Dec 17, 2006

I bought a new coffee cup

Yup, I bought a new coffee cup today, but I don’t feel awful about it. I had the same coffee cup for 5 years until a couple of days after Thanksgiving. It was a warming red Yosemite souvenir that rode on the upright cup holder on my bike. For the past two years it’s been a cracked but functional symbol of my commitment to both the environment and caffeine. It flew off my bike about 50 times in the past few years and I dodged traffic to collect it, inspecting the damage, and choosing to refill it.

But a few weeks ago it took a fatal fall, not just cracking but indeed the plastic shell broke, leaving the aluminum innards exposed through its sharp edges. Ugh, I finally threw it out. Baristas knew this cup, I tell you. They started to inquire as to its whereabouts as I ordered coffee in paper cups (w/ plastic lids and cardboard sleeves!!!) as I waited patiently for a used cup (w/ no handle, and the right shape for a bicycle water bottle holder) to come into my life.

Through the Compact I’ve become patient about receiving goods. And yeah, I did what I could to mitigate the coffee buying. Having just returned from the Middle East I’ve been making that rocket fuel known as Arabic coffee at home quite a bit anyway. But I’ll be damned if I don’t need a cup of coffee while I’m out and about at least three times a week. So that’s about 20 paper cups since my cup broke. Today I sucked it up, broke my commitment to the Compact and bought a cup at a coffee shop.

Yeah, I could have found one used if I had tried harder or asked some friends. But that wasn’t happening so I took one for the environment today by breaking the Compact. People keep asking if I’ll be compacting in 2007. Barring sudden fame, fortune, or personality disorder, I think my low consumption lifestyle is at the very least a semi-permanent aspect of my existence. Perhaps the change would be that in 2007, I’m less likely to wait 4 weeks to decide to replace a coffee cup, given that I can’t seem to give up coffee.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I found this whole concept to be amusing/disgusting. Without too much difficulty one may find many people within walking distance of where ever they may live, that purchase much less than you have during a year out of necessity. As for me, personally I have used the same coffee cup since 1973 as I have no need for more than one cup at a time and haven't managed to crack this one yet. It has survived a number of drops onto cement floors while at work.

Anonymous said...

hi, I am in full support of what you guys are doing but never forget that many people have been living this way for many years. I admit, after discovering your group I looked around my "space" and figured about 90% of my "stuff" was second-hand. this includes clothing, furniture, cleaning products, everything. granted, I live in Idaho, far from the nearest shopping mall (75mi). second-hand items are a necessity here and because of this fact I applaude you because I can't in all honesty tell you that if I lived where you live that I wouldn't buy all sorts of shit. then again, that is part of the reason that I don't live where you live. Keep up the good work and please continue to be an example to everyone who has access to everything. thanks

Anonymous said...

I think what you are doing is great-but FAR from a new concept! Ask any mom or dad on a tight budget, and you'll see this is a normal way of life. We also don't have a TV, sweep our floors instead of vaccuum, don't use a clothes dryer and fill buckets as we shower to catch water to water our plants. When we lived in the consumerism craziness of Texas, we were a bit odd, I guess, but here in France, it's normal. The French HATE wastefulness.
It's wonderful that you are encouraging others to live this way-it will benefit all of us-just remember...many of us have been doing it for years and years!

Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd say Hey!!!!

I made an extra $2000 a Month Using this site!!

Anonymous said...

Outstanding! I'm older than you guys, was struck by same impulse in the early 80s. My behavior was changed by a book, 'Voluntary Simplicity' by Duane Elgin, which also sparked a response that has grown from that time, (see this google search)
http://tinyurl.com/yjl6e7
The next question is, how much have your savings accounts grown since you began not buying new? The truly critical economy wrecker for the US is that we don't save. If you can point to saving deposit accounts resulting from not buying new, you can laugh at the 'economy wrecker' accusations. If you're just drinking better wine you haven't quite got the whole picture yet. Keep it up until your savings deposits grow faster than your credit card balances!

Anonymous said...

I'm a 40ish male who grew up around a lot of Amish although I was never one of them. I think we have a lot to learn from them and their concept as a way of life for all of us. Remember that school shooting in PA? I have to laugh when I stumble across things like this blog because I know people who have been doing this their whole lives, not just one year. Oh yea, I read in one of these things about buying new socks breaking the rules, try shearing the sheep, spinning the wool, and knitting a pair of socks. We do. Would that count as new or just borrowed from the sheep? Education is the most important thing and todays kids show how it's lacking. Learn how to knit, make soap, grow food and otherwise survive and thrive on what you can do, not what you can buy. Once upon a time you had to. Homesteaders, unite.....

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you & your group! Although I agree that this is not a new concept, I congratulate you for piquing the public's awareness on ways of conservation.

On a side note, any undergarment (socks, undies, undershirts) should be bought new. These items are worn too closely to the body & should not be shared, handed down or bought used….. I would group sheets & towels in this same category. An endeared coffee mug would also apply in this case!

Anonymous said...

This country donates, or gives away enough stuff to create second hand business. That tells us how much we either receive or buy that we don’t use, need or keep. Did any one see the mountain high piles of donated stuff after Katrina? Your willingness to stop the waste, recycle useable items while saving cash may set you free of much more than what you think. How many of us will receive gifts this season that were given in the spirit of “It’s the thought that counts"? How did we get to this point that we desire to waste and consume to feel content? We stuff our bodies, our homes, our environment, to excess and for the most part remain unhappy. No doubt here why we are disrespected world wide. I thank you for becoming aware and conscious. I applauded you for your choice and effort to think about what you are not doing.

Powder Finger said...

I just learned about the Compact. Nice work! My wife & I spearheaded a Voluntary Simplicity workshop at our Quaker Meeting in Cornwall, New York in 1998. It was based on the book "Circle of Simplicity" by Cecile Andrews.

Our goals were not as lofty as yours, but from the workshop I was able to walk the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, and have since left the Corporate World to work for a non-profit organization.

Maybe we'll start a similar project in Chattanooga in 2007.

Jeffrey Hunter
http://americanhiking.chattablogs.com/

Anonymous said...

what a shame about the coffee cup, i have a favorite cup for my morning tea that i bought in 1984 and i use it each and every morning. probably more for sentimental reasons and also because it's oversized. it came with a set of four, and through the years the other three have broken or just disappeared. perhaps that is why i'm taking such care with the last one. i'm not a professional psychologist, so i'm going out on a limb here about you buying a new cup at the coffee shop instead of trying to obtain a used one. i feel that you're confident about your committment to a minimalistic lifestyle, and buying a single cup does not exactly earn you the walmart shopper of the year award. so make no apologies for the purchase of something as important as your regular coffee mug.

Anonymous said...

Kudos! Your project is personally empowering as well as ecologically enlightening. I live very nicely, but frugally. Even though I do purchase new items, I am amazed by the anger and resentment that frugal living attracts from others. I have had tremendous resentment from employers and coworkers because I do not go shopping at the right malls or buy (fake)designer clothing and accessories. Even though I live nicely, and dress professionally, I have actually been shunned by others because I did not spend my money recklessly. I do not advertise living frugally, and must admit that I live less frugally than many. I am always polite to others and do not pass judgement on their spending, yet my not spending angers them. I am wondering if anyone has done a study on how frugal living affects peoples opportunity on the job. From my experience, I am guessing that frugal people may experience less opportunity in the workplace. Also I believe that frugal women may experience more workplace descrimination than frugal men. Thank you for helping to enlighten all to live lightly and with purpose.

rachel said...

Great to see the updates. Thanks for the project and I hope you keep the blog going in 2007. Ignore the holier-than-thou "not a new concept! some have been doing this since the cro-magnon era!". They are missing the point. We all know that the vast majority of Americans live in a sea of overconsumption and waste and every step away from that is a huge leap in my mind. Thanks and best wishes.

Anonymous said...

It appears that many are totally missing the point in that much of the waste is in the over-use plastics in manufacturing and packaging. If more products were made of wood and steel, they could last for decades rather than one or two uses and then discarded. Some want to save all the trees but don't care if they sit in the forest and rot or become fuel for wildfires. Nothing is worth saving if it doesn't have a beneficial use. The American dependence on oil is as much for the production of plastics as it is for fuel.

Anonymous said...

It costs more to continue using the paper cups, with their raw materials, made into usable paper, then their disposal. I think finding the "right" cup by recycling is good, but would have just bought one. It would have been easier on the environment, quicker.

Anonymous said...

Paper is totally biodegradable in some circumstances in a matter of months. Plastic waste is forever.

Anonymous said...

You guys make me ill. Its great that you want to try to make a difference or feel better about yourselves or whatever. However, there are millions of people who HAVE to live on second hand stuff all the time. I don't think that its right for you to come and buy up second hand stuff that someone who CAN'T afford to shop elsewhere could actually use. I also think that the media taking an interest in you is stupid. Who the hell cares?! I hate the 'drama' too. oh, I bought a new coffee cup!!!!! oh no!! ewwww sheets and pillow cases need to be new or they're gross!! Have you ever heard of BLEACH and a washing machine?! For some of us, its NOT an option to buy new stuff. Get over yourselves.

Anonymous said...

There is alot of biodegradable materials out there. There just isn't alot of space for it to degrade along with everything else we have in overpopulation. I think the compact is cool, but really, its a small part of the problem, too many people with decreasing resources on the island. Wouldn't it be better to work on how to fix this problem since this seems like the long term issue that affects everything.

Anonymous said...

Some seem to get it. Others just ignore it. Generally the opinion seems to be:
Great idea,
but don't bother me,
I am too busy having fun.

Anonymous said...

There have been times that I have gotten a paper cup when buying a cup of coffee, and I then re-used that cup numerous times before it was too worn and frayed to keep using it. Why throw it away after one use? We have also traded with potter friends for nice ceramic cups and bowls, and made cups from wood by various methods. And of course buying coffee could be looked on by some as an inexcusable extravagance.

Anonymous said...

Sure, many people thrifty out of necessity, because they're poor. But you other commenters can't deny that America is being consumed by consumerism. We are deeply in debt, drowning in a sea of packaging, advertising, box stores, and credit card offers.

So I totally support this idea. I lived in SF for many years but I now live in Panama, and I think some aspects of this Compact would be easier here - such as buying fresh, unpackaged food at the local market - and some much more difficult, due to the difficulty of finding bulk goods, thrift stores, and recycled goods.

By the way, I notice that you have a lot of spam comments on your blog. I suggest you require word verification for all posters.

Step to Life at http://www.steptolife.com

Anonymous said...

Wow! People either hate you or love you, eh? Buying 2nd hand is a new concept to many people all over the U.S. However, even us 2nd hand buyers can still buy too much. I'm not talking about "buying up" stuff that need from the thrift shops. I'm just talking about having too many things. If ever you meet someone who buys up stuff just so others can't buy it, could you send them my way? I just want to meet the person who would do that. C'mon people, sheesh!

Anonymous said...

I'm very interested in this whole idea. after a recent trip to the middle east myself, i have become disgusted witht he consumerism of our country. grrr...i am the worst offender with many pairs of shoes and a lovely wardrobe. I am definately commiting to no new clothes/shoes this year. I am wondering about gasoline. Do you all ride bicycles? Riding a bike would help me drop the 30 pounds I should lose this year. LOL I do have a word of encouragement about your current coffee addiction. My fiance, an Iraqi who smoked and drank caffeine for the past 17 years quit both, cold turkey!! Unbeleivable. I know you can quit coffee...I don't reccommend his cranky, headachy way. But I know you can do it!!! Coffee is NOT a food. **Smiles** And buying it from baristas is certainly not simple. I would encourage you to make your own if you continue to drink.
Happy New Year!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm very interested in this whole idea. after a recent trip to the middle east myself, i have become disgusted witht he consumerism of our country. grrr...i am the worst offender with many pairs of shoes and a lovely wardrobe. I am definately commiting to no new clothes/shoes this year. I am wondering about gasoline. Do you all ride bicycles? Riding a bike would help me drop the 30 pounds I should lose this year. LOL I do have a word of encouragement about your current coffee addiction. My fiance, an Iraqi who smoked and drank caffeine for the past 17 years quit both, cold turkey!! Unbeleivable. I know you can quit coffee...I don't reccommend his cranky, headachy way. But I know you can do it!!! Coffee is NOT a food. **Smiles** And buying it from baristas is certainly not simple. I would encourage you to make your own if you continue to drink.
Happy New Year!!!

Anonymous said...

This site is amazing. I thought I was the only one who was doing this. I have not bought anything new for quite some time. The hard part is convincing your friends that you aren't crazy. I personally have been hand-washing a styrofoam coffee cup (with lid) from Mobil for the last few months. Once that one breaks, I'm not sure where my next one will come from.

David said...

Kudos: this is inspiring and challenging.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so its not a new idea. And sure, some people can't afford to buy everything new..... But is it really necessary for everyone to be ragging on them for wanting to help save the environment??? Personally, I think this is a great idea, and I really admire them for having the willpower to not buy anything new for a whole year....I know I couldn't do it.

Anonymous said...

Ok, so its not a new idea. And sure, some people can't afford to buy everything new..... But is it really necessary for everyone to be ragging on them for wanting to help save the environment??? Personally, I think this is a great idea, and I really admire them for having the willpower to not buy anything new for a whole year....I know I couldn't do it.

Anonymous said...

Wow, these folks are just trying to present a concept. Consumerism is like an addiction, it takes awhile to come off of it. But no need for hostility. I think the idea is pretty cool.

nicole said...

To Anonymous 11.55pm
Does this mean your original and better than any who have just grasped this concept. As a person who has been self sufficient for 15 years now i applaude any person who has evolved into a more aware and sensitive person. This concept has been around for thousands of years. Don't make people feel foolish. Encourage and love.

mosaik said...

Hey, is there anyone doing the Compact with a family with young children? Between work and childcare I need to transport everyone for a round trip fo 35 km daily. Is petrol exempt?

Anonymous said...

I honestly think it's much better to spend the money on the coffee mug rather than continue to use the disposable paper cups. If you want to be a good steward of the earth, sometimes you have to make an investment, like the coffee mug!