No More Styrofoam: Rise of the Reusable Coffee Mug

An easy green alternative: the reusable coffee mug

Imagine ordering your favorite coffee drink without grabbing one of those disposable cups, but using a cool reusable cup instead. It may not be something you think about when you stop at your favorite coffee shop in the morning, but you should. If everyone used a reusable cup for their daily cup of coffee, imagine the benefits our environment would reap from just one simple action.

If you are thinking that a ceramic mug is asking for trouble and plastic mugs aren’t exactly very functional, there is an alternative. Many companies are producing reusable hot coffee cups* that closely resemble that of the disposable cups you receive from your favorite local coffee spot. These cups can be used over and over again.

If you made the switch from throw-away cups to a reusable plastic cup, then that’s a start. But when we learned about BPA, we also learned that many of these types of cups lead to drinks being contaminated. That’s not very healthy, is it? They’re also not very functional for scorching hot drinks.

For a very reasonable price, you can purchase your own BPA-free reusable cup that will quickly pay for itself. The newer ones that are getting a lot of attention are often made of porcelain and silicone. As an added bonus, these cups are dishwasher and microwave safe. They will keep your drinks hot for hours and are perfect for your morning cup of coffee. In addition, they can also keep drinks cool.

By making the switch to reusable cups, we would save millions of dollars and millions of pounds of trash. If you get your daily cup of coffee from your favorite coffee spot each day, a majority of shops these days will even offer a discount if you bring your own cup. For example, save ten cents at Starbucks or as much as half off at some convenience stores. While this may not seem like much, it adds up over time. You’ll have more change in your pocket and make a positive impact on the environment at the same time!

If you aren’t a big coffee drinker, you can still get plenty of use out of reusable mugs. They can be used for hot chocolate during the winter and your favorite cold fountain soda during the summer. They also make great gifts (especially for coffee drinkers, though!). If you take a look at your local Wal-Mart or other retailer, you’ll probably find several choices already being offered. You can also find a big variety by searching online. There’s sure to be one for just about any kind of personality, preference or style.

Veronica Davis is a freelance writer and internet business columnist for Examiner. She works with several businesses online, including ones that focus on green living and saving money. She recommends seeing if there is an Ebay coupon for the cup that you like.

Yep, we’ve got reusable mugs… as well as organic coffee and tea to put in them.

Image credit: raisethejollyroger dot com at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

*Link to a page in sustainablog’s Green Choices product comparison engine

  1. michelle

    We’ve given these reusable mugs that look just like disposable as gifts to our coffee-loving family. They are always a hit because they resemble the disposable version. I wish we could get to a place where disposable cups were an idea of the past.

  2. Bobby B.

    Your use of the word “Styrofoam” in the title is a misleading HOOK. You did not use it a single time in the body of your article, preferring instead to focus the content on all disposable cups. Flashy titles may draw readers to your work today, but quality content is what holds their attention and creates long-term fans. The problem with using the word “Styrofoam” is that it continues to be linked to the acronym CFC, even though CFC’s have not been used in the production of Styrofoam since the big ozone scares in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Including “Styrofoam” in your title also panders to those members of the green movement who are anti-chemical and anti-business. Even after seventy years of saving energy (insulation) and saving lives (floatation), the greens continue to create fantastic stories about the ecological impact of Styrofoam.

    Additionally, the premise that reusable cups are more environmentally friendly than disposable cups is also debatable. Sure, disposable cups find there way to landfills. However, they are less energy intensive to produce and require no water or chemical cleansers to maintain. Unless you are proposing that we only drink from our own cupped hands, chances are some environmentalist out there will find a problem with whatever container you choose. Of course, the population control zealots will probably have a problem with the number of cupped hands drinking from Mother Earth’s well.

  3. Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    Jeez, Bob… a little cranky this morning? 😉 The big issue that still remains with Styrofoam is that it doesn’t go away… the stuff just doesn’t break down in any kind of remotely human time frame. It’s also not recyclable (which is a shame, because of the insulating benefits you mention… I’d love to see some way to turn used Styrofoam into home insulation).

    No one’s going to suggest drinking out of your hands… reusable cups last an awful long time, so there’s a clear benefit… even if it’s not absolutely pristine and perfect. No one’s arguing that “green” has to meet those standards…

  4. Bobby B.

    Actually, I was not cranky at all. I was just tricked by a slick title into reading a story that had little to do with the title. I may have been tired when stroking the keyboard, but not cranky. Sorry if anyone took offense.

    I guess if I were to take issue on a larger scale, it would be that no improvements to anything produced by mankind will ever be enough to pacify the ever evolving environmentalist movement. They have a playbook, and are experts at finding fault and marketing their ideas to a passive and forgetful public.

    Q: Who got everyone sold on the idea that bottled water was healthier than tap water?
    A: Environmentalists.
    Q: Who now endorses tap water and complains about all the plastic wastes being generated by the bottled water business?
    A: Environmentalists.

    Q: Who called for the prohibition of all CFC containing products (including Styrofoam)?
    A: Environmentalists.
    Q: Who now have taken issue with the improved version of Styrofoam?
    A: Environmentalists.

    Q: Who said that substituting bamboo or rubber trees in applications where hardwood is traditionally utilized would be a boon to the planet?
    A: Environmentalists.
    Q: Who now berates the bamboo and rubber businesses because they operate plantations that are expanding into the pristine wild and using unsustainable practices?
    A: Environmentalists.

    Q: Who said that adding scrubber technologies to coal fired power plants would reduce emissions to acceptable levels?
    A: Environmentalists.
    Q: Who now wants to eliminate the coal business in toto?
    A: Environmentalists.

    I could go on for way more space than the blog allows, but it would get monotonous; assuming that it hasn’t already. I personally think that it would be refreshing to see the greens develop a product, market its benefits without berating its competition, and see if it has any success. The incessant attacks on the status quo without offering anything that can truly be called an improvement is getting old.

  5. Sarah

    I was really bummed to find out that my “eco-friendly” re-usable Starbucks tumbler was not as great for the planet as I had thought: drinks are pre-mixed in a disposable plastic cup before being transferred into the re-usuable for “quality control” purposes. Not all Starbucks locations recycle their plastic waste, so greenies might be better off sticking with the disposables – at least you can be 100% certain they’ll be recycled at home. Greenwashing! Argh. 🙁

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