The ubiquitous disposable coffee cup

Disposable coffee cups are ubiquitous in Seattle. Seattleites may have the reputation of being tree-hugging, granola eating, sock with sandal types, but the reality is that reusable coffee cups are not the norm.

Last fall after using hundreds of cups, thousands of cups, millions and billions and trillions of cups, I finally decided to stop using disposable coffee cups. I plunked down $18 for a reusable commuter style cup, but I have a few regrets…

  • My cup includes branding that I’m not crazy about
  • It can’t go in the dishwasher
  • The inside never looks clean because of an incident with orange tea; the citric acid mucked up the finish.
  • It cost me $18   

My metal commuter coffee cup isn’t perfect, but I found something that is.

A glass jar.

Commuter coffee cups

I found a jar in my cupboard, so this coffee cup was of no cost to me. I can wash this cup in my dishwasher and put anything in it without worry. Branding? Ah yes, there is the Kerr branding, but I have my eye out for a plain narrow jar.

I didn’t dream up this idea, but was inspired by Colin Beavan of No Impact Man fame. Colin’s glass jar coffee cup turns heads in NYC. After dolling out numerous disposable cups each day, baristas often reward Colin’s ingenuity by giving him a free cup of coffee.

While I may not receive free coffee with my glass jar, my choice may inspire someone else to use a reusable cup. We can choose to use reusable cups, instead of adding 20 billion disposable coffee cups to our landfills each year. Individual choices do make a difference and our actions and inactions influence others.

Find a reusable coffee cup or buy one, and keep it in your car; ready for your next coffee shop visit.

To learn about the impact of disposable coffee cups check out this excellent post at Sustainability is Sexy: ‘The basic problem with coffee cups.’


Drink responsibly. Bring a coffee cup.


8 thoughts on “The ubiquitous disposable coffee cup

  1. my only beef with it (I use glass jars for EVERYTHING from drinking water out of to keeping food and household/knitting supplies in) is that it would be impossible to hold with hot coffee in it … no? Maybe I could knit a jar cozy … thus taking care of the “branding” issue but i must say i’d much rather walk around with “kerr” or “ball” (for a long time i called them bell jars, whoops!) or “mason” than (shudder) Starbucks. I do have a stainless steel cup from a local coffee shop that I paid similar money for but it doesn’t hold as much as I need it to and the dumb slidey-thing that reveals the drinking hole doesn’t stay in place. I’d like to use the jar .. just need a good solution for a hand protector. : )

    p.s. I hate disposable cups, too!! and i’m guilty as charged.

  2. Hi Kate,

    Glad you found the Sustainability Is Sexy site informative! Our mission is to educate coffee drinkers on the impact their coffee habits can have on the planet. We try to encourage reusable cup use too.

    Thanks for the good read!

    Sustainability Is Sexy

  3. I carry an expensive thermal mug; it has my local coffee place’s logo on it, but it is a local business so I’m not too worried about it. It’s capacity is a bit smaller than I’d like, though. Still, I too am among those who are concerned about handling the hot glass. I always wondered how Colin “handled” it, too.

    • I’m noticing today that I carry my glass jar coffee cup using the rim. The sides are warm, but not scorching hot. I’m not the scorching hot coffee drinker type, so perhaps this solution doesn’t work for everyone. Another important consideration is whether or not the cup fits in your car cup holder.

  4. Very different looking coffe cup than I am used to see. To understand better about what I am talking about, look at my blog telling Coffee cup museum in my country.

  5. I hate the flavour that disposable coffee cups gives to the coffee. I won’t go into a coffee bar that serves coffee in them particularly when, on producing my own cup, asked them to put the coffee in that, they refused!! One lost customer!

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