Have here or take away?

alternative to take away coffee
Image from deathtothestockphoto.com
It has been a year since I had a take away hot beverage. I cannot remember where I was or what it was.

What I do remember is standing in the cold July weather last year. I was waiting for my tram, the frigid air beating around my ears. In front of me was a cafe that sells lovely hot chocolate. I was so tempted. My brain was saying to me 'Just walk across the road, grab a cup and come back...you won't miss your tram. Go on.'

Earlier that day I had declared my intention for no more takeaway containers. This included no more take away cups too. Plastic Free July is about limiting the promotion of plastic. Even though I could go lidless it still felt weird and against what the challenge was about. I let out a breath, looked at the next tram times and then walked across to the cafe. I ordered a hot chocolate to have in the cafe. I missed my tram but enjoyed the 20 minutes with my thoughts and my hot chocolate. It was a turning point for me.

And I have stayed true to that moment. I have not indulged in takeaway hot chocolate. Instead choosing to sit down and enjoy my hot beverage in a good old mug. Life has become simple and slower, but for the better. The lure of a milkshake on the run or an ice chocolate (straw free!) in summer are saved for times when I had the opportunity to sit down and take the time to enjoy the experience. Not gurgle it down and rush about.

The builder is an avid coffee drinker. Our first date was at a cafe. He had a long black and I enjoyed a chamomile tea. As long as I have known him he has had coffee daily and because he is always on the road will routinely have it ‘to go’. He made the change to go without a plastic lid as a result of our house hold going plastic free. This was his preference and I cheered him on for making a choice to go without a plastic lid.

That was until we got back from Hong Kong and he decided to make the change to forgo the ‘to go’ option instead to sit down and have his coffee in the cafe.

When visiting Hong Kong we found that when the builder asked for a coffee with no lid the request was consistently ignored. Patrons were sitting in coffee shops drinking from take away cups rather than a cup that could be reused again and again. It baffled us and we got to talking about coffee and tea, and how this beverage was once enjoyed with loved ones drinking from a ceramic vessel that could be reused. And now we choose to sit down at a café and have the hot beverage in a flimsy paper or (shudder) polystyrene cup. Has it become too hard for us to find minutes in our day to sit down and enjoy a drink?
alternative to take away coffee
Image from data3.whicdn.com
We watched the patrons taking their cups and sliding into cafe seats. It was like viewing an assembly line. No one questioned where the paper cups end up or the plastic lids. This led the builder to change his ways make a decision to sit down rather than take it 'to go'. It is kind of funny how concerns for the environment prompted him to grant a break in his day.

It comes back to value. Are we not worth those 10 minutes to sit down and have a coffee? Or 20 minutes? Is convenience worth more than our environment?

Thinking about the resources used to cut, pulp, assemble and ship coffee cups to coffee shops around Melbourne makes me cringe. Then there is the added effort to recycle (if the cups don’t end up in landfill). Add the plastic lids, spoons, stirring sticks or straws into the added waste and it all looks silly. I know people will say that it is OK because some of these items are wood or paper and will recycle or biodegrade – but that is an added resource that is destroyed for a take away coffee. Or for convenience.

One valuable lesson that I have learnt from going plastic free and now to a waste free life is that if we value our environment we ultimately end up valuing ourselves. It has taught me that our actions have a reaction. Even something as small as a cup of coffee.

We have yet to find the builder a suitable reusable ‘to go’ coffee cup for the days that he is running between the job site and the hardware store. Currently he still asks for no lid when he cannot sit in. Hopefully when he does find a reusable cup there will be days that he will continue to sit down and have a cup of coffee the old fashioned way – in a ceramic cup. And I bet he will enjoy it more too. As would everyone.


  1. Thank you for this post! Since switching to a more eco-friendly lifestyle I've had the hardest time looking at standard takeaway paper and plastic coffee cups. In fact it kind of hurts my soul when the secretary in front of me gulps her takeaway coffee and throws the cup in her waste bin. Every. Single. Morning. :/
    I think it's such a nice feeling to have coffee in the an cafe. It feels almost old-fashioned and, surprisingly, indulgent.

    1. I know what you mean with the indulgent feeling of sitting down and having a cup of coffee. It seems so silly to think sitting down for 10 minutes would invoke such a feeling.

      Maybe get the secretary a reusable take away mug for Christmas? Some of the girls in my office get take away every morning even when I mention that you could take your own cup.

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