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Travel Mugs

March 25, 2011

Stepping out the other day with my son to get him some new trousers, I brought my tea with me. He was amused by the cup and its precarious position in the car’s cup holder. I felt it warranted a quick picture and even a brief post. To me, this says I live in a house, not a car. And a refined house at that: witness not only the china, but also the Australian wildflowers (which is refined—even if I’ve never been to Australia—I think the set was a wedding present). Sophisticated stuff, this.

But to repeat: I do not live in my car. I do not have a travel mug that fits in one of those funny cup holder thingies, because I never thought cup holder thingy was a necessary criteria for a travel mug—the thought never crossed my mind (no, Ma, I do not want a better fitting travel mug for Christmas or my birthday).

Travel mugs are good things, however, if you make regular use of one. Just one. While they require a considerable amount of energy consumption in their fabrication, they cut down on waste and on disposable coffee cups. Think disposable coffee cups aren’t that big a deal? Well, let’s talk scale. This week, my students went dumpster diving behind Mills Library at McMaster University. They fished out 1,100 disposable paper coffee cups, which constituted 60% of a single 24-hour period. This was part of a larger service-learning energy and waste audit of the library the class was doing (more on that here and here and here). As a means of communicating the extent of the waste being produced, they decided to build a castle out of all the coffee cups.

It was an inspired initiative and generated a lot of interest. Apparently, an engineering student came by yesterday and was fascinated with the project. He disappeared and came back a short time later, having calculated how many coffee cups it would have taken to build a life-size replica of Mills. The answer: 270 days’ worth of cups! If you think about it, that’s not a lot of days and suggestive of just how much waste was produced.

Worst of all, most paper coffee cups have a plastic lining in them to keep hot drinks hot. Good idea, but it means you can’t recycle them. Bad idea. So make sure you bring your travel mug with you when you make a stop for coffee or tea. Or, even, bring along your chinaware. You might get the odd look or be taken for an eccentric (guilty, I suppose), but I’ve never been denied service. The next test is to take my Australian wildflowers with me on a ride. Now, that would be weird…

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