As I mentioned on Day 01, I typically bring breakfast to work with me. One essential component of said breakfast is my morning tea (and afternoon tea, and evening tea – truthfully I’m a non-stop tea-chugging machine). But, rather than buy this delectable delight en route to the office, I am in the habit of bringing it from home. Not only does this save me upwards of $700 a year*; it also saves the planet from my potential consumption of hundreds of wasteful, non-recyclable cups. I’m going to try to refrain from writing a long diatribe about to-go coffee cups, but living in the Land of Coffee has me constantly grinding my teeth at the number of cups I see headed for the landfill on a daily basis. There are various estimates of the sheer volume of this waste stream floating around the internet – Starbucks goes through 4 billion to-go cups a year; 60 billion paper cups enter U.S. landfills annually; 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away in the U.K. each year… no matter which of these figures is closest to being accurate, or if they all are – THE UNITS HERE ARE IN THE BILLIONS. Billions! Our consumption of single-use cups is astronomically, almost incomprehensibly high. One of the biggest problems with these pernicious items is that they are non-recyclable, despite what millions of consumers believe. In order to prevent paper cups from melting in your hands the minute they get wet, to-go coffee cups are lined with plastic (probably not great for steeping hot beverages, but that’s another story); this means they are headed straight for the landfill after their average 10 minutes of use – no matter how many times we hopefully chuck them into the recycling bin. Public perception of single-use “paper” cups as recyclable adds insult to injury, as transfer facilities and recycling depots are forced to take on the burden of sorting – and disposing of – these billions of items they’ve received in error. All in all, we are well past the time for sweeping change. In this instant-gratification universe, to-go coffees/teas are burying us in a mountain of waste.
(Ok, so I may have written a tiny diatribe…)
As you might expect to see over the course of this project, bringing pre-made food and drink from home is a core element in my waste-reduction efforts. How to transport my tea waste-free? A reusable thermos, of course. I have tried many different brands and varieties of thermos, but it truly doesn’t matter what you choose – anything reusable that can keep your tea or coffee piping hot and prevent it from leaking all over your bag/clothes will suffice! Pictured here is actually a spare thermos I keep at my desk at work, for those rare mornings when I either run out of time or forget to grab the “real” one as I rush out the door. Those are dark days.
*Simple math tells us that, assuming that I purchase one tea daily during my morning commute, for 5 days a week over 49 weeks per year (to account for vacation time), I will spend $735 a year on tea, and consume 735 disposable to-go cups. Not a tea drinker? Coffee drinkers are apparently shelling out even more each year: according to a 2012 report from consumerist.com, the average American spends nearly $1,100 per year on coffee!