“You walk into your local coffee shop, hand the barista your reusable coffee mug, and pat yourself on the back for not using one of those ‘bad for the environment’ single-use cups.”

That launches a neat, short piece in a magazine, Anthropocene. The magazine describes itself: “Anthropocene elevates conversations about sustainability and climate science from alarm and outrage to more productive, universally engaging discussions about smart, practical paths to the future we all want.”

Like that! I also like its article about disposable coffee cups: Reusable or Disposable – Which coffee cup has a smaller footprint? 

The article reports a … “study compared the potential environmental impacts of a 16-ounce, single-use coffee cup made of a mix of cardboard and polyethylene (with a lid made of polystyrene) to those of a 16-ounce, reusable ceramic cup and to those of a variety of 16-ounce travelers’ mugs…”

Not so easy a task, though. The report says, “It would take between 20 and 100 uses for a reusable cup to make up for the greenhouse gas emissions of a single-use cup. For ecosystem quality indicators, it could take more than 1,000 uses. But here’s the bitter part. Washing the reusable mugs with hot water and soap puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to ecosystem-quality indicators.”


“One of the biggest contributors for environmental impact, when it came to reusable cups, was having to wash them,” reported a lifestyle mag. “Dishwashing, through water use, detergent, energy and wastewater processing, makes up 90 per cent of the life cycle emissions of a reusable cup. You are best to give your mug a quick rinse in cold water after you finish your drink as hot water and soap make up a significant percentage of its lifetime environmental impact.”

As they say in TV infomercials, but wait, there’s more!

Stanford wrote: “In terms of environmental impact, however, your drink of choice can be just as important as your choice of cup. More than 50 percent of American adults drink coffee daily, amounting to nearly 150 billion cups of coffee every year. From production, to preparation to disposal, drip filter coffee can produce the equivalent of 150 grams of carbon dioxide per cup consumed. That means that American consumption of coffee is responsible for the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as nearly 4 million passenger cars each year. Conventional coffee is also very energy intensive and uses huge amounts of water. In fact, a single cup of drip filter coffee requires nearly 20 times the amount of water used to make the ceramic mug you drink it in.”

As a devoted coffee drinker myself, I want to save energy whenever I can. I started this as an “isn’t this interesting column,” but but it didn’t completely turn out that way. A really good cup of coffee is one the few real enjoyments left during the pandemic.

So, I am so sorry. Factual, but a buzzkill in the most literal sense. I didn’t know beans about coffee.