This is one of my favourite scenes in the 90s classic, Reality Bites. Troy (played by Eathan Hawke) and Lelaina (played by Winona Ryder) are walking aimlessly through the street, smoking cigarettes (it was the 90s) and talking about life—giant takeout cups of coffee in hand.
No other culture in the world seems to enjoy large volumes of coffee on the go like we do in North America. Whether we’re rushing to work, heading to the gym or strolling through the shops, there’s always time to grab a Vente or large Double Double.
According to Zero Waste Canada, 14 billion cups of coffee are consumed in Canada every year, and 35% of coffee is consumed “to go”.
But what is the consequence to our coffee behaviour? The City of Toronto doesn’t currently have a program to recycle these disposable cups in the blue bins leaving thousands of single use cups destined for the landfill. The UN University reminds us, “it is easy to imagine the environmental consequence of this decision — billions of cups, millions of trees and tons of greenhouse gases (estimates vary) every year,” but it’s not too late to change the way we think.
And other cultures seem to do it differently—others seem to be able to take an extra few minutes to enjoy their fresh brew from a proper (and significantly smaller) glass or ceramic cup. Italians always seemed to have time for their morning cappuccino, and in Turkey, afternoon coffee is always served with a piece of Turkish Delight (yes, that’s a thing).
So, what’s the lesson here? Can we change our behaviour? Do we encourage each other to buy and bring our reusable mugs, or do we just slow down and learn to take a coffee break?