We’ve all read or heard of these studies that say that when you account for the much higher energy of manufacture and of washing a reusable cup, you might as well as use a disposable cup. You would have to use a hell of a lot of disposable cups, such studies say, before you equal the energy use of the reusable cup.
Conclusion? Do nothing. Go back to sleep. Fill up the corner trash can with as many plastic cups as you can muster.
What the studies don’t say is that if a restaurant or café already has a ceramic cup, then the ecological cost of sitting down to drink from the reusable cup is zero. Once the cup is already sitting there, collecting dust, there is no energy of manufacture. It costs nothing—or almost nothing—to use the already extant reusable cup, while 15 minutes later the disposable gets trashed, taking up landfill space and needing to be replaced.
Meanwhile, using the ultra-cool reusable cup—a pre-used jar
with a handy lid—actually has a positive (rather than only neutral)
environmental impact. By taking a jar out of the trash or recycling stream, it
doesn’t need to be shipped or processed. By using cold water to rinse it (and
only when really needed), it saves the energy of washing.
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