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Cups kill

author: quinn bell |  a&c writer

Sweet release / pixabay

Make sure to throw out your cups responsibly

I recently had one of those shitty realizations that I’m a part of the problem. I work at a café that mainly serves people on the go, and so we go through a real heck-ton of disposable cups, straws, bags, and utensils. To appease my own guilt and make myself feel better, I figured I would write something up telling other people to make better decisions with their lives. We’re complicit; you and I. Please stop spending your money on single-use cups. You’re making me feel bad. 

I’ll start with the guilt trip angle: we’re killing the turtles! What has a turtle ever done to you to deserve a plastic straw lodged in its nose? Seriously, guys, not cool. I’m sure most of you have heard about the ban on plastic straws that’s been gaining momentum lately – it’s all about the turtles and the countless other creatures being affected by our throw-away plastics. That includes cups. Millions are suffering because of us. I am so serious. 

I recently got an email from Greenpeace that stated: McDonald’s and Tim Horton’s are among Canada’s top five worst plastic polluters. This all fits together when you look at the fact that those are Canada’s favourite places to go for coffee. Your daily double-double is a sin (for a few reasons, honestly), and chances are, your cup is ending up in the ocean somewhere, floating and swirling around for next to eternity, or else breaking down into tiny, tiny bits that get into the sushi you ate last night. 

You might be thinking, “But aren’t some coffee cups just made of paper?” I thought so, too. But have you ever spilled coffee on paper? It stains and soaks through even the thickest paper, and there’s only one reason why it doesn’t do the same to your cup: polyethylene plastic lines the inside of most. And regardless! Paper does not grow on trees, sheeple! Well, alright, it does, but that’s also an issue. How many trees are we downing every year just to get our daily fix? More habitat lost, more cute creatures hurt, and more waste. There’s also the issue of recycling and composting: please don’t pretend you do it. We all know that when we toss our cups into the trash, they stay trash. Nice try, greenwashing. 

Okay, the guilt trip is over for now; let’s move on to something more proactive. There are many ways around this mess. Option A is akin to the Catholic Church’s prescription for not having babies: A is for Abstinence. We could all give up coffee today and help save the world, amen. Or not, totally kidding. While this would do wonders for the environmental crisis, it’s probably not realistic. Its economic and psychological repercussions would be huge (just imagine how grumpy we’d all be). I don’t want to live in a world without coffee. 

Option B: take your sweet time, have your coffee to stay, go to a nice cafe somewhere and get comfortable. We’re all in such a rush all the time, and we pump ourselves full of caffeine just to keep going. If you can get into the habit of sitting back and relaxing in your local coffee shop while actually enjoying your drink out of a real mug, you’ll thank yourself. Coffee tastes better out of real cups, too (I promise that’s true – an Italian guy told me so after scolding me for serving him a cappuccino to go). This option can also work wonders for your social life. If you become a regular, you might actually make friends with your barista! At least three of my closest friends are baristas, and in our busy world the weekly coffee time we share is sometimes the only chance I have to see them. 

Option C: learn to like espresso. If you’re only in it for the caffeine, why not skip the fluff and the disposable cups and do as the Italians do? Take a shot of espresso and go along your way (but maybe skip the accompanying cigarette). Espresso means “express,” as in “express train.” It’s fast, it’s dirty, it gets the job done. Sustainability need not be inconvenient. 

Which leads me to D: just carry around your own mug. Please, please use a travel mug when you go for coffee. You’ll be saving so much waste – especially if you’re going for a drink every day. Did you know it’s also often cheaper to have your own mug filled? So even if your bottom line is money or you hate the environment or something, you’re still in luck. Make the investment, and you’ll be saving money on your future coffees in no time.  

You now have no excuse to drink coffee out of crap plastic cups. Next time I see you in my coffee shop, I hope you’ll come with your own mug, or else take a few extra minutes and put your feet up. Please help save my soul, your own, and the turtles too. 

About Quinn Bell