One cup at a time ☕️

I love my morning coffee.

I LOVE it.

I don’t drink a lot of java these days but there’s something about the smell — and flavour — first thing in the morning that really perks me up. And the lines at my local roaster each day make it obvious many folks feel the same. Heck, a love of the green bean is so much a thing it even comes up in what seems like every other profile on OkCupid (but that’s another — sadder — story).


In fact standing in that line awaiting my morning fix while watching all those disposable cups flow past me out the door and ultimately on their way to the landfill, convinced me to take a page from teenage Robyn’s book and (once again) start using a reusable mug.

Think about it. Even in a small city like Halifax — where I live — hundreds of thousands of single-use coffee cups find their way to the landfill each year. According to Zero Waste Canada, over 14 billion (yes that’s a ‘b’) cups of coffee are consumed in Canada each year, at least 35% of which are taken to-go, mostly in single-use cups. And like cool, no problem, right? Nowadays most to-go cups are paper, not plastic or styrofoam, so they can be recycled and we can avoid feeling guilty about clogging the landfills with the consequences of our caffeine vice. Right?

Actually, not quite. In many cities and towns, those paper cups (that are usually lined with plastic or wax) and the black plastic lids that always seem to top them aren’t recyclable. Even in places where they are — like British Columbia — only the cups and lids that actually make it into the right bin find their way to another life. And when they get tossed incorrectly — which happens all the time — they can contaminate the rest of the material forcing the entire lot into the trash anyway.

Seeing all those single-use cups in my own hands and in others’ started making me anxious so about three years ago I started bringing my own mug or I’d forego my coffee. And I did — forgo my coffee quite a bit. The problem, for me, was I kept forgetting my mug! A lot of reusable mugs are big, bulky, and kind of a hassle to carry around. It’s not like they easily fit in a purse. Then one day I stumbled across the KeepCup, a glass and cork mug (they come in different sizes and coloured or clear plastic too) that seals tightly and takes up a lot less space. Since then I’ve had it with me nearly every day. It feels good to know my daily coffee habit no longer places undue, and easily avoidable, strain on the local waste management system or my local environment. In fact, it feels so great I’m looking for other ways to get that feeling. So help me out! What do you do day-to-day to lessen your impact on the earth?


Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based freelance writer, bartender, and editor of the Whole Family Happiness Project. She lives in Halifax, with her son and a penchant for really strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.

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