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Time to Rethink How you Eat - Breakfast

Part 1 of a 3 part series

I believe that one of the biggest contributors to global warming is our love affair with convenience.  Entrepreneurs create new products and services that help us save time and more often than not that product or service creates trash.  A convenience area that many companies have targeted is food.  Fast, convenient food is available morning, noon, and all night but how much of it is actually good for you?  There are also countless single use containers that makes eating easier.  What all this adds up to is trash, trash, trash!  Want some facts? Americans discard 130 billion paper cups every year.  (

Luckily there are many ways to reduce trash associated with meals, the only question is where to start.  In this commentary we will focus on breakfast.  Links to articles about lunch and dinner can be found at the end of the page.

Changing Your Routine

Review your morning rituals… do you eat at home, including making your own drink?  If yes, great job – go straight to the article about lunch habits!  If each day you buy a morning drink this is a good place to start.  Buy a refillable travel mug and start using it daily.  Be ready to try a few, because you want to be sure that you still enjoy your drink with your new container.  Personally, I use a Copco Travel Mug that can be safely put in the microwave to reheat the coffee.  I need my coffee hot!!  I also like the mug because it has a screw cap.  I have used a ceramic mug but it had a rubber top and it easily slipped off.

Make your own coffee or tea and save money in the process.  Buying sustainable coffee and then grinding your own beans is probably the most eco-friendly option, but if you are not there, start small.  Buy your favorite coffee brand, whether it be Starbucks, Maxwell House or Dunkin Donuts, and start the daily ritual of making your own coffee.  You will soon grow to love having your own coffee made to order each morning.

If you really don’t want to make your own coffee each day, at least remember to bring your travel mug with you to your favorite breakfast spot or barista.  Some places may even give you a discount for bringing your own mug.  Reusing a coffee mug each day would prevent 365 cups and lids from going into the trash.  While you might not get coffee or tea every day of the year, the actual number might be close and that is a lot of unnecessary trash!  And then if there are others in your household who are also coffee and/or tea drinkers the amount of trash your home is currently creating is much higher.

A couple of other things to keep in mind…  If you are a coffee drinker, try to only make as much (or a bit more) than you will consume.  You are wasting water and coffee if you are dumping out several cups each morning.  Also, if you like to drink some coffee at home before leaving and then take the rest in the car, be sure to only use a travel mug.  I will admit that I used to first use a regular coffee mug and then pour the remainder into my travel mug, thereby requiring both mugs to be washed each day.  Not smart, but at least I have admitted this to everyone and hopefully enlightened someone else about this practice!

If you are a tea drinker there really should be no reason for buying your tea in a disposable cup.  When eating out, once you have a travel mug, keep tea bags with you, and you should get the hot water for free.  It may seem strange to do this at first but as you start saving money, it will be worth it! 

Eat at Home or Bring with You

Try to eat at home one more day per week than you do today.  This change will quickly add up to less trash created.  Typically, with each breakfast purchase there is a bag, napkins, utensils, and wrappers for the food.  Trash, trash, trash (hmmm, have you read that before?).  If you are not ready to eat at home, another option is to take a box of cereal, milk, your bowl and spoon to work with you.  Then you can have breakfast there while creating minimal trash and probably saving you money.

Another option is to throw in your breakfast with your lunch bag.  Pack some fruit, yogurt, and cereal.  Just remember to pack your utensils and a napkin to avoid needing single use items that are then thrown in the trash. 

If you can eat at home or bring breakfast with you one more day per week than you do today you will keep a lot of trash out of the landfills.  Considering that each meal typically produces 5 or 6 pieces of trash, if you ate at home one day more per week, that would be ~260 less items of trash in the local landfill that have your name on it.  When you eat out, ask for no bag (unless you really need it) and use your own napkin and utensils.  Keep these items handy in your desk, at work, or in your car. 

Things to remember:

  • Use a refillable travel mug for your coffee or tea.
  • Eat at home or bring breakfast with you to work one more day per week.
  • When getting breakfast to go, bring your own utensils and napkin with you and only take a bag if you really need it.