A Cup Conundrum

We all know that disposable cups for coffee are bad, right?

Maybe. Turns out, your morning cup of joe is a lot more complicated, environmentally, than just choosing a ceramic mug over Styrofoam. (And that’s not even taking into account the sustainability of what’s in the cup.) In this week’s Green Lantern, Slate’s column on the environment, Jacob Leibenluft considers the impact of the coffee cup.

On the one hand, Styrofoam is made of highly processed petroleum that can’t easily be recycled (and, of course, it makes your coffee taste nasty). But things get trickier when you factor in the burden of manufacturing and delivering a mug (the article notes that it takes about 70 times as much energy to produce a mug than a paper cup). And when you add to that the daily water use in washing a ceramic mug (don’t forget to use cold water, kids), according to the article, “you could easily be talking hundreds of cups of coffee before your mug makes more sense than a daily dose of polystyrene.”

Still, for most of us everyday-coffee-drinking kind of folks, we will probably be downing hundreds of cups of coffee in a year. Considering the environmental impact of our morning beverage of choice, maybe we should be drinking it out of a special cup.