We all like to think that we are making the best choices for our environment and our health. Even so, most of us don’t have the time or the resources to really check it out. Hopefully, we will be able to shed some light on the green options you might be making in your everyday lives! In this article we will be taking a closer look at coffee cups.
Coffee Cups – Paper or Foam?
If you only look at the energy used in manufacturing, foam wins hands down. According to a 1994 study of Martin Hocking, making a ceramic cup requires 70 times more energy than producing a foam cup. Glass and paper cups require 20 times and two times as much energy. When you add the energy when you wash a reusable cup in a dishwasher, this gets even worse! You might have to make use of and wash a glass cup 15 times to make it as efficient as a paper cup.
With all of that being said, there are other factors you might have to consider. Foam is cheap to create and transport. Nonetheless, it takes centuries for it to biodegrade. It can be very tough to recycle, and most recycling companies will not take it. Foam cups are also made from petrochemicals. There’s the concern that these chemicals can leach into your drinks. Paper reusable coffee cup cups typically feel like the greener decision. On the other hand, most cannot be recycled, since they have a plastic lining. That being said, Starbucks just recently announced that they will be sending their cups to be recycled into napkins. Paper cups also contribute to deforestation. If the paper is bleached, you also need to be concerned about releasing carcinogenic dioxins. These cups also take 20 years or so to biodegrade.
What is your ideal selection then? Neither. Your very best option is to make use of a ceramic, glass, bamboo, or steel mug you already own and reuse. Most bamboo cups can’t be put into the dishwasher and must be cleaned by hand and hot water, so of those options, bamboo would be the best reusable cup to use. It may take far more energy to produce reusable cups, but you will be saving the landfills. You won’t have to worry that you will be drinking anything you didn’t plan on either. Your next choice should be paper. If you are able to locate them, use biodegradable ones. You can even find biodegradable bamboo cups too. Actually, if you’re a Starbucks junkie, you’ll be happy to know that they’re considering utilizing bamboo for their cups in the future. They can be composted after you are done with them! Foam should be your last option.
Who knew that the decision about what you should drink your morning coffee (or your tea!) in could be so difficult? Keep in mind though, it will be the little things we do that will help save this planet.