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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Originally published March 16, 2007

This column is reprinted with permission from The Hills Newspapers.

The cup runneth over.  In a time, when we regularly talk about shortages of important things everywhere, we can be assured of one thing. There is no shortage of paper coffee cups anywhere.

They come from popular coffee chains located on every busy corner.  They are seen in the hands of harried commuters, active mothers, and tired students. They are found lying on the sidewalk, in the gutter on the street, and alongside the highway.

These cups can be found in other unusual places.  On a regular basis, I find discarded cups on the shelves at grocery stores.  On local trail hikes, I discover them in the bushes.  When visiting the beach, I see them bobbing in the waves.

The people who discard cups this way probably seek the unusual.  For them, I offer another solution.  Save the cups for a game of telephone.  Recall the children’s game with cups attached by a line of string – friends can talk and hear each other through the cups.

This is a great solution if you happen to use a lot of cups.  For instance, if you buy a cup a coffee every day, you will have seven cups in a week, thirty in a month, and three hundred sixty-five in a year.  Imagine all the cups you could string on a line and all the friends who could join the game.  It could be the latest in online social networking.

If this sounds a little much, there is the more usual solution of throwing the cup in the garbage, like the rest of us do.  By doing this, the cup will end up with all the others in trash cans, dumpsters and landfills. (With the estimated billions of cups thrown away every year, we might wish this solution was more unusual.)

Instead of resorting to games or to more of the same, there is another solution for all these paper cups.  When buying coffee, we can bring our own reusable cups.  By doing this, we could even create a shortage of paper cups.  Not at coffee stores, but as litter, and in landfills.

A shortage of paper cups could help with some of our other shortages.  A stable climate is one of the important things we are short of these days.  Global warming is largely attributed to increases in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  According to scientists, the decomposition of paper from cups in landfills generates methane, a greenhouse gas with twenty-three times the heat trapping power of the more common carbon dioxide. This leads to shortages of other important things such as animal species, forests, crop yields and snow cover.  And, the list goes on.

We are lucky to enjoy a lifestyle with coffee so easily available everywhere.  With this lifestyle comes an abundance of paper cups.  There is no escaping the fact that abundance in some areas can lead to shortages in others.  By drinking coffee out of reusable cups, we can make a difference without sacrificing lifestyle.  If we give up anything, perhaps it is a little convenience.

Think of all we could gain by giving up paper cups.  Cleaner streets, smaller landfills, more plants and animals.  And, the list goes on.  Then, our cup would truly runneth over.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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