Each year Americans throw away about 25 billion paper cups. Not recycled—tossed into a landfill. We're talking nearly 363 million pounds of waste. In fact, disposable containers (so, paper and styrofoam cups and also plastic bottles) make up 18 percent of our total garbage.
That's a huge chunk of waste that's really easy to eliminate—by simply committing to (and remembering to!) use a reusable mug for your morning coffee or tea.
The good news is it's getting more fun to ditch the paper cup, with many startups and companies innovating to create unique, eco-friendly and savvy travel cups. Here are some of the most innovative travel mugs out there.
Some of us may already have the perfect travel sitting around the house: a canning jar. The enterprising folks at Cuppow created a lid to put on a canning jar to make it easier to drink out of. It's 100 percent recyclable and BPA-free. Pretty clever.
I Am Not a Paper Cup
The "I Am Not a Paper Cup" reusable mug is my personal favorite—it's simple, no frills, and has that same kind of feel as a paper cup but with the added benefits of keeping coffee hot without the mug getting hot (it's double-walled porcelain with a silicone lid) and of course saving millions of trees. .
Joco makes reusable glass coffee cups that can hold hot beverages and have a protective sleeve that keeps the coffee hot but not your hand. They also come with a 100 percent recyclable carrying case.
One of the biggest hurdles to using travel mugs is, well, travelling with them. They don't seem to fit in the cup holder; they're cumbersome to carry around after you're done drinking. Enter Zip Cup, which collapses down to a compact size to easily fit in a bag or purse.
Still in its crowdfunding phase, vertiGOmug has a ceramic lid that cools a few sips of liquid to the right, non-tongue-burning temperature, while keeping the rest of the coffee hot in its double-wall insulated mug.
Compleat is a slightly different take on the paper cup problem. It's a greener version of the disposable cup. If you just can't get in the habit of carrying a travel mug, or forget it at home, the Compleat cup is a much better alternative. Through some simple tweaks, it's designed to get rid of the plastic lid. Instead, two paper flaps fold over.
A few years back Starbucks teamed up with Betacup and held a competition to crowdsource the smartest, coolest, sustainable reusable mug. The winning design, above, is made from corn husks and is totally reusable and biodegradable. Here are a couple other innovative ideas to come out of the competition. Betacup hasn't hit stores yet, but we'll be keeping an eye out.
This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Reduce Your Waste, Starting With a Reusable Cup. Follow along and join the conversation atgood.is/citizenship and on Twitter at #goodcitizen