Coffee Cups and Conscious Decisions

reusable coffee cups

Upon recently watching Al Gores 2015 TED talk leading on from 2005’s “the inconvenient truth” regarding the happening climate crisis it got me thinking. In this recent TED talk he presents us with what he calls “good news”, solar and wind energy is becoming increasingly invested in and utilized therefore we can successfully tackle climate change! This talk was met with rapturous applause as if he was a cult leader promising eternal life to all. I was furious as to how he could have such a narrow view of energy and how we use it. One aspect of energy I think he massively overlooked is our materialistic tendencies and “throw away” culture. The quantity of “things” over the quality has now over taken quality over quantity when it comes to our purchasing desires. Our minds have been moulded exactly how corporations want them to be. Alas an idea for my own social experiment was born.

When I think of our throw away nature I think of one item that symbolizes luxury, wealth, success, power, excess and much more, the take-away coffee cup. You may think this is crazy connection but hear me out. Ordering 2 takeaway coffees a day has become part of routine rather than a necessity for many. Let us not beat around the bush, It is trendy to be seen sipping from a crisp white coffee cup walking down Grafton street, shopping bag in the other hand and high heels to match. Think about it, for some it is not out of necessity it’s an accessory! Additionally, most of the time the cup gets dumped in the nearest bin as oppose to being rinsed, separated from lid and recycled. However, if you think putting them into recycling is the desired action think again. The recyclable bit in the cup in trapped under plastic film that stops the cup getting soggy, as a result the vast majority of cups go straight into landfill! In 2014 The Guardian reported that we throw away 2.5 billion coffee cups a year, no doubt this figure has risen since then. Let’s wake up and smell the coffee people!

This being said, there has been a shift in focus for coffee shops on their business’s sustainability. Starbucks are one of the only corporations who have leaped ahead and offered a reusable coffee mug (which I don’t think I’ve ever seen being used and one version is also only recommended to be reused up to 30 times). I started to wonder how would coffee shops react if I presented my own reusable mug for them to fill? It certainly doesn’t boost their brand as I walk down Grafton street with a floral plastic coffee cup, but will they over look this in the name of sustainability? I would be reducing their energy and waste output and by eliminating the paper cup, marginally increasing their profit on my sale. Lets find out. After one month or roughly twenty purchases in various coffee shops around the city later I have come to a conclusion. Apart from one or two refusal’s (for “practical reasons”), the odd double take or questionable response, in my experience the majority of businesses are more than happy to oblige. Was I being too pessimistic to doubt them in the first place?

As consumers we have so much power it just depends on the individual decisions we make that determines how we use it. In my view business’s are happy to adhere to this more sustainable practice so why shouldn’t we?

Make a conscious decision to be more sustainable in your every day life and pick up a reusable cup today.

Deirdre G


coffee-hot-weather-gettyTake away coffee/tea cups look recyclable, but they’re not.  There is a thin membrane of plastic in the wall of the cups that hold the liquid in.  This makes sense as we don’t want hot liquid spilling out of our take-away cups.  In Ireland, we are throwing away over 200 million of these take away cups each year!

However, there is another way.

Instead of using cardboard take-away cups that are used once and then thrown away, why don’t you bring your own reusable cup and ask your coffee shop for a discount or other incentive such as double loyalty stamps?  Not only will you reduce your waste, but you might save some money as well.

There are many reusable coffee cups for sale and many different brands.  Just buy one that suits your personality and image.  As the coffee spigots in coffee shops are only so high, to ensure that they don’t use paper cups to fill up your larger reusable coffee cup, buy one that is a similar size to the takeaway ones your local shop sells.

Encourage your local coffee shop or petrol station to join the Conscious Cup Network and we will map it on our website.

We hope to change take-away coffee behaviour one cup at a time.  Won’t you join us?