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Eco-Challenge: Brew Change

 Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet

From a viewpoint inside of a trash can looking up, a hand holds a single-use coffee up ready to drop it in.

As part of our commitment to Earth via our Laudato Si’ Action Plan, we are inviting everyone who shares in our charism to take a monthly Eco-Challenge with us.

Ditch single-use coffee and tea cups for good

The average single-use coffee cup is used for just 15 minutes but wreaks havoc on our Earth for decades!

Single-use cups for coffee, tea and other drinks seem impossible to live without in our busy lives due to the ease with which they’re handed out and the convenience they provide us. However, our small habits have a large impact far beyond our time, and a quick choice for our convenience can place a significant strain on the environment.

Here are some facts:

  • In the UK alone, less than 1 in 400 coffee cups are recycled (University of Kent, 2022), and the annual carbon footprint of paper cups amounts to roughly 75 kilotons of carbon dioxide equivalents, which is comparable to the manufacturing of approximately 11,500 mid-size passenger cars (Foteinis, 2020).
  • Consider the resources used in the production of paper and plastic cups. Paper cup manufacturing uses 100 billion liters (about 26.4 billion gallons) of water and 32 million trees each year (, 2016).
  • Even if the cups are paper, lids and straws are often made from black plastic. They’re cheap for manufacturers, but nearly impossible to recycle, and they end up in landfills (World Economic Forum, 2019)
  • While paper cups may seem more sustainable than plastic cups, this is not necessarily the case. Due to the chemicals and plastics used in the lining of plastic coffee cups, in some ecosystems, single-use paper coffee cups are just as toxic as plastic (Almroth et al, 2023).

But what if the shops I go to use compostable or biodegradable cups? Rachel A Meidl, an energy and sustainability fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, cautions customers not to take every biodegradable cup at its word: “Some brands and manufacturers market their products as ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ when, in fact, there is no scientific basis for those claims.”

A simple solution

The solution to this pressing issue is simple: Say NO to single-use coffee and tea cups by bringing your own reusable cup or mug! Many shops even reward customers for this—offering a small discount on your beverage.

Two reusable cups sit on a commercial espresso machine as a barista makes a drink in one.

Take the Eco-Challenge

Develop a strategy to bring your reusable mug or cup when you are purchasing beverages. Take the challenge up a notch by also refusing straws or stir sticks.

  • The best practice is to maintain and reuse the cup you already own for (at least) several years. Some studies have found if we continue to acquire new reusable cups and thermoses at a fast rate, this can have similar impacts on the planet as single-use products due to the resources that go into producing those products (CIRAIG, 2015).
  • If you need to buy a new reusable cup, make a thoughtful choice. Many secondhand stores have plenty of cups in good condition that need a home. Local potters may also make travel mugs. Materials such as stainless steel or ceramic are great insulators, and glass cups with bamboo lids and metal or glass straws are perfect for cold drinks like iced coffee or boba.

Spread the word

  • Leave a comment about how you’re taking the challenge below.
  • Invite others to take the March Eco-Challenge by sharing our post on Facebook and/or Instagram.

8 thoughts on “Eco-Challenge: Brew Change”

  1. Avatar

    I keep a few reusable cups in the car. This helps me to always have one handy. It’s also great to get a small discount at some stores. The challenge is to remember a reusable mug when I am not the driver!

  2. Avatar

    I rarely buy beverages so I bring my beverages in my own cup. My parish uses ceramic mugs for coffee and donuts.

  3. Avatar

    I have reusable cups in car and have for both hot and cold drinks.
    it a great practice and habit to have to assist in reducing plastic pollution.

  4. Avatar

    This is so simple ! I can’t believe it did not occur to me to do this when we have coffee hour in our own residence.

  5. Avatar

    A friend and I established years ago that a gift to each other would be a single-use cup (one at a time, as needed). If broken or lost it would be replaced. I have never had to replace hers; I am on my third; however I have had it for years this time.

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About us

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a congregation of Catholic sisters. We, and those who share our charism and mission, are motivated in all things by our profound love of God and our dear neighbors. We seek to build communities and bridge divides between people. Since our first sisters gathered in 1650, our members have been called to “do all things of which women are capable.” The first sisters of our congregation arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1836, and we now have additional locations in St. Paul, Albany, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan and Peru. Today, we commit to respond boldly to injustice and dare to be prophetic.


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