A Lot of Environmental Thoughtlessness Can Happen over Coffee

Cafe Coffee Day - environmental thoughtlessness

One of our guilty pleasures in India is the delicious vegan shake made by Café Coffee Day – even when we are not traveling with John, who eats based on principles of compassion which rule out dairy products. Iced espresso mixed with sweetened soy cream yields an irresistibly thick, frosty, dessert-drink.

Most Café Coffee Day franchises are inconsistent in the way they serve their vegan shakes: sometimes it comes in a glass, sometimes in a plastic cup, complete with plastic lid and plastic straw. There have been times when our group has ordered a number of vegan shakes in a single order, only to have some of the drinks arrive in glasses and some in plastic cups.

This matters to me.

Single-use plastics are an unnecessary environmental travesty in the best of circumstances; when glassware is readily available it is all-the-more unconscionable. So I was frustrated with myself today when I failed to specify that I wanted my vegan shake in a glass. Had I done so, I would have discovered that this particular Café Coffee Day served only in “disposable” cups, and I would have passed on the drink. But having drained one plastic-wrapped vegan shake, I was ready for another.

“I would like another vegan shake,” I said to the guy at the counter, “but only under one condition: if you use my old cup.” “But sir,” came the puzzled reply, “we will give you a new cup.” I explained that every plastic cup represents use of oil and energy to create, more energy to recycle (if this particular plastic is fortunate enough to have a second life), and ultimately non-biodegradable trash. He, and his three attentively eavesdropping coworkers, agreed that having a second drink in the original cup was a good idea, which doubled the usefulness of the resources that went into the making of the cup, if not exactly in those words.

So what happened next? The barista took my old cup but, before beginning to mix my drink, peeled a brand new plastic cup from the top of a stack and threw it into the nearby trash can.

What the hell!

“Sir, they count the number of cups that we use. So we can use your old cup to help the environment, but we still need to throw away another cup.”

With this kind of thinking – and corporate policy – it is possible the Indian economic miracle is much farther off than is commonly believed.

Cafe Coffee Day - environmental thoughtlessness

Advertisements

3 Responses to “A Lot of Environmental Thoughtlessness Can Happen over Coffee”


  1. 1 amurphyone 2 December 2007 at 3:01 pm

    In addition to being a complete luxury, gourmet coffee in to-go cups is a massive waste of natural resources. I like to think of coffee purchasing as an opportunity to become more “green”. Once someone agree that bringing their own cup to Cafe Coffee Day or Starbucks is better for the planet, it may inspire all sorts of other eco-friendly behaviour. These stores should educate their customers to the impact of disposables. They stand to still make money by offering customers logo branded re-usable cups. It ultimately comes down to us, the consumer, to demand that the companies we love make better use of the limited resources we have. Kudos to you for standing up for the planet and your children’s future by educating people about the impact of their behaviour, even if it’s just serving coffee.

    Aaron
    http://www.greenstarbucks.com

  2. 2 mbjesq 2 December 2007 at 9:32 pm

    Aaron:

    You have hit the very heart of the matter — whether we are talking about “greenness”, kindness, or any of the other morally challenging attitudes with which we struggle each day. Awareness is the biggest factor in the course our behavior will take; appreciation of small, non-grandiose steps is the second.

    In the grand scheme of things, it is all-too-easy (and, in a limited sense, all-too-accurate) to dismiss your gesture of bringing your own cup to fetch coffee as insignificant on the totality of the garbage problem. But it is immeasurably important.

    First, it serves as a conscious reminder to ourselves that we are part of a larger community and a larger world, and that our every action has consequences for others. Second, it is a reminder to others buying coffee that morning that they do not have to be sheepishly complicit in systems and patterns of behavior which give priority to commercial concerns over communitarian values.

    The lovely part of this latter aspect is that our small acts invariably have ripples far beyond our ability to observe them, know of them, or even comprehend them. Who can say how our actions will inspire or influence the actions of others and what great and beautiful things may come from that? Doing small, but morally significant things displays an abiding faith in the interconnectedness of our lives. This is a self-reflexive and ultimately self-fulfilling postulate.

    There is no substitute for “being the change we wish to see in the world.”

    Cheers,

    MBJ

  3. 3 smita 27 January 2008 at 7:18 am

    So silly! What they should have done is given you your second coffee free, then they wouldn’t have had to account for that extra glass!

    But this is one thing you can’t blame on the Indian mindset. The concept of disposable=clean/sanitary/hygienic is a purely western import. The Indian way would have been to rinse all the dirty cups in a bucket of murky water and reuse them (saving even on soap and clean water).

    It is in America where, when you go to a grocery store and intercept the bagger as he is about to put your single purchase into a plastic sack and say you don’t need a bag, you will see him crumple up the brand new, totally unused, uncreased plastic and throw it in the trash.

    For better or worse, it is visitors from abroad (including NRIs) and the newly affluent Indians inspired by the West who demand and drive the culture of disposability.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

.

Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

.

Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

.

America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

.

Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

.

Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

.

Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

.

India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

.

Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

Join the Banter!

At its most fun, memestream is a dialogue -- or, better, a cacophony -- rather than a library of overwrought essays reflecting a single point of view. For that, we need your two cents!

If you read anything on memestream that provokes an interesting thought, an emotion, a laugh, violent disagreement, passionate agreement, an anecdote, an uncontrollable non sequitur... be sure to leave a comment.

It will be no surprise to anyone who follows this blog that "all the best stuff" resides in the readers' comments. So don't stop reading when you hit the end of the essays. And add your voice to the discussion!

Enter your email address to follow memestream and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 51 other followers

Blog Stats

  • 365,088 hits

%d bloggers like this: