The Real Deal on the Reusable Mug and its Environmental Impact

How many times do you have to use a shiny new stainless steel coffee mug before it's better for the environment than takeout styrofoam cups from...

How many times do you have to use a shiny new stainless steel coffee mug before it's better for the environment than takeout styrofoam cups from a local coffeeshop? Maybe as much as every day for over a year, depending on a variety of things, like whether you're washing your mug with an ultra-efficient new dishwasher or by hand. Stainless steel takes quite a bit of energy to produce, and heating up water to wash it after every use also takes energy. Are the mugs bad for the environment? Not exactly. But if you don't drink that much coffee, or if you end up forgetting your mug at home, that reusable mug could actually be as harmful as a disposable cup.

Forgot your mug? Don't buy another one—ask for your coffee to stay. Most coffeeshops have a stash of ceramic mugs ready, but they just assume you'll want a disposable cup. (Bonus: you get a good excuse to sit and enjoy your drink, rather than immediately running to whatever's next on your agenda). Companies and schools might want to reconsider buying travel mugs as eco-friendly swag, since most people already have one, and any extras aren't really that green.

If you do drink a lot of coffee or tea on the run, design yourself a reminder to bring your mug along, whether that's a post-it note on your door or an alarm on your phone. Travel mugs can make a difference, helping fight the 16 billion paper coffee cups, and 25 billion styrofoam cups, that are used each year. But they're only helpful if they make it out of the cupboard.

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 at and on Twitter at #goodcitizen

Original travel mug image via Shutterstock.


For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less

When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via ICE / Flickr

The Connors family, two coupes from the United Kingdom, one with a three-month old baby and the other with twin two-year-olds, were on vacation in Canada when the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) turned their holiday into a 12-plus day-long nightmare.

On October 3, the family was driving near the U.S.-Canada border in British Columbia when an animal veered into the road, forcing them to make an unexpected detour.

The family accidentally crossed into the United States where they were detained by ICE officials in what would become "the scariest experience of our lives," according to a complaint filed with the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security.

Keep Reading Show less