Coffee Cup Lids

I'm a Starbuck's coffee drinker. There are times, months even, when I abstain; when I require even my coffee to meet local standards and I drip single cups next to the office sink. And then something slips, work gets busy, I forget to bring milk, I need a treat and I'm back in the coffee line.

To justify, I work down the street from a Starbuck's; but then who doesn't? And the people who work there are nearly as familiar as co-workers.

For a long time I didn't give a thought to the paper coffee cup, the paper sleeve, the lid. It all went in the trash. I appreciated the convenience.

Finally I started saving the sleeves in my top desk drawer. Throwing them away seemed unnecessary. I'd arrange them in identical stacks, band and return them. The baristas would look at me funny and I'd feel funny but they'd return the stacks to inventory. Eventually I requested no sleeves.

This next piece is embarrassing. It was only recently that I realized the lids on the cups were plastic. I mean really registered that the lids are plastic and will end up in landfill. And I was adding one a day. I used the lid for five minutes and into the landfill it went.

So I asked them to not use lids. They made hearts of frothy foam on the tops of my drinks instead.

I was down to a bare paper cup. But it was still going in the landfill. I'd do the math on the way to the office; five days, five cups times four weeks, okay, 20 times 12 months, minus holidays ..... It was a a lot of cups.

I committed to buying a thermos cup. I had one in my hand to buy. It was green with swirls. I liked it. A lot. The line was out the door. I got in it. But with only two people left in front of me I realized the cup was plastic. I put it back on the shelf and went to the end of the line for coffee. I'm crazy, I thought.

The cute guy restored my sanity though. "I have a cup for you," he said. "It's in my truck." (Everything is in his truck.)

"It fell off someones car," he announced holding a blue thermos cup up like a trophy. The cup is dented with a plastic shell. There are no swirls unless I count the road scratches but the cup isn't in the landfill. And neither are the five paper cups, times four, times ten that I was adding every day, month and year either.

The final bonus? There's a ten cent discount for bringing in my own cup. I'll do the math on that later.


Daphne Gould said...

That is a wonderful story. My thinking is a little different. My town's trash doesn't end up in a landfill. It ends up in the incinerator and generates power. Some trash becomes slightly less evil (though plastic is still non-renewable). Water is probably the worst for us to put in the trash. It takes a lot of energy to evaporate it. I make sure everything is dry before it gets tossed.

Andree said...

I love this story. I can completely relate to the "am I crazy?" part. Hooray for the "cute guy". Tell him I say hello.

Anonymous said...

Oh no, Katrina...a starbucks drinker? Maybe its a silly thing, but I made it a point to not drink starbucks for the past 11 years. Ever since two opened on either side of my favorite french cafe and ran them out of business. And since I saw the same thing happen in another town I lived in. And then after a trip to Beijing where the starbucks looked exactly like they do here. It all angered me.

Just last week in Hawaii I compromised all of my coffee morals and bought a coffee from starbucks. It was our only option for two days. And not having coffee is not an option for me :)

Is there any other coffee drinking option? Our local coffee shop here, The Barking Dog, serves in compostable cups and tops. I know as far as corporations go, Starbucks isn't all that bad. Maybe it's something I need to let go of.

But its good to hear that you have your cool new dented thermos cup! I like a cup with character.

Anonymous said...

My brain works in similar ways. My Bread Winner would say you're over thinking thing. Then he would ramble a justification about industry being the problem. I think that attitude is the problem. The more of us who think things through like that, the better chance the world has. Besides it helps one sleep at night.

I don't drink coffee, I'm a tea girl. Is Starbucks fairtrade? The most local I can get my tea according to my specifications (fairtrade, leaf not bag etc) is from Queensland. I live in Victoria. That is the equivalent of roughly Florida Keys to Maine. Not exactly local.

Amber said...

Great story! A lot people say that single use items aren't that much of a problem compared to say driving, flying, heating our homes etc....

That just never sat right with me. Discovering Chris Jordan's photgraphs confirmed it.
(Scroll waaay down and you'll see the photo that 'Depicts 410,000 paper cups, equal to the number of disposable hot-beverage paper cups used in the US every fifteen minutes.')

Amber said...

Ooops! That should say 'photographs' and the paper cups are shown in the series 'Running the Numbers- An American Self Portrait'.


Donna said...

My husband requested (& received) a Starbucks espresso maker for Christmas. He loves it, and after all the markdowns, rebates and discounts he wangled on it, it wouldn't take more than about two months for his lack of $4 lattes to pay for it. Of course, we're going through milk a lot faster than we did before...

Green Bean said...

Yay! Loved this post. You also saved something from the landfill which happens every time we go second hand. Good for you, Katrina. Bet your coffee will taste a bit better from that cup.

Anonymous said...

I agree it's an odd thing to say, but I too am only just "clicking" to the fact my take-away cup has a plastic lid on it. We do so much, to avoid plastic, how could I have missed that one? I mostly have my coffee in, enjoying the break from work, but a few times a week I buy the take-away.

So prompted by you I'm just going to start taking a cup. I don't have a special one, a thermos one, or a plastic one - but I figure I could just take one of the mugs from the kitchen cupboard with me? Then I can have a different pattern, picture and style quite regularly.

Kale for Sale said...

Daphne - How great that you actually know what's done with your trash when it leaves your house. You've inspired me to find out exactly what happens to ours and which landfill it goes too. Thanks.

JAM -You have good taste. And so does your daughter.

Andree - And do you try to act overly normal when asking yourself if you're crazy?

Kendra - I know. I go round and round with it and one of the reasons I keep going back to this Starbucks aside from the impulsive convenience is I really like the people. They make the difference.

I don't know that you have to let go of not liking Starbucks. I don't especially like grocery stores and I really don't like chain bookstores so I stay away and still there are those occasions when they're useful. Damn it!

Dani - I'm with you; we do make a difference. Starbucks says in their literature that they're fairtrade and I suspect that there are as many facts and stories to support that as there are to repute it.

When I eat something from far away, like you do with your tea, I make a point of enjoying it all the more for the journey and resources it took to get to me. It's kind of fun.

Amber - Those photographs are stunning aren't they. They kind of make me sick to my stomach and they make a statement in a way words can't. Thanks for linking them.

Donna - What a great gift. If only you lived down the street from my office I'd have my latte's at your house!

Green Bean - You know it. The coffee tastes sooooo good. And I don't use the lid so the baristas still make me hearts on top with the foam. It's silly really but starts my day smiling.

Kale for Sale said...

Kathryn - You can color coordinate your cups to your outfits and pick them to fit your mood. Taking your own from the cupboard will be much more fun. If I weren't bus commuting I'd raid the cupboard for cups too.

Tracie said...

That was a great story and it made me think about plastic lids. Here in Australia when you buy a coffee in McDonalds they make you take a plastic lid. I think this is just disgusting. They always say you have to have a lid as you might burn yourself, consequently I don't buy coffee in Maccas anymore.

I love reading your blog...

Tracie xx

Emily said...

That is a great story and I can relate to a husband who has "everything" in his truck. I love it! I know it might not be pretty...but we need a photo of said cup. That'd be great.

Just so you know...we've had a predator in the chickens. We have lost several (and the duck). Maybe we need a dog.

GS said...

I also loved your story, the evolutionary process is wonderful :)

However we've been pretty happy to see a number of Starbucks shut down around these parts (Melbourne, Australia) as it's a city that prides itself on good coffee and clever little cafes and bars. The antithesis of what the Starbucks empire stands for. But did you know the latest scandal about the place to come out here recently is that they leave a tap on, running water running constantly. Our city (and most of Australia) is in drought and last year it was revealed that the chain wastes 23.4 MILLION litres of water a day!

So there is a lot more to reducing our footprint than bringing your own cup (as brilliant a start as it is). Personally I prefer to take the time to enjoy coffee, sit down and patronise a locally owned coffee shop, get to know the staff there, take 15 minutes out of my day to enjoy a well made coffee out of a proper cup....or just use the espresso machine at home :)

Kale for Sale said...

Tracie - Good for you - and the environment!

Emily - I'll show you the cup in person. It's just not photogenic.

Sorry to hear about the duck, the chickens too but I had high hopes for the duck. You're right about the dog. You need one. Canyon needs a little brother.

another outspoken female - Thanks for being so nice about my Starbucks habit. I used to catch my hair on fire about people eating imported bananas and I wasn't always as generous. Here's the link to the story you referred to. It's not pretty. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I'm going to check it out the next time I'm there and see what they're doing about it. Here's a place on their website to leave comments about the practice as well. Many other people have.

Red said...

I am learning to be greener. Small moves is my motto.

I went to a BBQ recently and took my own plate, silverware, cup and cloth napkin, took them home and washed them. I may have gotten some odd looks, but I am guessing I made people talk and hopefully think.

When we got to any store now, we either take our canvas bags or do not take a plastic one. I mean come on, if you are buying one item, what's the need for a bag. You have you receipt.

By you doing what you do, others will see you and may even be intimidated, for it will make them analyze their own doings. And hopefully you will change one person. You have just lead by example and did not even know it or tried.

Krista said...

Wow I liked this post. It definately opened my eyes to the Starbucks addiction I have. The other day I took the time to read the little paper sleeve and how it read the certain % made from recycled. Though it did strike me that it was a very low amount. But to a point it made me happy to think they recycled. But apparently I bought into there deceptiveness.

I have reusable mugs that I never even thought of bringing in and using for my daily drinks from them. I am definately starting it after today.

Kale for Sale said...

Red - Making people talk is good! (There's a Bonnie Raitt song about that.) Like you I make small steps, some of them however backwards, but I continue none-the-less. Thanks the comment. Those strawberries are gorgeous.

Krista - I hope they make frothy little hearts on the top of your reuseable mug too! I continue to be happy about every bit of recycling happening at any level but am no longer using it as an excuse to be wasteful. But then if you read the comment above I often take steps backwards.

Anonymous said...

This is my first visit and I thoroughly enjoyed your coffee cup conservation rant. Very clever and SO right-on. It's amazing how much trash we generate without even thinking about it. Good for you for pointing out the details.

Anonymous said...

well done. I often wonder why SBucks don't use at least degradable cups. They could lead the way in producing something much more environmentally friendly.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. Love how you capture how hard it is to decide the right/best thing to do: "... I realized the cup is plastic. I put it back on the shelf...."

Kale for Sale said...

glutenfreeforgood - Glad you came by on a good day! Thanks for the comment.

vegeyum - Cute name. S'bucks has a place for exactly those kind of suggestions on their website. It can't hurt, right?

greenresolutions - I'm sure you know those moments too - everything stops for a moment and then starts moving slow. Thanks for the nice words.

Shelly said...

I commute by train into nyc, and I HAVE TO have a cup of coffee for the journey. I buy it right at the station at "The Hut," which is owned by a man who lives in our community. So I am off to a good start. I started bringing my own mug about 2 years ago (plastic yes, but it was a gift), and on that very first day I presented my mug, he declared this a great idea and gave me a 25 cent discount. Every once in a while, someone will see me handing him my mug, and declare it a great idea and say, "I'm gonna start doing that too." I have seen a few people with coffee mugs and thermoses but I don't know if I was their inspiration. But do you remember what Arlo said in Alice's Restuarant?

And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice's Restaurant and walking out. And friends they may thinks it's a movement.

And that's what it is , the Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacre Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it come's around on the guitar. With feeling.