Preserving the Environment

This Simple Solution to Reduce Waste Is So Obvious It Should Happen in Every Coffee Shop

May 6, 2014
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This Simple Solution to Reduce Waste Is So Obvious It Should Happen in Every Coffee Shop
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Bonus: That (reusable) cup of Joe saves everyone money.

You probably aren’t going to like this (especially if you haven’t had your morning coffee yet), but Americans go through way too many disposable coffee cups.

Admittedly, these to-go cups are convenient, but just think about how many we go through a day. According to this startling infographic, U.S. citizens use 16 billion paper cups each year — which, to produce, require four billion gallons of water (!) and an astonishing 6.5 million trees. Not only that, but this plastic-lined menace also leaves behind four billion pounds of the greenhouse gas CO2.

Yikes!

Now, one group of social do-gooders is trying to fix this cup crisis with a new program that aims to cut down on the staggering amount of coffee cups we go through.

As Fast Company reports, the DO School in New York has partnered with the Brooklyn Roasting Company (BRC) in DUMBO to push out ceramic cup-share mugs that participants can bring back to the store to be cleaned up for reuse.

MORE: Finally! Experts Give Us Solutions to Those Wasteful Single-Cup Coffee Pods

If you’re thinking, “eww germs,” this cup-sharing program (called Good to Go) isn’t as gross as you might think. First off, restaurants reuse cups all the time. Secondly, buyers have to keep the lid to verify their participation — so for the squeamish, that means no cooties.

The cup-share mug itself is a polypropylene plastic #5 PP cup. Good to Go told NationSwell it’s a “high quality heat resistant plastic, slightly better than the plastic lining paper coffee cups.”

As for the price tag, each cup sells for $5 a pop, coffee included. If the cup is brought back for reuse, the drink is 25 cents off. (To us, that sounds like a win for everyone involved.) “The regular single-use cup costs about 15 cents, which is quite a significant number,” DO School CEO Katherin Kirschenmann told Fast Company. “Even that location in DUMBO, they go through a thousand cups a day. Think about a midtown Starbucks. Cutting down those costs is actually a pretty big incentive.”

The program is off to a great start: 310 Big Apple residents signed up on the first day of its launch. After an initial launch of 500 cups, the BRC location now has 1000 cups in rotation along with an increase from 87 users per day on average to 99 in the first two weeks, Good to Go said.

For those of us who don’t live in New York, many coffee shops across the country already allow patrons to bring their own thermos. There are other solutions to cut down paper cup usage as well, such as drinking out of mugs from the coffee shop (provided that they’re available and that you have the time) or making your own coffee at home and toting around your own brew.

Sure, it’s much easier to just get a new cup every time you hit a Starbucks, but don’t we owe it to the planet to make this simple change? Maybe it’s time we change the way we think about java on-the-go.

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