5 ways to reduce waste at the coffee shop

coffee in a Mason jar
CC BY 2.0 travel oriented

Plan ahead and you'll never have to accept a paper cup again.

The controversy over the pattern on a Starbucks cup is ridiculous because, as Lloyd pointed out last week, it doesn’t address the much bigger issue of generating unnecessary trash. Coffee on the go is a fabulous and necessary thing, but more coffee drinkers need to embrace reusables and make them part of the daily routine. Here are some ideas on how to avoid the paper cup next time you’re at the coffee shop.

Bring a reusable mug.

You’ve probably got a few kicking around in the kitchen. Reusable mugs are insulated, which keeps drinks hotter for longer – always a good thing! From personal experience, I find that I always get larger portions when I hand over a reusable cup for filling than if I accept a paper cup. A lid keeps coffee from spilling while walking or driving. TreeHugger Derek recommends the collapsible Smash Cup.

Use a regular ceramic mug.

You have to be careful with a regular mug, but it works very well as long as you don’t fill it too much. Use a mug in the car (one with a narrow base); stash one in your purse for emergency coffee stops; and keep some at your work desk for filling throughout the day. They hold the heat, feel wonderful on your hands, and add a splash of color.

Carry a Thermos or insulated bottle.

Buy a few cups of coffee at once and fill a small Thermos or insulated bottle to keep you going for the rest of the day. The coffee taste does tend to be strong and will permeate the Thermos, so it’s best to designate a specific one for this purpose. I sometimes use my insulated water bottle in an emergency.

I’ll never forget the look of confusion on a barista’s face when I presented a Thermos for filling with sweet, black coffee in Rio de Janeiro earlier this year. Clearly reusables have not yet caught on in Brazil, but all the more reason to persist!

Discover the amazing glass jar.

Glass canning jars, a.k.a. Mason or Ball jars, are incredibly versatile and very good at holding drinks on the go. You can screw on the lid tightly, toss it in your bag, and not have to worry about anything, which I often do when rushing out of the house with little kids in tow. Just remember that glass jars don’t hold heat well and will cool rapidly, unless you insulate it.

EcoJarz sells really cool stainless and silicone lids that will convert a jar into a coffee mug. You can even buy a “Pop Top” to seal off the opening.

Reuse that old paper cup.

It’s not a Zero Waste solution, but if you’ve already got a paper cup in your car or in the recycling bin, you might as well extend its life. Wash and hand it over the next time you get a coffee. It will still do the job.

Tags: Coffee | Drinks | Reusability | Waste | Zero Waste

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