The Green Leaf

A reusable cup of coffee

July 19th, 2011
Starbucks offers 10-cents credit for bringing your own reusable cup. That adds up after awhile, if you're a regular. Photo by Nina Wu.

Starbucks offers 10-cents credit for bringing your own reusable cup. That adds up after awhile, if you're a regular. Photo by Nina Wu.

I confess: I go to Starbucks regularly. I've got to get my iced soy latte fix.

While I do like many independent cafes, I must say that I just like Starbucks because it's quick and consistent (and well, there's a Peet's, but only one, in Waikiki).

Starbucks, which started as a single coffee store at Seattle's Pike Place Market, is now the global, mega-chain of coffee.

And where there's coffee, there are disposable coffee cups. In Starbucks' case, thousands upon thousands, and millions, of disposable paper and plastic coffee cups that are tossed into the trash on a daily basis.

Americans go through 56 billion paper cups a year, according to statistics from International Paper — 3 billion of them come from Starbucks alone.

If you've ever been part of a beach clean-up in Hawaii, chances are you picked up a few Starbucks cups along with cigarette butts and other litter along the way.

Even when recycled (which only happens in a few markets such as Seattle, Boston and San Francisco), disposable paper cups  still use up a lot of energy and resources.

Still, I have to give Starbucks credit.

The Seattle-based coffee chain offers customers 10-cents credit for bringing in their own reusable cups, which are (of course) also for sale in the cafe. You can get a double-walled reusable cup for cold drinks and reusable mugs for hot drinks.

Starbucks reusable cups come with the cup, a screw-on lid, and straw, and say "Aloha from Hawaii." Mine has lasted, but it's easy to misplace your straw.

You can buy reusable cups pretty much anywhere these days — Long's Drugs, Walgreen's, Macy's, Nordstrom.

Starbucks is also working with municipal governments, cup manufacturers, environmental NGOs and experts from the academic sector (including M.I.T.) to find a recyclable cup solution by 2012. Its goal is to have front-of-store recycling in all company-owned locations by 2015.

Starbucks very well should, since it's such a large contributor to disposable cup waste.

Meanwhile, though, it may have to be consumers who make a difference by bringing in reusable cups.

Karin de Weille of Seattle has launched a campaign to punt the paper cup habit, according to a recent story in the Seattle Times. Visit to find out more.

New habits can be formed in about three weeks, with this particular one of bringing your own coffee cup on the easy side of the spectrum, she says. She's right — it's not particularly difficult. You can keep a reusable cup in your car and at your office desk.

Try it.

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