Disposable Cups versus Mug
One of my goals for the new year was to be a bit more cognizant of my impact on the planet. Just little things — for instance, the means of my daily transference of coffee from vessel to stomach.
We get free coffee at work, brewed from a large communal coffee pot. There’s a large supply of paper cups available. I usually drink 3-4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day, and occasionally 1-2 cups of decaf or tea in the late afternoon. I don’t think I’ve ever used more than five paper cups in a day; my daily average was probably about three.
This week I brought my own ceramic coffee mug to work and for the last two days I’ve been drinking coffee out of that, using zero disposable cups each day.
Before you all pat me on the back, I must confess that in order to wash that mug, I use hot water, a tiny dab of soap and dry the mug with at least a couple sheets of paper towels (no dishrags are available). What’s the environmental impact in that?
At first using a mug seemed like an environmental no-brainer. But now I’m not so sure. The paper cups are essentially sheets of paper themselves (though higher quality than paper towels). What resources (and how much of each) is used in the cups’ manufacture?
It seems that to come out ahead on the “paper” column of the environmental ledger, I should stop using paper towels and buy my own dishrag. But even then, how much energy goes into producing the dishrag? And washing it on a regular basis? At least the paper towels are likely mostly, if not all, recycled paper — a dishrag is cotton that must be farmed and some polyester which is likely petroleum-derived.
I’m sticking with the mug, but I’m going to keep thinking this one through. Thoughts?