The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates each of us produces 4.5 pounds of trash daily.
Collectively, that means the Springfield metropolitan statistical area makes 2.1 million pounds of trash every single day. That’s equivalent to two, full Boeing 747 jumbo jets. Wow.
That’s enough motivation for me to change my behavior. Think about it. A lot of the waste you and I produce every day is avoidable. It just takes a change in habits and a shift of priorities.
I recently joined a couple hundred people locally in a movement to reduce waste at coffee shops. The Coffee Ethic LLC and MaMa Jean’s Natural Foods Market LLC partnered on what they called a cup swap initiative. Customers can purchase a HuskeeCup, a 12-ounce reusable travel mug, at either business and use it in place of the shops’ single-use cups. HuskeeCups sold for $15 in the first months of the promotion and now cost $20 apiece. The beauty of the program is that you don’t even have to wash the cup between each visit. (I give mine a quick rinse and just leave it in my car for easy access.) Customers can bring a used HuskeeCup to The Coffee Ethic or MaMa Jean’s and they’ll take care of washing the cups and cycling them through participating customers. You get a new-to-you cup at each visit.
To encourage participation, the retailers also offer a discount for using any reusable cups – 25 cents off per drink order at The Coffee Ethic and 30 cents off at MaMa Jean’s.
So far, 220 of these cups have sold through the local program, according to the retailers. At The Coffee Ethic alone, owner Michelle Billionis said since launching the program in late November, she’s calculated 1,371 reusable cup discounts. She said HuskeeCup represented the bulk of those visits, and the rest were customers bringing their own travel mugs. That saved about 18 cups from heading to a landfill daily. At MaMa Jean’s stores, spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson said 864 cup discounts have been tallied over the past year.
This is a grassroots initiative, but there is big opportunity in this small habit change.
The Huskee company estimates 500 billion single-use cups are thrown away each year. The company has established hundreds of HuskeeSwap programs around the world, but The Coffee Ethic and MaMa Jean’s are the first in the Show-Me State.
So much of our needless use of single-use materials comes down to one thing: convenience. It’s easier to bag your groceries in plastic rather than bring your own reusable totes. It’s easy to forget a travel mug when you head to a coffee shop. It seems uncomfortable to ask for no straw or even to bring your own containers for leftovers at a restaurant. But these aren’t good enough reasons not to try.
So, here’s the call to action: Find one single-use item you use regularly to eliminate. It’s small, sure, and maybe it feels trivial. But our waste adds up, and we’re running out of room. The EPA has warned for decades that we are running out of space for our own trash. How embarrassing.
And to other local coffee shops: join the movement. Springfield gets high marks for collaboration. Coffee Ethic and MaMa Jean’s officials say they are actively recruiting more partners. What are you waiting for?
Of course, there’s always the option to reuse or recycle the trash. But we just need to eliminate those single-use items.
As stewards of this planet, let’s make some effort to keep it beautiful.
Springfield Business Journal Features Editor Christine Temple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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