Monday, January 12, 2009

A Green Cup of Coffee

Recently I was in Starbucks getting coffee. OK, a Peppermint Mocha. With whip. But made with soy milk. (I know, I’m really reaching now.) Anyway, the girl in front of me ordered a latte but requested two cups. Two cups? First, they have those cardboard sleeves to protect your hands and second, a latte isn’t even that hot!

I ordered my drink, not proud that I would be using one paper cup, let alone two. I noticed as I was waiting that there was a basket filled with these little green plastic things that looked like toothpicks. Then, little miss two-cupper picked one up and put it in the opening of the plastic lid. It turned out it was a stopper so her coffee wouldn’t spill.

What?! Who came up with this? Do we really need more plastic gizmos? Can’t we make do with lids that have the little flap? Or better yet, we should invest in travel mugs.

So I looked on the shelf and found one. Not only was it really cute, but Starbucks will take 10 cents off my drink if I bring my own mug. Perfect.

The next day, I ordered my drink and proudly handed the barista my new mug. I turned to pay the cashier and went back to the counter to pick up my beverage. I watched as she filled someone else’s drink in the nasty paper cup. Then I couldn’t believe my eyes…that drink was mine!

She made the drink in the wasteful paper and poured it into my nice, green mug!!

“What are you doing?” I screeched. She looked at me like a deer in headlights. “Huh?” she replied. “The whole purpose of handing you my own mug is to avoid the paper cup!” She stared back at me and gave out an uncaring “Oh.”

Feeling defeated, I took my drink and left the store. But my experience wasn’t over. As I took a sip, the coffee leaked all over and down my new winter coat. She didn’t screw the top on right. Now I was pissed.

I went back the next day to try again. This time, I made sure the barista knew to make the drink directly in the travel mug. When she handed me back my drink, I made sure that the top was screwed on tightly. I took a sip of my delicious drink and again, the mug dripped all over me.

I asked around and it turns out there are many other travel mug victims. The green alternative is good for the environment, but tends to leak. Great. Did I have to go back to the paper cup? Or should I do the smarter thing and limit my trips to Starbucks?

Since then, I’ve been on a manhunt for a better travel mug. Now when I get coffee on the go, I ask for it minus the lid and I reuse a cardboard sleeve. I’ve seen people roll their eyes but I don’t care. One less thing in the landfill. And one less stain on my coat.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year’s Green Resolutions

Statistically, New Year’s Resolutions are broken within the first week of the new year. This year was no different for me. I popped a Frango Mint about 16 minutes into 2009. So much for no chocolate or sugar.

I decided I needed to change “resolution” to “goal.” This way, I have something more solid and concrete to shoot for. Also, I have a whole year to mess up and correct a goal.

Among the usual career/eating/life goals that I always set for myself, I’ve added a new category…green goals.

On the top of my list is our trash situation. For two people, we generate A LOT of trash. One of our big things is that we drink a lot of seltzer water, so, much of that trash comes in the form of plastic bottles.

The good news is they can be recycled. The bad news is that when a recycling day is cancelled due to a holiday (like on the past two Thursdays), we are swimming in a sea of empty bottles in our tiny apartment.

But the problem isn’t really the cancelled recycling days, it’s our consumption.

Why do we need to be drinking all that seltzer in plastic bottles? Why do we need to buy processed food wrapped in 12 layers of plastic and cardboard? We should be drinking more water from our earth-friendly Brita pitcher or eating locally grown fruits and veggies from the farmers market. It’s not only a smart choice for our health, but will also cut down on the plastic island we’ve created.

And that marks my number one goal…less consumption. Do we really need this? Can we go without it? Can we substitute it for something healthier, less packaged, made locally?

My second goal is my mode of transportation. Thankfully, we live in New York City …the mecca of public transportation. I live on the 1st and 2nd Avenue bus lines but occasionally, I’ve been known to jump in a cab for no better reason than I’m really tired (or cold, hot, or just don’t feel like waiting for the bus).

It’s not only terrible for the environment, it’s also taxing on my purse. The average cab ride home is $12! Try that a couple times a week. I could be using that money to help plant trees or something! What I should be doing is walking my butt to work. Not only would it be friendly to the environment, it would be super friendly to, well, my butt.

My last goal is to do a beach clean-up. I joked earlier about swimming in the sea of plastic bottles and our plastic island, well, there really is a 70 million pound plastic garbage island floating in the Pacific between LA and Hawaii the size of Texas. My own plastic bottle contribution is only adding to it. I’m a huge ocean fanatic, so this is super important to me.

We’re now five days into the new year and I’m doing pretty well. No cabs, two plastic bottles, and I replaced the Frango mints with almonds. If only they weren’t in individually wrapped, plastic bags...well, I have a year to reach this goal.