You Can Drink Coffee Without Murdering The Planet, You Mugs

Walk into a café in Italy and ask for a take-away almond milk latte and they’ll think you’ve lost the plot.

Last week, driven by a sense that I might be destroying the planet via my disposable coffee cups, I purchased a re-usable coffee cup. It was cute and hot-pink and I was a little thrilled by the notion that I was doing my part to save the world and had also acquired a fashionable accoutrement (I do try to be less frivolous – but sometimes it gets the best of me!).

In the following days I used said re-usable coffee cup with extreme diligence - washing, drying and popping it in my ever-expanding handbag (one needs to carry so many things with them these days from metal straws, to keep cups, to carry-bags).

Cute, pink, socially conscious accoutrement. (Image: Getty Images)

In all honesty, I shouldn’t be glib about the need to cut down on waste. It’s imperative that we’re aware of the impact of our actions and try at very least to not trash the planet. In our small ways, we all make a difference.

So I was pleased as punch about my re-usable cup. Until I woke up one night with a startling thought. Why hadn’t I just used a mug from the kitchen? After all, there was a plethora of mugs in my kitchen. They crowded the shelves like beverage-hauntings, half of them (those towards the back) gathering dust. Let’s face it – it was only the front liners which usually made it off the shelf.

"Why hadn’t I just used a mug from the kitchen?" (Image: Getty Images)

Why hadn’t I shoved a mug in my handbag instead?

I listed off the reasons quickly – of which there were many (well, three to be exact):

  1. Baristas might need guidance of what a standard, regular and large serve was and re-usable coffee cups provided that certainty.
  2. My mugs were ceramic and hence more likely to meet their dastardly end jangling about alongside the other possessions in my bag like keys, wallet and oh … a dozen or so pens (origin unknown, and usually unused).
  3. I might look like a crazy person if I produced a mug from my bag and asked the barista to fill it up with my double-shot latte.

It occurred to me option three was the real reason I had purchased that re-usable coffee cup. I was saving the planet one re-usable coffee cup at a time, but bound by numerous unspoken ridiculous social paradigms.

The shame!

It made me think of the whole construct of take-away coffee drinking. Why did we walk around with those disposable cups anyway? When did we conclude we should drink a scalding beverage on the train, or while we were window shopping, or in-between meetings? It might seem like a perfectly normal, unquestionable thing, but walk into a café in Italy and ask for a take-away almond milk latte and they’ll think you’ve lost the plot.

"When did we conclude we should drink a scalding beverage on the train?" (Image: Getty Images)

Italians drink their coffee in the bar or restaurant. Usually standing up. It’s a very transactional process. Also, Italians think cappuccinos should only be drunk at breakfast, and if you ask for one after 11am, you’re clearly a foreigner, or a complete coffee dilettante. Post 11am one can only drink short blacks. Lord, if you dare ask for a cappuccino or a latte post a meal, they’ll bring out the straight-jacket along with your frothy beverage.

Yes, the take-away coffee thing is a socially acceptable western thang. Trapped in our cultural take-away coffee construct and killing the planet one styro at a time, we then added another layer of social norms to negate the former.

A man drinking a coffee in a cafe in Milan, Italy. (Image: Christian Vierig/Getty Images)

Enter the re-usable coffee cup.

Moral of the story – well, I’m not about to discard of my re-usable coffee cup. As mentioned, it’s cute and pink, a socially conscious accoutrement. Also, if it helps people refrain from using disposable cups then it’s doing its job … but if said cup disappears I’m just going to shove a mug in my bag.