Ever since publishing a piece highlighting the environmental challenges of our single-use coffee culture, I made a commitment to change my behavior in relation to the to-go cup. In the past I would attempt to circumnavigate half of my environmental guilt by choosing not to use a lid, or skirt the issue entirely by taking the time to sit and enjoy a cup in shop. These methods, however, are a safety hazard and inconvenience to the majority of folks who like to drink coffee on the go.
Armed with my favorite reusable mug and an unshakable curiosity, I made it my mission over the past month to fully understand what is required to cultivate the habit of reusing a coffee cup. I wanted to know: Why aren't we all bringing our own mugs? Why haven't I—a person who drinks a lot of coffee and professes to care about the planet—been making it a priority to reuse? And, could it be so darn hard?!
In the past 30 days of bringing my own coffee cup, these are the 3 most important things I have learned:
- BYOM everyday is not difficult, it just requires a bit of planning.
- Single-use is a habit. It's easier not to change. The easy choice isn't always the right choice.
- Drinking out of my own mug is infinitely more pleasant than sipping through a disposable plastic lid. Choosing to use my favorite cup can make good coffee taste better (see: flavor perception).
So, without further ado, here are 7 easy tips to help build your own reusable mug habit...
1. Find a reusable mug (or two!) that you really like
Finding a mug that you like the look of and enjoy drinking out of is hugely important as it's going to be with you everyday. It's also crucial that your reusable mug fits your lifestyle. I have two mugs that I love. One is made of glass with a silicone lid and the other is made of stainless steel, is insulated, and is great for traveling. Materials are important to me (I'm plastic averse) and although one of these cups is more durable than the other, they both have a nice shape, are easy to clean, hold the right volume, and fit nicely in my hand. In my experience, carrying a crappy to-go mug is a sure fire way to get discouraged by the task of reusing. Starting off a new BYOM habit with a vessel you are eager to use is key.
2. Make a Commitment to BYOM
Once you decide that bringing your own mug is something you want to do, be specific about your commitment. Think along the lines of: "I am going to bring my reusable mug with me on the weekdays." Or, "I am going to BYOM for a month". You are more likely to see results if you commit.
3. Understand Your Why
In other words, get clear on why is it important to you to implement the new habit in the first place. Are you making the change to lessen your environmental impact? Are you hoping to save some money on your daily cup? Do you care about trees? Do you want to put your money where your mouth is? Or are you simply curious about making a change? Understanding your motivation cements your commitment and makes following through on a BYOM habit way easier.
4. Give Yourself a Reminder
Rule out forgetting. I like to leave a sticky note on the back of my door that reminds me to bring my mug before I leave the house. You can set a digital reminder, put a note on the fridge, or do anything that ensures your reusable container makes it out the door with you.
5. Wash Your Reusable Mug ASAP
After you have finished your drink, wash your mug as soon as you can. If you don't have access to dish soap during the day, at least attempt to rinse out your reusable mug at your earliest convenience. No one wants to deal with a stinky mug. I've been on both sides of the bar when it comes to the dirty reusable cup transaction—baristas would rather not deal with the mess, and it's really embarrassing to be the person handing over a gross mug. Avoid grossness entirely and be prepared for the next cup by washing out your mug ASAP.
6. Have a Consequence
You are probably going to forget your mug at least once (or twice). Don't reward your mistake and fall back into the old habit of taking a single-use cup. Instead come up with a consequence that encourages you to change. Forgetting may mean you have to drink the office coffee, take extra time and use a for-here cup in the café, or worse, skip your daily coffee entirely.
7. Reward Yourself for BYOM
Certain cafes will offer a discount if you bring your own mug—make it a point to visit them. You could also buy yourself a treat after reaching a milestone, or just pat yourself on the back. Whatever the case, acknowledge your effort and celebrate how much money or how many trees you saved!
8. Repeat all steps with Your Reusable Water bottle, too!
OR simply choose a reusable coffee mug that can also be used as a water bottle.
BTW, If you are in the market for a new reusable mug but are overwhelmed by the options, send me a message and I'll be happy to point you in the direction of what I like and why.
"Waste is a failure of Imagination"- Unknown