Real coffee drinkers use it over and over and over…

Posted: August 9, 2012 by bigwhiteship in Week 3: Reflections + Economic Sustainability

…reusable coffee mugs that is.  You know, this is actually starting to work!  I have not only managed to save at least 15 paper cups from going to the landfill, I find my awareness on when and where I throw away cups and bottles increasing.  The other day I came through Dutch Bros, desperate for some caffeine to help me through  writing a term paper that night, and as I pulled out it dawned on me that during my next visit I need to remember to give them my reusable mug. Ka-ching…another cup saved!

Imagewonder what would happen if Dutch Bros had to use coffee cups to do their landscaping with…

What makes my project even more interesting is that we are not even close to the top of the world when it comes to our per capita caffeine consumption.  From personal experience I know that in European countries coffee is a beverage more often enjoyed in social settings (someone’s home, coffee shop) and not as much a take-out item as we have here.  When you look at the chart below you’ll see that Finland comes out on top by a large margin.  So I propose looking at this from two angles, and both are a potential problem.


Suggestion one is that the rest of the world will pick up on our always on the go ‘grande’ and ‘venti’ habits. I’m ashamed to admit that back home Starbucks is starting to gain a foothold.  Suggestion two is that our coffee consumption catches up to the rest of the world.  After all, we are good at being no. 1 right?  Both scenarios mean that we will consume and discard an oscene amount of additional disposable paper cups.


Of course I’m not the only one  who realizes that our paper cups are a growing concern.  The non-profit Beta Cup was founded in 2009 and has made reducing the number of non-recyclable cups that are thrown out each year their core mission.  On their website ( you can read more about their project, and I was glad to find out that Starbucks is one of their partners.  They also provide the following statistics

  • 58 billion paper cups are thrown away (not recycled) every year
  • 20 million trees are cut down in the process of manufacturing paper cups
  • Amount of water used in the process is approximately 12 billion gallons

According to the Environmental Defense Organization, we could power 53,000 homes with the energy we consume through our paper cup consumption.


So let’s do some math here.  Between cup, lid and java jacket the costs to the coffee-shop is about ten cents per cup.  At 58 billion cups that amounts to an astounding $5.8 Bn in wasted money annually.  My (very expensive OSU bookstore) reusable mug cost me $15.  Even at that inflated price we can buy every man, woman, child and baby in the U.S. their own re-usable mug!  After that it’s all money in the bank…

Come on people, what are you waiting for?  Get your own re-usable mug and say no to disposable!

And finally, here is a short video for those of you who prefer to listen to someone else than your class mates


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