What’s in your cup? The Environmental Impact of America’s Favorite Coffee

By, Sammy Caiola

Native Foods Cafe

Coffee addicts
will do just about anything for a cup of Joe, be it waiting on a sluggish Starbucks
line or spending $6 a day on a gourmet brew. Nothing stands between them and
their fix- not even the environment which, as it turns out, takes a tremendous
hit from every soggy coffee cup that a commuter throws in the trash.

About 83% of
the United States drinks coffee, making us the largest coffee consumer in the
world, according to the National Coffee Association’s 2013 survey.  The
Environment Action Association estimates that Americans
drink 400 million coffee cups per day, resulting in 146 billion cups disposed
of every year, 25 billion of which are styrofoam.

And yet,
America’s second largest coffee shop still sells hot liquid exclusively in
styrofoam cups. That’s right folks- Dunkin Donuts. See below for a breakdown of
how Dunky D’s and first place holder Starbucks compare in terms of
environmental impact, both to each other and to Native Foods Cafe, which goes
above and beyond to make sure its to-go coffee is as green as possible. Too bad
we can’t say the same for everyone else.

 

Coffee1

Native Foods
Café uses this photo courtesy of sudhasrinath.blogspot.com.

Dunkin Donuts

Founded back in the 1950’s, Dunkin Donuts has
become the working man’s coffee shop. You won’t find free wi-fi and soy milk in
this joint, just simple coffee served in- you guessed it- Styrofoam cups. And
that’s because most of Dunkin’s clientele isn’t looking
for a cup that will save the world, just something that will keep their
caffeine warm en route to work. Dunkin knows this, and thus has made almost no
effort to find an alternative to Styrofoam, which is 0% biodegradable and a
huge contributor to land fills. When they have tested more eco-friendly cups,
they’ve received negative consumer reviews and a drop in sales. 

Coffee2

Native Foods Café uses this image courtesy of
change.org.

 

Only this summer, when the town of Brookline,
Massachusetts passed a ban on all Styrofoam packaging in food service
establishments, did the company introduce a
double-walled paper cup. But the move is arbitrary and made only to please
politics. The new cup isn’t even getting recycled because the town’s recycling
facility cannot break down the lining. Instead, the cups will be burned and
release toxic fumes into the ozone. Dunkin authorities say they have no
intention of implementing the paper cup at any of the other 10,000+ locations. America
runs on Styrofoam? I’ll pass.

Starbucks

Starbucks
stormed the coffee scene in 1971 and has maintained an impenetrable monopoly
ever since. It’s unofficial slogan, “one on every corner” is no joke—there are
more than 20,000 Starbucks worldwide and 13,000 in the United States. But
despite its green logo and its trendy urbanite branding, the Seattle-based
company is not as green as it wants you to believe. Only 10% of its “eco friendly” cup is made of
recycled paper. Last year, they made a bold move in switching from PET cold cups to polypropylene cold cups, which use significantly
less plastic and reduce greenhouse gas emissions during manufacturing by 45
percent. Still, when you consider the environmental shipping costs to their
7,000 global locations, it hardly seems to balance out.

Coffee3

Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy of inhabitat.com

 

Starbucks gets an A for effort. But considering their corporate
climate and their need to satisfy the masses, an eco overhaul seems unlikely.
If you’re stuck on Starbucks and can’t shake the habit, opt for their $1
reusable coffee cup. It pays itself off in ten drinks and if you use it daily
for a month you’ll avoid using more than a pound of paper. Get on top of the
trend- go green! 

Native Foods Café

I’ll admit some
bias here. But truthfully, our cup is the best. We serve our deliciously steamy
chai tea and organic coffees in hot cups made by EarthChoice, a leader in the
green food packaging industry. They contain less plastic and are manufactured
with less fossil fuel and processed without chlorine. It is certified 100%
compostable. Everything we serves comes from the earth, so why not put it right
back in?

 
Coffee4

Native Foods
Café uses this photo courtesy of pjpmarketplace.com

The hot cup’s
lining and the cold cups’ straws are made from PLA (polylactic acid) a
renewable, natural plastic derived solely from plants. The lid is made of a
blend of talc, a naturally occurring mineral, and polypropylene, which reduced
plastic use by about 40 percent. Earthchoice packaging is manufactured and
shipped within the United States. Earthchoice is the right choice, and so is
Native. So come on by and grab a chai tea with my favorite dessert, the carrot
cupcake!

Coffee5

Native Foods
Café uses this photo courtesy of yelp.com.

 

 


 


 

2 thoughts on “What’s in your cup? The Environmental Impact of America’s Favorite Coffee

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