Styrofoam Just Doesn’t Grow on Trees


by Michael Shores

Forest and Lake
I worked of a company for a long while. There were some fringe benefits and I got paid. On a cold tired morning, though, nothing beats the best perk of all: free coffee and tea. It is amazing how little you can be happy with when you are a little unhappy. Five rooms held enough hot beverages for 150 people. Never should anyone have to teleconference, market, and account manage with a cold esophagus.  

Even better, they provide stacks of Styrofoam cups with lids to keep drinks warm and hands cool. It really may not sound like much and most do not think anything about it, but it is nice have to have a hot beverage keep you warm in an uncomfortably cavernous office. Not to mention the joys of a perpetually scalded tongue.

Regular, Decaf, Chamomile, Lemon, Swiss Miss
TM (with and without added sugar), and Earl Grey. Or if you are me, English Breakfast with nondairy creamer and a touch of sugar.  How un-American of me drinking English tea the way the English drink their English tea... 

"Are you going to use your cup again?"

There was a time when I only drank Earl Grey or green tea, and never would I ruin a good cup with sugar or creamer.  But once I was five hours into a cold nine-hour flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Dulles International in an American Airlines 747, I needed some tea.  A few hundred people all huddled up under soft navy blue blankets, most with their cold air vents blasting them in their faces.

As our Swedish flight attendant handed me my cup, I could tell this was not my single tea bag of
Earl Greyer.  This tea was heavy. It was thick, like coffee. 

“Do you like sugar and cream?” she said through her accent.

“Please,” I replied weakly, quietly thanking myself for taking a sip before I answered.  
How much Earl Grey do you have to use to make it this strong?  I put in the cream and half a packet of sugar.  I tasted.  In went the other half of the packet.  I tasted again and WOW, it was good!  There I was 30,000 feet in the air living a life I had never lived and becoming someone I had never been.  They say that world travel will broaden your horizons and open your mind—I understand why

Back home and back at work, I left my desk headed to get some English Breakfast tea. Someone asked me if I was really going to use the 8oz. Styrofoam cup in my left hand again.  I glanced down to my hand puzzled by my own behavior. A quick second later I answered “sure, why not?”. 
I used it for tea this yesterday…why wouldn’t I? My coworker scrunched her nose and wrinkled her upper lip.

“Why?” she asked.

“To save cups,” I replied.  “I try to use each at least twice.  I rinse it when I’m finished and cover it with a lid. I’ll use it again the next day, and then throw it away.” 

“Oh…okay,” she replied. Her nose and lip softened as if persuaded by my argument. 

"Our Styrofoam tree forests are disappearing at an alarming rate"

I look at the situation like this: Styrofoam cups don’t just grow on trees. And even if they did, we should probably look at saving the species before it goes extinct. My stomach turns when I think about all the acres of Styrofoam trees we cut to make cups and packing material. Our Styrofoam tree forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. How many of our children will never get to see a Styrofoam tree? Maybe none…

If I reuse each cup once, I will use half the cups.  If a company of 150 people that uses 150+ cups a day (I figure 200+ a day to be more accurate), it will save 75-100 cups a day. This saves 3,700 cups a year on the conservative side.  There are 7-8 other large office complexes near mine. I bet that the whole street together could save over 25,000 Styrofoam cups a year. I think the effort to reuse a cup is well worth the trouble.
Come on, these staggering figures speak for themselves… I dream of a day when we could all embrace reuses as a means of Styrofoam conservation. 


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