Waste Not

attempting to waste less and live more deliberately

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?



Waiting in line, I people watch! How wonderful to see people sitting together and enjoying their coffee, completely enveloped in their conversations. I also spot a number of laptop users typing away while sipping on their beverage of choice.  The coffee shop is packed with life and it’s a lovely sight to see.


Sadly I cannot stay, my coffee and I must head back to work for another few hours of computer staring. But no worries, I brought my trusty and very cute ceramic mug…but wait…something seems odd now. I realize, everyone enjoying their coffee for here has a to go cup! What in the world is going on?  It’s as if I am stuck in some strange coffee shop limbo.


Not one single person is using a mug and I know the shop has a stash of lovely ceramic “for here” mugs.


I am next in line; enough time for me to get upset about this needless waste and enough time for me to work up the courage to ask the cashier about it!

I order my drink and say “There are a lot of people enjoying their coffee for here in to go cups, do they know you have for here mugs just behind the counter?”

She replies “A lot of people get their drinks in a to go cup so they have the option of leaving if they want.”

Ok, I get this.

However, as I wait for my pour over I see that the cashier isn’t even asking people if they would like a ceramic mug.  So while I understand that a number of people given the option would still choose a paper cup (lined with plastic mind you), I can’t help but wonder how many people might opt for the mug, eliminating needless waste from our already overflowing landfills.


The next day is the same. While I am waiting for my coffee I notice the barista is the manager. I take opportunity to engage. I am told that the mugs were moved to the espresso machine to make them more visible to encourage costumers to ask for them. I suggested that a verbal cue from the cashier might also encourage the mug use. It was a lovely and productive exchange.

You can do the same!

Action Item

  1. Be the change!  Ask for a mug if you plan on staying. If you plan on going, don’t forget your reusable!
  2. Ask the cashier if they notice how many “for here” people are using “to go” mugs. Politely remind them that a very large amount of waste could be avoided if they simply asked people if they would like a ceramic mug or a paper/plastic to go cup.
  3. Engage the manager. Discuss the possibility that the cashiers remind every customer to reduce waste by simply asking “would you like your beverage in a mug for here or a cup to go?”


Nervous about speaking up? Perhaps this math will give you the push you need…

Say there are 10 people who frequent that coffee shop a day that opt for throw away cups that could and would use for here mugs given the option…

10 mugs x 7 days a week = 70

70 mugs x 52 weeks a year = 3,640

If just those 10 people use mugs rather than throw away cups we could eliminate 3,640 landfill-bound cups a year…from one store!

It gets scarier…

There are roughly 11,000 locations of this very popular coffee shop.

This means if all the locations encourage just 10 people a day to use for here mugs, we could reduce our landfill waste by 40,040,000 cups a year!!!

It should be noted that these coffee cups are practically impossible to recycle due to their polyethylene lining.

Image Doesn’t this look much more inviting?

“We’ve increased our focus on shaping behaviors as a way to lower cup use. For example, this year we’re working to redesign stores to make ceramic wear more visible to customers, by positioning it in sight, right behind the baristas. Customers who want to enjoy their drink in the store will be reminded that they can do so in a ceramic mug that we wash and re-use. This is something that’s widely available today, but opted for less often than we’d like.” –Jim Hanna, Director of Environmental Impact

While I did see that the mugs were more visible, unfortunately, this particular store failed to remind customers that they can enjoy their drink in a ceramic mug. Have you  noticed the same thing at your coffee shop?  Let us remind the cashiers, baristas, and managers that they have the power to reduce a whole lot of needless waste!!!

Curious about what coffee shop I am talking about?  Click HERE to find out! I admire their commitment to “recycling, reuse, and reinvention”. However, one very important “R” is missing, REDUCE!

♥ ali


5 thoughts on “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

  1. Be the Change, Ali! 😉

  2. You are so right, I probably have 4 or 5 travel mugs I could be using, I think there is even 10 cents off for using your own mug! I rarely go for coffee with the intent to actually sit and enjoy my beverage and the ambiance but if/when I do, I’ll remember your blog and go ceramic!

  3. Update:
    With a copy of the linked to article in hand (highlighted this portion: “Customers who want to enjoy their drink in the store will be reminded that they can do so in a ceramic mug that we wash and re-use. ” –Jim Hanna, Director of Environmental Impact of Starbucks), I went to the Starbucks I am referring to in this post. I attached a pleasant note and reminded them that because Starbucks is a global corporation, they are in a unique position to encourage waste reduction habits on a grand scale!

    The manager seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. Hopefully they give it some thought and implement a waste reduction plan through the simple question “would you like that in a ceramic for here mug, or a paper/plastic to go cup?”

    The article is linked on this post, so I encourage you to print it off, attach a pleasant note, and encourage your local coffee shop to do their part in waste reduction!

  4. Starbucks has a vote for or leave an idea: I left this today – if you are a Starbucks member – login and vote like for this idea – INSPIRED by Ali:

    The Idea I suggested:
    Remind instore guests there are ceramic cups they can use – cuts back on waste and provide a great experience of an old fashioned coffeehouse.

    With all the waste in the world, why aren’t you offering the cermanic mugs to EVERY customer – Do you want a “for here” or “to go” mug? I understand many are on the go, but at every Starbucks I visit (I have 5 or 6 I frequent), there are many sitting, enjoying their time to relax, using paper cups, then throwing them out. Why not enhance their experience, by offering EVERY time the customer the chance to be “green” and use a ceramic mug.


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