reusable containers

November 25, 2008

Two simple things that everyone can do to reduce consumption are to use reusable cups for drinks and to bring their own reusable take-out containers to restaurants. It’s not that difficult – you just need to ‘want’ to do it. The biggest offenders are people who use throw-away containers for water, coffee and restaurant take-out.

The two criticisms about reusable containers are water and detergent use for washing, and the energy used to produce these containers. I have included some links at the bottom of this post if you want to read more.

Energy for producing reusable containers:
It is true that the production of our everyday wares costs a lot in energy, but I find it interesting that people are only concerned when asked to reduce the use of disposable items. Not many are too concerned while we continually over-consume and discard reusable items.

There is a lot of debate about how many times you must reuse a cup (rather than using a throw-away cup every time) before you start to see an energy benefit. These studies don’t consider the energy used for waste management, recycling or the impact of landfills on our environment. Most importantly, nobody asked anyone to go out and buy a new mug or Tupperware. Who doesn’t already have mugs? Use what you already have and this criticism becomes irrelevant.

Water and detergent use in keeping reusable containers clean:
It is true that washing reusable containers uses water and (sometimes) detergent – so do laundry and showers. I believe that although water is a ‘renewable’ resource, we should be extremely disciplined about water consumption. There are many ways to reduce water use while still being able to live comfortably. I personally use very little water (and almost never soap) when washing my own mug.

My family has been working very hard on these two concepts. We all have access to reusable containers any time we go to a restaurant. If we want take-out we hand in our containers. If we feel full, we pull out our containers and collect our leftovers. We started doing this about ten years ago when we saw someone pull out Tupperware to take their leftovers home.

I have two glass milk bottles at my desk that I fill every morning with water. I use a steel mug that I have used five times a day for the last three years. I wash the mug when it gets dirty – not very often since it’s only used for water. These habits are easy to create and don’t cost very much. You just need to ‘want’ to do it.

digital eskimo: paper vs. ceramic
ask pablo: the coffee mug debacle
treehugger: ceramic or paper

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