Monday, August 4, 2008

Exactly *How* Not Disposable, Hmmm?

After a year of going greener, I'm wrestling with an unexpected issue:  exactly how long-lasting are my reusable purchases?

In the past week, I've discovered that the handle of my Method o-mop is about to snap.  After a solid year of using it to clean virtually every floor in my 1700-square foot townhouse, I'm not shocked, but I do think it is too soon - after all, the omop is not recyclable.  So while I'm not overly fussed about springing for another $20 mop, I am concerned that I'll be putting one in the trash every year.  That just can't be.

As it turns out, the Method website notes that other users have reported a similar problem, and invited me to "call or email for resolution."  We'll do that, and report back.  After all, I believe the company is sincere in making greener products and keeping me loyal.

I'm less convinced of mega-coffee chain Starbuck's commitment to Mother Earth.  While I don't find the chain as inherently evil as some, it's hard to overlook the 2.3 billion paper coffee cups we're landfilling every year.

But when faced with abandoning my chai latte addiction or greening up my act, there was a simple solution:  I dropped $10 on a refillable to-go cup.  Since I got my first drink free, that drops the purchase price to about $7; factor in the dime-off per use, and in a mere 70 refills, I'll have broken even.

Only problem?  I've used it only about 60 times and the rubber ring in the lid is coming loose.  I was able to push it back in place with a toothpick, but will the seal hold long enough for me to break even?  More importantly, will the seal hold long enough for me to feel that I've justified the purchase and use of a bigger, plastic, probably-not-recyclable (though it has a #7 on the base) item?

My friendly barista today mentioned that they're encouraging customers to use their in-house ceramic mugs and shared my concerns about the sustainability of all those paper cups marching out the door, hour after hour.  I was delighted to hear his comments, but reluctant to leave my personal cup at home.  After all, they remember to serve my pastry on a plate instead of a bag only about half the time; I suspect the rate for cups versus mugs would be no better.  What's more, I've really come to enjoy my confidence that no one else is taking my drink - a chronic problem on busy mornings.

I don't expect my coffee cup to last forever.  But I figured it would be good for two or three years, even considering the harsh use it gets traveling in my bag with a laptop, or tucked underneath the jogging stroller.

But this is the tricky math of green:  is my refillable cup merely a feel-good status symbol, or have I actually done lasting good?  I'm inclined to believe that there's some positive impact, but surely there's more good done if my reusable items are around for a while.

1 comment:

Sarabeth said...

Found your blog while searching for how happy people are with the omop, and then read the bit about Starbucks. I have two good friends with those same cups and they have had the same problems; their solution has been to buy the more expensive starbucks travel mug (it's a specific kind which I can't remember at this moment; helpful, I know) - apparently the lid is better and you don't have that same problem.

It is discouraging to buy something you think is helping the problem and then end up with more ick plastic, isn't it?