In the past couple of weeks, TreeHugger has been writing a lot about coffee and waste. In my list of ways to reduce plastic waste, I suggested that the single use coffee cup is easily replaced with a reusable mug—either at home or toted to the coffee shop. Lloyd Alter writes that the K-cup’s inventor regrets creating the coffee-pod fad, and even compared them to cigarettes. This week, Melissa Breyer explores all the awesome minimal waste options for brewing coffee, from pour-over cones to the French press.
A Kickstarter campaign from a company called Reduce. Reuse. Grow. has yet another take on the disposable coffee cup problem. Landscape architecture student Alex Henige created a cup that’s embedded with seeds, and can either be composed or actually planted. They promise the cups can “be used for reforestation in your local communities” and have location-specific seeds, to avoid any problems with non-native species. So far, it appears they only have a design intended for California. The crowd-funding campaign has already blown past its original goal of $10,000.
The proposed cup does seem like an advantage over other bio-resin based compostable cups, many of which can only be broken down in industrial composting facilities that generate a lot of heat.
We’ve also seen a lot of interested in plantable paper products, which have been turned into everything from wrapping paper to business cards to makeup and CD packaging. So why not a cup? Reduce. Reuse. Grow. even plans to have a special collection bin in cafes that use their cups, where people who don’t want to or can't do the planting themselves have the option to let someone else do it for them.
But can a disposable cup ever really be better than a reusable one? I recognize that as a culture we are a long way from seeing that “convenience” of throwaway takeout is creating a serious environmental problem, and that giving coffee shops and other vendors a better single use option might be a lesser evil.
But personally, I’ll keep using my metal thermos.