How our love for coffee might ruin the planet

We all love coffee, but we tend to forget about our environment

While living in Greece, one of the first impressions I got was that everyone walks around carrying a non-reusable coffee to-go cup. Literally everyone, no matter whether it’s early in the morning or late in the night. Even when people sit in a café and have their coffee there, you might see some using plastic cups instead of mugs. And straws! There are straws wherever you look. It almost seems like people just don’t care about the amount of waste they’re producing on a daily basis. Therefore, when I had to write a column for university about my first impression of living in Thessaloniki, this is what I wrote:

Consequences of a to-go culture

Just a quick coffee before class begins. Maybe another one while watching the sunset around the White Tower. Quick, easy and convenient, that it is to say the least. And of course: delicious. Who could resist an arousing cappuccino in the morning, let alone a heart-warming espresso after lunch? Or what about a medium-sweet freddo cappuccino (iced espresso) with cream and chocolate on top while the sun is still warm and shining?  

Truth be told: I cannot. Where I come from, a small town not too far from Frankfurt, Germany, there are two cafes. One of them people visit on a more a less regular basis at least. People drink coffee at home or at work, not so much on the streets or in cafes. So, the Greek coffee-society caught me the first second I came here. 

But it breaks my heart to see the amount of waste that is produced by the to-go-culture here in Greece. I’ve put some effort in finding a reusable cup to make my on-the-run coffee experience more friendly for our environment. The result of my search was rather disappointing. 

Here comes the enemy

The single-use cups alone are not the only problem. With them, and also with soft drinks, long drinks, cocktails and even cans come the enemy of nature and its inhabitants: straws. Unforgettable the pictures of how a sea turtle is freed from a straw that got stuck in its nose and must have been there quite a while. The sound it makes while its saviours hold on to it and gently pull out this small plastic weapon from its bleeding nostrils is heart-breaking. Not to mention all these once wonderful beaches now covered in plastic.

I know that a straw is somehow part of the enjoyable experience of a freddo cappuccino. Also of course, having a coffee in a plastic cup on the way is pleasantly convenient. You grab your coffee, enjoy it and get rid of the cup. Why worrying about the consequences?

At the same time, I feel that there is something we all can do for our planet and our environment. And with that to prevent sea turtles and other animals to suffer from our wasteful way of living: Starting to think and be more aware in the way we use plastic. Saying no to a straw and bringing a reusable cup doesn’t harm me but might save an animal. 

We all have a right to live on this planet.

Coffee to-go culture at the seaside
Coffee to-go culture at sea.

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