Many of us believe that grabbing the odd disposable cup here and there isn't making its mark on our planet - But think again! In actual fact, you'll be making an incredibly positive impact by simply switching to reusable drinkware.
According to a 2021 study, the daily coffee intake of the average American is around 3 cups - that comes out to a whopping 400 million cups of coffee consumed everyday by the United States alone.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that a great majority of these drinks are served in single-use cups that ultimately wind up in the oceans, landfills, and otherwise polluting our beautiful planet.
So, how can we alleviate our environmental impact without giving up our much beloved coffee? One of the most effective ways to cut down our carbon footprint while still enjoying our favorite caffeinated beverage is by replacing single-use cups with reusable ones.
THE IMPACT OF SINGLE-USE CUPS
While the answer to the dilemma might appear quite simple on the surface, the reasoning and science behind it all - not so much.
To fully understand just how much incorporating a reusable cup into your daily life helps the environment, we must examine the environmental impact of disposable cups, as well as how we determine this measure.
DETERMINING ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
When determining the environmental impact of each type of cup, there are three main aspects of the lifecycle which must be factored in: Manufacturing, application, and waste. Let’s dive into the nitty gritty of each stage of the process:
Yearly, paper cups account for the cutting down of 6.5 million trees, as well as using 4 billion gallons of water. Additionally, the production uses a staggering amount of energy - enough to power 54,000 homes for an entire year.
While the production process of one disposable cup objectively uses less energy and resources than producing one reusable cup, this statistic does not take into account the volume of production for disposable cups compared to that of many reusable cups. Obviously, the idea of a reusable coffee cup is to refill it indefinitely so that little to no disposable coffee cups need to be used.
The most prominent key indicator of application is the energy cost of washing your reusable cup, accounting for up to 90 per cent of the life cycle emissions of a reusable cup. Of course, there are different methods to wash cups, with some proving more eco-friendly than others. In general, hand washing tends to be more energy efficient than machine washing using a dishwasher. Furthermore, washing with cold water is more energy efficient than using hot water.
Again, it’s all about perspective and which statistics you focus on. Of course, washing a reusable cup will use more hot water and heat energy than not washing at all with a disposable cup. However, the sheer amount of disposable cups that need to be produced to facilitate the same function as a reusable cup makes for a much steeper energy cost.
Here’s where the real kicker lies: In the US, we throw away more than 50 billion coffee cups every year. That's nearly 140 million cups that end up in our landfills and water masses every day. The disposal cost alone of single use cups significantly negates any difference in manufacturing or application cost, rendering reusable alternatives the more energy efficient option.
But aren’t they recyclable? Actually, not really. Currently, only about 1% of disposable cups are recycled. The reason is that the common paper cup we’ve become familiar with does not consist of just paper after all - the interior is laminated with a plastic lining to make the cup waterproof. This plastic lining must then be separated from the paper to be recycled, making the process much more difficult and costly. Most recycling centers are not equipped to recycle coffee cups.
WHAT DO PAPER CUPS DO TO THE ENVIRONMENT?
Every year, producing paper coffee cups account for the cutting down of 6.5 million trees, as well as using 4 billion gallons of water, and enough energy to power 54,000 homes for a year. This renders a massive environmental impact in the form of deforestation.
Meanwhile, the single use nature of the paper cup and its cardboard counterparts simultaneously creates a massive amount of trash, polluting our land and water alike.
WHAT DO PLASTIC CUPS DO TO THE ENVIRONMENT?
While a variety of different types of plastic cups exist, they all take a considerable amount of energy and resources to produce, and the aftermath of the disposal of them creates an even larger environmental burden.
According to WWF-Australia, plastic cups on average take 450 years to decompose - that’s almost half a millennium all that plastic remains polluting our planet.
WHY SHOULD YOU USE A REUSABLE CUP?
7. REDUCES WASTE FROM PLASTIC AND PAPER CUPS
As we’ve determined above, the sheer amount of waste produced from plastic and paper cups is overwhelming.
Every time you pour yourself a steaming cup of hot coffee or tea to drink in your reusable cup, you save at least one single use cup from hitting the landfill or ocean. Furthermore, you don’t even have to give up frequenting your favorite coffee shops to use a stylish travel mug.
6. SWITCHING TO REUSABLE COFFEE CUPS INSPIRES OTHERS TO FOLLOW SUIT
One of the most rewarding things you can do is serve as a good role model for others, acting intentionally with the sustainability of our planet’s natural resources and raw materials in mind.
Inspiring others to do the same by simply making conscious choices like ditching the single use cup is one of the easiest ways you can start helping preserve our environment.
5. REUSABLE CUPS ARE EASY TO IDENTIFY
Never mix up your order at the coffee shops with someone else’s again, and save money while you’re at it!
Major coffee shops like Starbucks encourage the use of reusable coffee cups by offering a discount when you bring your own cup instead of their standard paper single use coffee cup or ceramic mug. Luckily, you don’t even have to give up frequenting your favorite coffee shops to use a stylish travel mug!
4. REDUCES DAMAGE TO AQUATIC LIFE
Plastic disposable cups and plastic lids contribute to the killing of 100,000 sea mammals, turtles and fish every year. In addition to hindering the wildlife, polluting their natural environment and disturbing their ecosystem, plastic emits all kinds of harmful chemicals like BPA.
Every time you use your reusable coffee cup, you save one plastic cup from potentially ending up in the bottom of the ocean.
3. LESS DAMAGE TO FLYING WILDLIFE
The damage doesn’t stop at the water's surface, however. In addition to the sea animals casualty count, plastic cups and lids wreak havoc in the skies with the devastating killing of 1 million sea birds yearly.
The occasional stray plastic cup might seem relatively harmless at first, but they injure and kill flying wildlife every day in the form of digestive blockage, internal and external injuries, plumage disruption and habitat loss.
2. LESS CHEMICALS FROM MANUFACTURING PLANTS
Reusable cups cut down on the overproduction of some of the different plastics used to make single-use drinkware. These include polypropylene, polystyrene (Styrofoam), polyethylene (PET), its recycled materials equivalent rPET, etc.
Furthermore, these common plastics contain the hazardous chemical BPA, a chemical which has been linked to all kinds of health issues.
Studies are still underway to explore the depth of BPA's risks, but initial findings report reproductive, immunity, and neurological problems, plus an increased risk of Alzheimer's, asthma, metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
1. SAVES SANITARY RESOURCES
When consumers cut disposable cups out of their life in favor of reusable alternatives, this choice triggers a domino-effect of positive changes in terms of sustainability. Reducing the amount of trash not only saves it from becoming pollution, but also saves sanitary resources including garbage collection, industrial/hazardous waste management, and wastewater treatment and disposal.
THE BEST REUSABLE CUPS
So you’ve decided to take the environmentally sustainable step of investing in your very own reusable coffee cup and ditching the single use coffee cup for good... Kudos to you for making the leap, and choosing to drink and enjoy your hot beverages with the health of our environment in mind!
With all of the different types and styles of reusable containers touted for hot drinks, from a reusable coffee mug to a reusable bottle, how do you choose?
As it turns out, the type of reusable coffee cup you buy actually matters. Studies have determined that the most sustainable travel mugs are those made of stainless steel, having a lower negative environmental impact than their plastic and ceramic cup counterparts.
Here at Greens Steel, we've made it our mission to help the environment with every cup, tumbler and coffee mug we make. And our pursuit of excellence in earth-friendliness has also resulted in the best quality drinkware you can buy!
Take a glance at our range of premium-quality, environmentally conscious offerings below:
REUSABLE COFFEE CUP
The Steel Reusable Coffee Cup is perfect for all kinds of drinks, keeping your hot coffee (or tea!) hot so they can taste their best for hours to come.
This reusable coffee mug comes with a handy carrying lid so you can bring it on the go to your favorite cafe, or save money by bringing your own hot coffee to the office or wherever you need to go.
GREENS STEEL REUSABLE COFFEE MUG
STAINLESS STEEL BEAST TUMBLER
The best-selling BEAST Tumbler by Steel is the ultimate travel mug and perfect companion for your daily commute and long adventures on the road.
Made from only the highest quality materials and coming complete with a splash-proof lid and two reusable straws, this tumbler is amazingly versatile, perfect for hot liquids and food alike.
Unlike others on the market, all our tumblers, lids and straws are completely dishwasher safe, making them a breeze to wash and keep reusing for all of your favorite drinks.
ARE REUSABLE CUPS ECO FRIENDLY?
The evidence for the case of the reusable cup, particularly made from steel, over the disposable cup is overwhelming when it comes to being environmentally friendly.
Even recyclable cups don't all end up being recycled as a result of circumstances out of our control, while ceramic and other types of mugs prove to be quite energy intensive. Ultimately, the steel reusable mug is the most responsible solution to satisfy our habit to drink coffee and other beverages.
As consumers, we have the ability to make sustainable choices and cut down on disposable accumulation, opting for reusable solutions instead.
By equipping your lifestyle with environmentally friendly solutions like Greens Steel’s line of top-quality steel mugs drinkware, you can drink and enjoy your favorite bevs with the peace of mind of knowing you’re making the responsible choice.