4 Ways to Avoid the Paper Cup at the Coffee Shop

updated May 1, 2019
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Coffee on the go often means popping into a cafe and ordering a drink to take with you. But with this drink being a regular — most often daily — activity, society’s coffee-to-go habit comes at a cost: Americans consume (and therefore dispose of) about 14 billion paper coffee cups per year. That’s enough to circle Earth 55 times! All because of our coffee addiction.

If you’re looking for a more permanent (and eco-friendly) option, here are the four primary ways to take your coffee to go, with the pros and cons to each.

(Image credit: Elly Blue)

Some coffee companies have vocalized their support for recycling programs, but the results are often less than desirable, which, for now, puts the responsibility in consumers’ hands. This fall, there’s even a Kill the Cup campaign taking place at universities across the country to encourage coffee- (and tea- and hot chocolate-) drinkers to bring their own cups.

But skipping on the single-use takeaway cup is not only good for the environment, it also allows you to drink out of your favorite coffee vessel, and keeps your coffee warmer than your average paper cup.

What’s the best way to drink coffee on the go? You’ve got several options, some of which you probably already have at home. All you have to do is put them to use. Just say no to disposable.

(Image credit: Craig Sunter)

The Everyday Option: Regular Mugs

While it won’t keep your coffee insulated for long, and it’s certainly not spill-proof, in the right situation, a regular mug can work for coffee on the go just as well as it can for coffee at home. A couple of ceramic mugs can be smart to keep on hand at the office if you’re situated close to a cafe, or even for pouring yourself a cup from the office coffee pot. Want the same mug feel, but something a little more durable? Enamel mugs, like the classic blue and white design from Falcon, can be tossed in a purse or bag without fear of breaking. They’re also lighter than your average ceramic mug, so they’re good for travel.

The Generous Option: A Thermos

A thermos is an excellent option for those who want to brew coffee in the morning and then have some on hand for later in the day. You can also get your thermos filled with drip coffee at the coffee shop — perfect for when you didn’t have time to make your own. A thermos is also ideal if you want to treat your coworkers to a midmorning coffee break (don’t forget to bake something to take along as well). Thermoses come in a variety of sizes. I like ones that are small enough to easily fit into a backpack, for easy transport.

The Travel Option: Insulated Mug, Cup, or Tumbler

If you’ve got a regular habit of dropping into the coffee shop, an insulated mug, cup, or tumbler will also do the trick. These can be particularly useful if you get one with a spill-proof lid — an ideal solution when you and your coffee need to travel a little distance.

(Image credit: Holdster)

The Hipster Option: Mason Jar

Yes, the almighty mason jar can be turned into a coffee mug. Want a lid that you can sip out of? Check out Cuppow, a company that makes lids from 100 percent recycled plastic that instantly turn your mason jar into a coffee cup. Ecojarz also makes a lid with a silicone plug to keep your coffee from spilling. Don’t want to burn your hands? Holdster produces a handmade leather holder for your mason jar, complete with a handle to make it feel like a regular coffee cup, or you can even make your own cozy.

What’s your preferred vessel for drinking coffee on the go? Tell us in the comments.