Monday, January 8, 2018

2018 Resolution: Waste Less

You know how everyone has those swanky Swell bottles? They were all the rage back in 2016, a status symbol of the spin class goers and yoga doers. And yes, I have one, a gift from a work vendor. You know it's cool when they're getting branded. Even before then, Camelbaks and Nalgenes were the reusable water bottles of choice. For years, reusable/refillable water bottles have been the thing. There was even that phase of the plastic water cups that looked like iced coffee cups.

But why not reusable coffee cups? Those have always been a thing for drivers only. My parents always used them, sipping their coffee on the way to work. I had one that I used the first two years post-college when I was driving by Dunkin' every day on my way to the office. But since then, it's always the Starbucks cups with the butchered names and little smiley faces.

Recently, I've become more and more aware of headlines around just how many of those coffee cups we use every day. Granted, these are UK-based statistics and maybe the cappuccinos don't foam as well in a reusable cup but there are so many coffee cups that go to waste. The figure being thrown around is 2.5 billion cups each year are thrown away in the UK. BILLION!!! For perspective, there are 7.6 billion people in the entire world and the UK is 0.9% of that.

And I told myself "it's okay, these are cardboard and recyclable!". Well they're not and it's not. Most of those coffee cups have some kind of insulating lining that makes them non-recyclable. And Starbucks ones have metal in them so don't put them in the microwave either. In case you haven't set something on fire recently...

So this year, I have only a couple of resolutions but the most tangible one is to waste less (okay, mastering crow in yoga is also tangible but less environmental). Apparently I'm not alone in this initiative so more power to ya! Most cafes give a discount for bringing your own mug/cup. This discount can range from £0.20 to £0.50 (go Pret!) but if you drink just one coffee every weekday, that's £1.00-£2.50 savings per week. That adds up! And it's good for the environment so add in some karma discounts too.

Even with the discounts, there are rumors cafes will soon start charging a fee instead, a "latte levy", for using disposable cups. Much like the plastic bag charge that has become part of our grocery store routine, spurring many to BYOB (bags, not bottles) in bright colors and patterns, a fee might be more effective than a discount (how's that for the logic of the human brain).
You might say, like I did, it's annoying to carry a coffee cup around with you all day. But don't you already carry a water bottle around all day? I did some Amazon hunting and they make collapsible travel mugs which could fit in your purse. I opted not to buy one though as I already have a travel mug that I rarely use so reducing my waste also applies to not buying in excess. Realistically, I have coffee when I get into work where they have mugs and they have a cafe in the building which gives a £0.20 discount if you bring a mug down from the upstairs kitchens.

I've only been doing this for a week but it's already preventing me from buying coffee or hot chocolate on a whim when I don't really need it, just feel like a break. So thus far the benefits are two-fold: less waste in the environment, less money spent at Starbucks (seriously, getting a latte from my office cafe is a quarter of what it costs at Starbucks), and less unconscious consumption. Okay, that's three-fold. I expect it will also make me slow down and enjoy my coffee too if I elect to sit in for the 10 minutes it usually takes to drink a coffee. So many wins!

I'm not saying 100% cut out using disposable cups/containers but a little conscious effort couldn't hurt! What are some other ways people have reduced waste? What should I be looking out for, where are the recycling traps?

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