5 Reasons to Switch to a Reusable Coffee Cup

Hey caffeine addicts, I’ve got a really easy sustainable switch for you: a reusable coffee cup that mimics the look of disposable ones. You might have seen these cups around and weren’t convinced yet. Hopefully these 5 reasons will sway you to the green side.

1 You’re Going to Save Money

I’ll start off with the personal benefits first. I get why people like to buy pricey drinks to go from cafes. When you have that warm, ambulatory cup in your hand, ready for a step and sip, all is right with the world for a brief moment. Maybe you even like the process of going into a cafe, waiting in line, and having a chat with the staff or customers to start the day. When you bring in your own reusable cup, many cafes will give you a discount, some quite substantial. I’ve heard of coffee shops double-stamping loyalty cards for those who do. Waitrose, a supermarket chain in the UK, is even offering free coffee and tea to customers, but only to those who bring their own reusable cups.

Also, when you have your own cup, you might reconsider whether it’s worth the extra money and time to get your drink at a cafe when something as simple as coffee or tea can be made easily and cheaply at home and taken to go.

2. Your Barista Will Like You

I can’t promise your favourite barista will fall in love with you, but at least you’ll look more favourable because a) you care about your planet, and b) they’ll be able to make your drink just as easily with your barista-standard reusable cup. While thermos keep your drink warmer for longer, they can also be bulky and awkward for specialty drinks made in a cafe.

3. You’re Helping the Planet

The world is weird. We can send rockets into space, but we still haven’t figured out a way to make a disposable cup that can compost easily. Many people assume that since the single-use cup is paper, they’re recyclable, but they actually have a thin coating of plastic polyethylene to be leak-proof. Here in Toronto, the city will not take these cups in recycling, and they end up in the landfill. Unfortunately, many other cities also lack the proper infrastructure to process these cups. Even when they do, cups contaminated with drinks make recycling difficult. Some programs might take the cups, but they must be separated from the plastic lids. All these complications make recycling disposable cups extremely difficult and inconvenient, and a very small percentage—1% if we’re lucky—actually gets recycled.

Even the single-use cups that are labeled “biodegradable” or “compostable” may not be, or recycling plants might reject cups lined with bioplastic out of fear they’ll contaminate the recycling stream. So basically even the eco-friendly disposable cups are sitting in landfills because we still lack the infrastructure to process them.

Also, consider all the paper it takes to make the cups—trees must be cut to make a product that is only good for the consumption of one drink. The carbon footprint of producing and shipping the disposable cups also takes a toll on the environment. Plus, the plastic problem is as dire as ever. City dwellers might not see the effects of our disposable plastic use yet, but see the recent coverage from National Geographic to get an idea of what’s going on in the rest of the world.

I can’t fathom where the billions of disposable cups are sitting right now. Government and corporate policies need to improve for real change to happen. Solutions are still being found. In the meantime, I’m doing what I can to reduce my waste.

4. It’s Fashionable

Going green is now seen as the fashionable thing to do. More and more people are educating themselves on various issues, from what’s going into their bodies to how the planet is affected by our daily actions. When you have Tesla-driving celebrities and influential people starting environmental foundations and conveying it’s cool to care, there will be bandwagoners who follow because it’s the “hot” thing right now. And you know what? That’s fine, because it’s better than nothing.

The question is, do you want to be a trendsetter or a follower?

Carrying a Starbucks cup used to be the cool thing, a status symbol that conveys you can afford $5 for a latte, but if the cool thing now is carrying a trendy water bottle or a fun reusable coffee cup to show others how woke and conscientious you are, it’s still a positive for the planet. Skipping straws last year became so trendy that Starbucks is hopping on the bandwagon and planning to eliminate plastic straws by 2020. Sure, the corporations will follow where the money goes, but it’s still progress to help us wean off plastic.

5. You’ll Inspire Others

A young friend recently told me when she turned down a plastic bag at a grocery store, the cashier scoffed at her, asking “do you really think not using one plastic bag is going to make a difference?”

What I say to that is while I can’t control what others are doing, I’m doing this so I can live with myself. Whether or not the world gets buried in waste is the collective responsibility of everyone on the planet, and whatever happens, I can look back and know I personally did the best I could. It’s not my responsibly to save the world, but I can do what’s within my control and what I think is right. If I can inspire others along the way, whether it’s one person or one million, so much the better.

Society is set up in a way that convenience is valued over long-term sustainability, so unless I live off the grid, make my own food, never travel, etc, it’s just not possible to be 100% sustainable, so I don’t beat myself up when better options are not available to me. I just bought organic, locally-grown bok choy in a sealed plastic bag, for example. It’s not easy to go zero waste, especially overnight, so I also don’t expect others to get it right away, especially when the world makes it difficult for them. I’m not going to force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do, but I will show there are options through my actions.

Every time I’m taking my reusable cup to the cafe, others can see it and know they can use one too. When I take my reusable bags to go grocery shopping, the person in line behind me can see that my produce are loose and it’s not necessary to enclose each type in plastic produce bags. They might not care at all. Or they might even think my reusable bottle, cup, or bag is cute and ask me where I got it from.

Reusable Coffee Cup Options

I chose the KeepCup’s BPA-free plastic cup over glass options because it’s lighter. The lid stays on firm but can come off easily when you pull at the tab. While the top plug keeps the drink enclosed, it’s not leakproof, so I don’t recommend tossing it in your bag unless you can keep it upright. It’s dishwasher safe on the top shelf. The top plug is removable too, so it’s easy to care for. Small, medium, and large sizes are available, and I got it in the large size because I drink a lot of tea. See KeepCup’s other options (glass, clear plastic, double wall) here.

While KeepCup is the world’s first barista standard reusable cup, they’ve got competition now. The collapsible ones look neat, handy for travel.

My Ethical Outfit: vintage coverall jacket thing ($30!), secondhand T-shirt from The Row, upcycled denim shorts from Urban Renewal (see them with other outfits), Brother Vellies Kaya Stardust Boots.

Do you own a reusable coffee cup? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Photography by Catherine Li-Abrams