This year, I’m wishing Merry Christmas to my customers at Summit Coffee by walking my talk and giving the gift of sustainability. In the spirit of Gandhi, and Summit Coffee, I’m being the change I wish to see in this world by forcing reusable plastic travel mugs on all our regulars.I love the coffee shop I work at, and I’m proud to caffeinate Redwood City’s finest coffee fiends, but I would be prouder without the hundreds of paper cups and plastic lids we fill our trashcans with. I’m just as responsible for contributing hundreds of paper cups as our customers are. If I want the world to be more sustainable about consuming coffee, I can’t wait for everyone else to decide to switch to travel mugs. I, the barista, have to be the change. If I don’t want to see to-go cups go to waste, it’s my job to refuse to waste them. It’s my responsibility to offer an alternative. So I’m converting customers to travel mugs, one cup of coffee at a time.This marks the first year of a hopefully lifelong tradition I plan to carry to my future coffee shop. Most coffee shops offer some kind of customer loyalty reward, but why not reward regular customers with a free reusable travel mug? They’re the ones who come in every day. Sure, it’s not cheap. It’s an investment. Just think of the money you’ll save on the long-run on hundreds of single-use to-go cups. Just think of the business your commitment to sustainability will bring you. Just think of the waste your coffee shop won’t be contributing. One person behind the counter in one coffee shop touches the lives of hundreds of customers every day. It’s that easy to make a difference.
Gift-giving is always a gamble. There’s no guarantee the person receiving your gift will like or use it. You’re just giving them the option, if they want it. So take advantage of this solid opportunity to force unwanted crap on somebody you love to supply them with the tools they need, should they decide to utilize them, to make this world a better place for all of us, one meal / beverage at a time. Let your present double as a present to this planet, and by extension to yourself, by giving the gift of sustainability.
New parents describe their babies as eating, shitting machines, but to my knowledge, adults carry right on eating and shitting just the same. The only difference is adults have more responsibilities to tend to in between shitting and eating. Feeding ourselves is a lifelong commitment, and requires all kinds of equipment. Dishes, cups, utensils, containers to store leftover food, bags to haul our groceries home, etcetera. More and more of these materials are being produced for single use. To-go cups. Fast food packaging. “Disposable” serving utensils and shopping bags.
But there’s no such thing as “disposable.” Diverting garbage to the dumps so we don’t see it doesn’t make it disappear. We can’t sweep our waste under the rugs forever. We’re running out of rugs. All we can do now is reduce our waste in any way we can, and there are many ways we can, all of which would make for awesome gifts. This year, your holiday shopping list should look something like this:
As a barista, the coffee shop I work at doles out hundreds of paper cups each day to customers taking their coffee to-go. And even if the cups are compostable, realistically, only a fraction of them will be composted. The majority will likely wind up in the garbage, and a fair amount are fated to be litter. And that’s just one coffee shop. Multiply that by all the coffee shops combined and all the days that they’ve been open. That’s a lot of coffee cups.
An individual who drinks at least one cup of coffee every day contributes at least 365 paper cups every year. Reduce this number to one by investing in a cup that’s built for infinite refills, one cup to do the work of hundreds. Behold, the mighty travel mug.
And like your loved ones, and unlike plain white paper cups (or even worse, the dreaded #RedStarbucksCups), travel mugs come in all varieties of color, shape and size. Handle. No handle. Any material. Ceramic, for the folks who forget about their coffee until it’s cold and need to nuke it. Metal or plastic for gravitationally challenged folks who have yet to fully grasp the art of holding onto things.
Color, design and prints are also solid opportunities to espress what makes that person special—their interests or favorite animals. Note: whatever words or images are printed on your loved one’s travel mug will be their constant companion, staring back at them every morning from across their desk, or warming their hands while they step outside for a coffee break, or whatever their morning ritual may be. So keep in mind, whatever message is embedded in the graphic of their travel mug better be something they’d like to look at.
And whatever you do, don’t get a travel mug from Starbucks.
Last year, I asked for travel mugs for Christmas, and my Mama faithfully delivered. She’s a huge supporter of artists on Etsy, so I picked out a few. Here they are in action:
Ceramic Travel Mugs by Bread & Badger
My roommate was so inspired by the cuteness of my mugs she felt so moved to order a few of her own. Check out our matching travel mugs. Super adorbs.
Ceramic Travel Mugs by SewZinski
REUSABLE COFFEE SLEEVE
The reusable coffee sleeve goes hand in hand with your loved one’s new travel mug. However, if travel mugs are out of your price range, reusable coffee sleeves serve as a more affordable alternative. If a paper to-go cup must be used, at the very least, saving a sleeve every day makes a difference. Also, another opportunity to a) support an artist by buying one, or b) get crafty and sew your own.
LOOSE LEAF TEA INFUSER
Travel mugs and sleeves are not exclusively for coffee lovers. Tea drinkers are just as guilty of contributing wasted to-go cups as coffee fiends, but even worse, most tea bags are individually wrapped in what is ultimately garbage (non-recyclable wrapping). So take an extra step to convert your loved one to loose leaf tea.
Some tumblers are sold with built-in loose leaf tea infusers. Infusers are also sold individually, that are compatible with any cup. Each cup of loose leaf tea equates to one less wrapper, one less piece of trash.
LOOSE LEAF TEA
If you should decide to buy a loose leaf tea infuser for a loved one, you should consider pairing it with some loose leaf tea. Give them something yummy to steep in their new tea infuser.
REUSABLE GROCERY ACCESSORIES
I know, reusable grocery shopping bags are so last year. But two things on my shopping list this year are 1) reusable / washable produce bags to replace single-use plastic produce bags provided at the store, and 2) an assortment of reusable containers for buying groceries in bulk, and sparing the world some packaging, like these ones:
Maybe your loved ones won’t use your gifts. Or maybe they will. But in any case, you’re leaving the door ajar for someone to become a more sustainable, waste-conscious eating-shitting machine. Happy Fat Saturday, and Happy Holidays. Purchase responsibly.