Paper, Styrofoam, or Ceramic: The Confounding, Complicated, Controversial, Completely Confusing Conversation on Coffee CUPS.

Paper, Styrofoam, or Ceramic: The Confounding, Complicated, Controversial, Completely Confusing Conversation on Coffee CUPS.

One year ago while dining with friends here at Fuller – my sister Jennifer spoke out about her distaste for people who used Styrofoam.
It was brought to our attention that using the white evil little cups may not be the worst thing a coffee drinker can do. The argument that followed is laughable at best – but not to go without further thought.

Compressed paper cups can take up to 20 years to biodegrade (unless they are wax covered!), use 2.5 times more energy to create than plastic, and will require an additional paper sleeve for hot drinks.

But before you scream – “CERAMIC YOU MORON!” think about this – do you think that a ceramic cup flowers into a butterfly after disposal? Those mugs you carry around (especially the metal ones) will be around long after your name is barely recognized in a family tree somewhere. And it takes tons more energy to create, and still takes water, soap, and sometimes electricity to clean.

Life Cycle Assessment/Analysis (LSA) is the best way to break down eco friendly usage of cups: Choose items which take the least amount of ENERGY all the way from manufacturing to their death.

In terms of energy vs longevity you could say (please know this is speculative at best!): 10 uses of styrofoam cup = 100 uses of paper cup = 1000 uses of ceramic.

So what Jennifer would recommend for you to do is right now go into your cub-bard. Do it, you can bring the article with you. Now find your coffee mugs: ceramic, plastic, to-go mugs – all of them. Now take your very favorite one and hug it. And get used to the fact that this cup might become a heirloom you pass on to your kids and their kids till it disintegrates. Also start skipping soap sometimes & rinse w/ cold water.

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Resources:

http://www.slate.com/id/2200158/
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2004/11/ecotip_coffee_c.php
http://www.popfi.com/2008/02/25/coffee-drinkers-paper-cup-vs-styrofoam-cup/
http://www.pre.nl/life_cycle_assessment/default.htm
http://www.neatorama.com/2008/02/25/paper-cup-vs-styrofoam-cup-which-is-the-greener-choice/

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The Semi is the weekly school paper for Fuller Theological Seminary. Please let me know what you think, and what topics you’d be interested in for future articles.

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