In the Future, We All Carry Mugs


“What size cup would you like? Small, Medium, Large, Super, Tall, Grande, Venti, Super-Venti, Hungover or perhaps Recession Special?”

“None of the above, please.”

It’s a dream I have. Follow me on a choose-your-own-post journey into the What If.

It’s the future, a greener, more enlightened time. You drop in on your local coffee vendor – let’s call it McStarMart – ready for a cup of exquisitely roasted bean-juice to kick start your day. You’re standing quietly in the queue, and – something odd is going on.

People are reaching into their pockets and bags and briefcases, and they’re pulling out mugs of all shapes and kinds. When they reach the counter, they pass them to the barista, who fills them up with their beverage of choice.

There are no disposable cups.

All the machines have counters on them, the numbers whirling when the taps are opened, and you realise that people are being charged for how much liquid goes into their own mugs.

When they’ve finished their drink, they bring the mug to the counter where the barista washes it for them and hands it back. Everyone’s cup is daubed in fun colors and has their name.

This was all sparked by reading Shawna Coronado’s Great Coffee Cup Challenge last week. Then I read the same thing at WiseBread and elsewhere. And it got me thinking.

Isn’t using recycled material for disposable cups still ducking the real issue – that we’re throwing things away? We all have our favorite mugs at work so why not take them out into the street? Take-outs are more fun, and drinking in-house becomes more homey.

How to start?

Coffeehouses should reward people who bring their own, such as knocking $0.50 off the price. They already sell mugs, for Peet’s sake.

In the meantime, I’m going to take a mug into ye olde Starbucks and ask them to fill it. I used to work there in my student days and they already know I’m eccentric, so I’m sure they’ll oblige my green bean yen.

Image: Sarah Jane

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17 thoughts on “In the Future, We All Carry Mugs

  1. There is now a glass to go cup available!! Sounded daunting to me at first too until I tried it. I found it at, it’s a to-go cup with lid and you can even buy the glass straw!!! So far it has proven unbreakable even by my two little kiddos who are always knocking it and yes, it has been dropped short distances and so far unscathed. Highly recommended if you are trying to avoid drinking from plastic….

  2. I take my own reusable water bottle to Starbucks all the time for my iced coffee fixes. They thought it was weird at first, but now they even know what I want when I step up to the counter.

  3. WOW! Thanks guys for your comments about Kenya! I love and appreciate all the amazing support I am getting! You can read all about it, and, Mike, live through me, over at when I get back!!!!

    Dopey LaRue’s last blog post..Shocking, I Know

  4. I’ve never done this at Starbucks (none where I live) or Peet’s (ditto), but in less exalted realms, it’s commonplace at convenience stores and gas stations. I often bring a travel mug and most charge the refill price to fill it.

  5. Great post Mike. My dream is that we all carry our own eating utensils. I’ve been trying to get in the habit with some success. At least if you have to get food to go, you can avoid the plastic. It’s challenging to get the utensils washed and back in the to-go bag though.

  6. It’s not just Portland! I live in the very small city of Eureka, CA, and at least 2 of the places I frequent (one a natural grocery store & one a downtown cafe) offer $1 or $1.25 coffee if you bring your own cup. I carry a 10-oz. steel thermos bottle that fits in my handbag; I see lots of people doing the same & nobody gets weird looks, and I’m sure there are many other local places with similar policies. Why not just start asking everywhere you go, & maybe this will become normal in lots of towns?!?

  7. Peet’s actually does take a discount off if you use your own cup. It’s not $0.50….but they do have a discount.

  8. I love the idea of the collapsible mug. It’s like the water bowls they sell for dogs to keep in your car.

  9. Coffee baristas in Portland, Oregon are too cool for school.
    Nothing phases them.

  10. Amy –

    Portland sounds like a good place to be. :) So plenty of people carried around mugs/cups and took them into coffee shops? That’s fabulous. How did the coffee shops react?


    Luanne / Dopey LaRue-

    A picnic set is exactly the reason I’d ever consider getting a car. (Except I’d have to learn to drive first). There’s something very fun about having all the kit handy for a luxury al fresco meal on a whim…

    I think Sara’s idea is a doozy. I’ve seen collapsible mugs around- maybe one of those slotted into a pocket of your favorite tote? But also I’ve seen the travel mugs Dopey LaRue is referring to, which are a lightweight option for when you’re on the go. And the good ones are thermos, so they keep the heat when you’re wandering around the streets doing your best to look eccentric. (Or maybe that’s just me).


    Dopey LaRue –

    Enjoy Kenya! I’m not jealous. Nope. Erm. Well, maybe. :)

  11. Love it! Love it! Love it!

    I am so happy my Great Coffee Cup Challenge – – made such a fantastic impression on you. Does my heart glad! This is a wonderful write up and I’m raising my coffee mug to you – here’s hopes that more people will do something good and make a difference!

    Best wishes,

    Shawna Coronado

  12. A collapsible mug would be cool.

  13. Good for you, la Rue. And btw, congrats on the Kenya drive! I’m so proud of you.

  14. About a year ago, appalled at the waste generated from my caffeine addiction*, I started keeping a travel mug on me at all times (I carry it in my canvas shopping bag). If I happen to forget to grab it one day, well, no coffee for me!

    HOWEVER, I have been mortified on more than one occasion to witness the barista measure out my coffee in a paper cup, pour the coffee into my travel mug, and then THROW THE CUP AWAY. In which times I became “that woman” and delved into lecturing the kid on waste.

    *reflecting on, and subsequently giving up on, the addiction itself was just non-optional :)

    Dopey LaRue’s last blog post..Check It Out (Another Kenya Update)

  15. Here’s the thing. Do we keep these mugs on us at all times? Sometimes in the middle of the day the big sugar ball drops and I must either retire to my room for a nap or pick up the kids and do junk like make dinner. Maybe we could keep a picnic set of sorts in our cars with our mugs. God knows, I keep everything else in the car.

    Don’t worry Mike. They won’t think you are odd if you bring your own mug to Starbucks, except if the mug has Hugh Grant’s face on it and you tell the barista your name is Elizabeth Hurley and she calls that out when your drink is ready. Otherwise, I think you will do just fine.

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  17. When I lived out in Portland, Oregon this was a common occurrence and nobody thought anybody was crazy or eccentric Mike.
    Here in a seasnal town like Cape Cod well….Dunkin Donuts is king and so are the giganto cups being thrown away.

    It’s time we all stop skirting the issue of waste, whether a green enthusiast or not. We all need to step up to the plate and recycle/reuse a lot more than we have.


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