative environmental consequences of coffee containers, such as Starbucks’ introduction of 10 percent post-consumer recycled fiber cups, real progress toward sustainability begins with ending the demand for the production of disposable cups. And that begins with you, dear over-caffeinated night Owls.
Switching to a reusable mug not only decreases your environmental impact, but can also save you enough change for coffee’s best friend, the donut. Almost every coffee shop on and around Main Campus offers discounts to customers who get their java in a refillable mug. Bring any size portable mug to Mugshots and get your brew for $1.89. Head to Saxby’s counter for $1.79 refills. Go crazy at 7-Eleven’s coffee bar for $1.08, and remember, that’s any size. But you may want to resist lugging in an empty Big Gulp cup. That’s probably not good for your health.
To start cashing in on these deals, rummage through the cabinets in your apartment or your parents’ house for a mug with a lid. If it’s covered in cheesy logos, WaWa geese or anything unbearably tacky, seize this opportunity to get creative – slap some stickers on there, paint the bottom border, heck, you can even bedazzle it. If you can’t find any mugs lying around, there are plenty of stylish ones online disguised as paper cups or long camera lenses. You can also pick one up from almost any local coffee shop.
Once you’re equipped with an awesome mug, it’s time to start getting into the habit of using it. Producing any rational comprehensive thoughts in the morning pre-coffee is impossible, so try to get into the habit of tucking your reusable mug into your backpack or purse before bed. This way you’ll have an eco-friendly option nearby whenever your caffeine craving strikes. When you’ve sipped up the last drop of your refill, simply rinse out the mug and toss it back in your bag.
If you’re still not ready to commit to carrying a mug around all the time, be sure to keep the protective cardboard sleeve that came with your last paper cup in your wallet or backpack. You can reuse it and slip it around your coffee to avoid wasting more paper. Also, if you’re planning on enjoying your drink where you bought it, reject the clerk’s offer of a plastic travel lid.
You can sip sustainably on your hibernation days at home, as well. Fill your filters with grounds from local roasters such as La Colombe, which sources its beans from farms that hold a minimum of two official environmentally-friendly certifications. If you’re in the market for a coffee maker, look for one with a reusable filter to eliminate the need for buying stacks of paper ones. Beware of single serving coffee makers, such as Keurig’s, however. The individual pods of coffee used for brewing are non-recyclable and non-biodegradable.
As always, keep in mind that appliances consume a substantial amount of electricity, so you should pull the plug as soon as the coffee is finished percolating.
Making these changes may seem trivial or burdensome at first. I know for me, the slightest digression from my normal coffee routine automatically enters everyone around me in a raffle for a basket of death glares and snide remarks. And usually everyone wins. However, you’ll quickly find that getting into these green habits is an easy way to decrease your caffeine addiction’s impact on your wallet and the environment.
Marisa Steinberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.