An Eco-Friendly Coffee & Tea Routine

No matter what your A.M. drink of choice is, if it’s served in a single-use cup it’s time for a routine-overhaul. Years ago I was definitely guilty as charged, purchasing a hot or iced coffee pretty much every day. OK, so what’s the big deal, 365 cups (and lots of straws) go into a landfill somewhere far, far away. But when there’s millions of other people doing the exact same thing, it’s hard to even imagine what that pile of cups & straws would look like. Let me tell you, it’s freakin’ enormous.

For the past few years I’ve transitioned to making my own coffee every morning and transporting it using reusable vessels. Not only can I control the quality and strength of my coffee (fair-trade, organic, extra-strong), but I’m eliminating hundreds of cups from that elusive pile each year. And even if you still plan to get your coffee or matcha from your go-to coffee joint instead of preparing it yourself, you can still make the switch to sustainable cup and straw choices. Simply ask your barista to fill up your reusable mug instead of a disposable cup. Easy enough!

Interested? There are tons of options out there for reusable to-go cups for coffee and tea. The number of options is overwhelming, and that’s why I’m giving you my top picks.

Option 1: Wide Mouth Glass Mason Jars (16 oz)

This is my go-to coffee cup of choice. If you follow my Instagram stories, you see my coconut milk/coffee combo swirling around one of these glass jars frequently. I drink half my coffee while milling around the house in the morning and then screw on the spill-proof lid before throwing it in my bag and heading out the door. I use the lids that come with the mason jars but if you like to sip on the go, they sell lids for just that purpose.

Highlights: inexpensive, dishwasher safe, microwave safe (jar only), bpa-free, plastic-free, spill-proof lid included, other lid options sold separately, other accessories sold separately, wide mouth for easy sipping, tastes/flavors won’t transfer after washing

Lowlights: included lids will begin to rust with time (but are easily replaceable), glass jar is not insulated, not ideal for sipping while walking/moving (unless you purchase a sipping lid, sold separately)

[shop wide mouth mason jars on Amazon4 pack or 8 pack]
[shop mason jar accessories on Amazon – metal straws, silicone lid/straw combo, silicone sleeves, sipping/splash-proof lids and airtight lids]

Option 2: S’well Stainless Steel Travel Mug

S’well is my reusable water bottle of choice and their traveler-style option is perfect for coffee and tea. These bottles are stainless steel, insulated and have a wide mouth for easy sipping. Screw on the top and this bottle is air-tight and spill-proof. These bottles come in a variety of colors and patterns. Another bonus, S’well is known for giving back to the community, particularly in the fight to provide everyone with easy access to clean water.

Highlights: bpa-free, insulated for heat/cold retention, spill-proof lid included, wide mouth for easy sipping, stainless steel interior, tastes/flavors won’t transfer after washing, stand-up company with solid values, variety of patterns/colors/styles

Lowlights: not dishwasher safe, not microwave safe, only one lid option, more expensive, not ideal for sipping while walking/moving

[shop S’WELL bottles on Amazon here]

Option 3: Hydro Flask 12oz Travel Coffee Mug

I recently purchased this mug as a gift and the recipient confirmed that he loves it. He noted that it keeps coffee hot (but not scalding/undrinkable) and because it’s not made for throwing into a bag, he actually remembers to drink it. This option is perfect for coffee-drinkers who don’t need an air tight seal. The top is splash proof, with a small drinking hole, similar to the standard disposable lid from a coffee shop. The smooth outer coating on Hydro Flask products feels luxurious and the handle makes it similar to your standard ceramic coffee mug. Hydro Flask cups, mugs and tumblers come in a variety of colors and sizes. Yeti brand makes a similar mug that’s also worth a look.

Highlights: bpa-free, insulated for heat/cold retention, splash-proof lid included, great for sipping while walking/moving, stainless steel interior, tastes/flavors won’t transfer after washing, variety of patterns/colors/styles

Lowlights: not dishwasher safe, not microwave safe, more expensive, not spill proof

[shop Hydro Flask options on Amazon here]
[shop Yeti insulated mugs on Amazon here]

Bonus Option:

Wheat Fiber/Wheat Straw Plastic Cups

Never heard of wheat fiber? I’m not surprised. But plant fibers (like wheat and bamboo) are becoming a popular choice for disposable food containers as they are biodegradable and made from residual plant fibers that would otherwise be discarded. If you’ve gotten takeout and it’s served in a brown, semi-sturdy, papery container, this is likely the plant-fiber version of traditional disposable food containers.

When you mix these plant fibers with traditional petroleum-based plastics, you get a material that looks and feels like plastic, but is partially made from these leftover plant fibers. I did a fair amount of research, and there’s very little comprehensible information when it comes to plant fiber plastics and whether the “eco-friendly” claim is totally accurate. Until I can get some better information, I’m inclined to say that this plastic is better than traditional plastics, but not perfect since it still utilizes petroleum-based plastics mixed with the plant-fibers.

I went ahead and purchased this wheat fiber plastic coffee cup from Whole Foods (it was under $5), and I really love it. It looks exactly like a light-weight disposable cup you’d get from your coffee shop, but can be washed in the dishwasher (top rack) and reused. I notice a subtle flavor in my coffee when drinking from this cup, but it’s nothing that bothers me too much.

This type of cup is much harder to find then my other top picks, but I see them at every Whole Foods I’ve visited recently (both in New York and my hometown, St. Louis, Missouri). I’m eager to learn more about plant-fiber vessels and I’ll update this post as I learn more. If you have any further information or insight, let me know!

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