Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Originally uploaded by dyobmit
Lately, I've been thinking about picnics. Those nice baskets that have the reusable plates, cups, and napkins. Why shouldn't we bring a "picnic basket" with us whenever we are eating away from home? I have made an effort recently to be sure to pack my bag as if I'm going off into the woods for a meal. I realized that I've become way too reliant on the idea that if I stop for a drink or a snack, I'll be provided with (usually disposable) everything I need - napkins, paper towels, plastic utensils, straws, the list goes on.

I'd been carrying my own coffee cup for a while now. That one was relatively easy, provided I remembered to take it out of my bag and wash it before it started smelling really bad. Recently, however, I've noticed that even with my own mug, getting a cup of coffee generates a lot of waste - there's the sugar packets, the stirrers, and sometimes even the little plastic tubs the milk comes in.

Here's how I'm dealing with it: I have an old pepper tin that I've filled with sugar. That way, if the shop only has packets and no large shaker, I don't have to create the paper waste.

Just in case the box pops open, I've been keeping it inside a small cottage cheese container I had laying around...it doubles as a take out container if I need one. Even though we have a great recycling program here, we can't recycle styrofoam if it has food grease soaked into it - and take out containers made of styrofoam always wind up with grease soaked in.

If a coffee shop only has milk or cream in small plastic cups with the foil lids, I go for extra sugar and drink it black.

I've started carrying a spoon that fell victim to our garbage disposal in my bag. I won't be sad if I accidentally forget it somewhere, since it looks pretty beaten up already, and now I don't have to wonder what kind of tree the wooden stirrers are made out of or feel bad about the plastic waste created by using that little stick for less than 10 seconds.

I've also started throwing a couple cloth napkins in the bottom of my bag. I use them to wipe the spoon that I stir the coffee with, and to wipe my hands if I use a public restroom.

According to this source, one third of all trash in the US comes from packaging. Throw away paper cups are one of those forms of packaging...and they aren't free. Shop owners recognize this, and many offer discounts for using your own mug. Making less trash saves me money. That's hard to find fault with.

You can check out this handy Coffee Waste Calculator to estimate just how much waste you're creating each year if you use the disposable paper cups...even if you're like me and drink a coffee only once a week or so, less is always more when it comes to trash.

1 comment:

Heather said...

It's amazing how easy it is once you get in the habit. I've been carrying around my own water bottle for, well, forever. But it's only been in the last year or so that I started carrying my own cloth napkins around (works great instead of using tissues too) and when I go to a restaurant where they have disposables, I bring my own silverware and tupperware to-go container.

Once I thought about it, I was saving a lot of waste for something that with a little practice remembering, was so easy to do!

Good for you!