Using reusable cups and glasses

coffee1In a bid to reduce landfill waste and save finite resources, we’ve been asked to only use reusable mugs and glasses for our “Change the World Wednesday” challenge.

For one week we have to refuse anything that isn’t reusable.

I have to confess I’m a bit ahead of the league on this one as I do this anyway. I couldn’t think of anything worse than taking a disposable cup; I haven’t done so for around 18 months; somehow, it just seems wrong to me.

I can’t bear waste or the thought that something we use for a few minutes will spend the next few hundred years in landfill.  Disposable plates, mugs, cutlery are terrible things designed only with convenience in mind.

And what of the long term effects of not having to rinse something under the tap, or the amount of resources used or the fact that these disposable items litter our beautiful world, harming wildlife in the process?

Here’s a question for you: How long do you think it takes us to get through 1 million disposable coffee cups?

A couple of days? A day? half a day?

Well apparently, 1 million disposable cups is the amount used just by airline flights in the US every six hours.

According to the paper industry, Americans will consume an estimated 23 billion paper coffee cups this year alone.

To manufacture these23 billion cups we need 14 millions tonnes of wood, gathered from 9.4 million trees and the industry requires 5.7 billion gallons of water to make them.

I could think of a better use of those precious resources, couldn’t you? If every person brought a reusable cup to Starbucks for just one day then we could save 1,181,600 tons of wood, 2,040,061,237 pounds of carbon dioxide, and 4,441,093,624 gallons of water!

So this is a great challenge for anyone who uses a coffee shop, vending machines, buys bottles of drink after a gym session or uses take out restaurants. It only takes a tiny amount of planning to use a reusable cup; just make sure you have a suitable receptacle with you and after all, we should all be carrying around a bottle of water with us anyway, to keep us hydrated and healthy throughout the day!

This challenge could save you money too – Starbucks offer a discount if you take your own cup.

Are you up for it? Could you ditch the disposable habit for a week?


  1. Elle Bee on January 21, 2010 at 4:23 am

    I am visiting from Reduce Footprints. You have a great, well-written article here.

    It’s so horrible that one million cups are used every 6 hours on airlines. Unbelievable! And disheartening.

    I always take my travel mug to starbucks–I wish everyone would! I’m glad you wrote about that–now more people know you can get a discount.

    Thanks for posting about this.

  2. Mrs Green on January 21, 2010 at 8:08 am

    @Elle Bee: Hi Elle, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and so pleased you already use your own cup – go you!

  3. Sinead on January 22, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Well, I wish everyone was as outraged about this issue as you! Having lived in Canada recently and the States in the past, I just couldn’t get over the numbers of these disposable cups used every day. Everywhere you look, especially in the morning, people are clutching these cups full of their chosen tasty beverage. I had thought that the paper cup was recyclable. when I found out this was not the case and that millions of them are being dumped in landfills every day I was appalled and rushed out to buy a re-useble mug. I see some people with re-usable cups but not nearly enough. And it was nice that they give a discount to anyone with re-usable cups. But there needs to be more awareness and encouragement to do something about it. And I can believe the comment about airlines. The amount of packaging involved in those tiny, mostly bland meals they serve, crazy! I’m glad they charge for food on low cost airlines now, as I defintely won’t be buying any.
    Another area of needless waste that really annoys me is plastic bags and their over use. They have been charging for them in Ireland for years now and it’s helped a lot and forced people to remember bringing re-usable bags. Alas, many countries have yet to discover the benefits and follow suit. I’ve been ranting about it a bit on Ecoboom recently as there was a bit of discussion about it. I think it is slowly coming in to force in the UK but again i’m surprised it’s taken so long. It’s a small step but an important one and it will plant the seed in people’s minds that we can’t continue in this downward spiral of a throw away economy.

  4. Mrs Green on February 10, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    @Sinead: Hi Sinead; this one really got to me. When I started researching the facts I was astonished and heart broken too. I agree on the plastic bags; that’s another of my bugbears. It’s time for us to value more things instead of living in a disposable culture…