22 Apr 2008 11:00 am   //   Filed under: Food & drink, Planet earth, The suburbs

Earth Day every day, every few years

For as long as I can remember, kind of like the cycle of cicadas, there are occasional random years when everybody gets in to ecology. New ideas emerge each time. Each time we hope for the bad ideas to go away (water-saving shower heads?) but for the good ideas to stick (like curbside recycling). But what about the good ideas that somehow got forgotten?

Think back before texting, before satellite radio, before Purell, when we were riding around in minivans, playing Duck Hunt, watching Police Academy movies. This was before carbon offsets, before hybrid cars, before An Inconvenient Truth. But a different brand of conservation was in fashion. The suburban tradition of the balloon launch was scrapped out of concern for the birds. We celebrated Earth Day in school assemblies. I remember businesses actually showing an environmental conscience. Supermarkets collected garbage bags for recycling and McDonald’s had recycling bins in its restaurants for paper and styrofoam.

In our town, convenience stores sold insulated plastic mugs for coffee. If you bought one and kept reusing it, you got a discount each time you bought coffee at the store. My mom, who was mainly a tea drinker, had one in the car. So did every other mom I knew. This was a sensible idea and eliminated disposable coffee cups.

Today, this idea has been completely forgotten. Why? Blame Starbucks. Now if you drive up to a Starbucks, you drive away with a hot drink in a paper cup with a plastic lid and a cardboard sleeve, all disposable. The flow at an espresso bar doesn’t allow a customer to hand the barista a reusable cup and have it handed back filled with coffee. It would gum up the works. Plus it would seem so… down-market! And as goes Starbucks, so goes Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, 7-Eleven, the supermarket, everywhere.

Coffee cups are a needless waste. Lately, Starbucks seems good at solving problems. They should solve this one.