The last day of the conference I attended in New Hampshire was yesterday.  My roommate–let’s call him Bob–and I had a morning run together, a short and slow four miles, then we each packed up to leave later in the day.  By the time I got down to where things were happening, I had missed the “coffee and snacks” listed on the agenda.  I was hoping to grab something (anything after a run, even a short run, to refuel) and then head one level down to the meeting I was going to attend.  The only thing still out was the coffee and tea.

So far I had been using the dinky little cups with saucers to drink coffee.  They would always put out foam cups and lids along with these ceramic cups but I boycotted them, even though almost everyone else used the disposable vessels.  I just couldn’t do it.  The one-use cups are too much to bear at times–use it and toss it.  Stupid.  But yesterday morning I wanted more than the meager amount that would fill the mini washable jobber.  I would not be able to refill for the hour plus meeting.  So I hesitated, bit my pride, and filled a wasteful foam cup.

Back up to morning one of three.  Bob and I had a conversation about one-use beverage containers, including bottled water and coffee mugs.  That first breakfast he took the initiative to bring a pitcher of water to the table, rather than use the plentiful bottled water available.  This was a gesture aimed largely at me, and served to send an unspoken message to others at the table as well.  I was happy to see it.  No bottle water, no paper cups.  We were on the same page.

Jump back to morning three, as I grudgingly fill the tossable cup, all too aware that my stainless steel travel mug is sitting on top of my packed bag, ready for the trip home, but too far to retrieve in my haste to get to the meeting for which I was already late.  Hot coffee pours from the spout into that evil container and this comment floats down into the steaming brown liquid:  “Paper cup, huh?”

It was Bob, of course.  He then fills his own re-usable travel mug with coffee.  He did not need to say more.  I was busted.  I was, and am, a hypocrite.  I make decisions like everyone else, and sometimes I make poor ones.  That was a poor one.  Perhaps my brain was addled from too little food.  Perhaps a sense of laziness, or even urgency, came over me at that moment.  Perhaps I needed to decide too quickly.  In any case, my principles lost out.

In far too short a time, I tossed that cup.  The lid cracked within a half hour.  I ended up using my travel mug after all, sipping through the next event and again on my way home, as I mulled how I can make a difference in the world.  It was a good lesson for me.  Laziness is not an option if I want to live by what I believe.  It is easy to be lazy.  Our culture is one of ease, or leisure.  We are not ones to give up a cup of coffee because we forgot to bring a mug.  Bringing a mug, or a cloth grocery bag, or a water bottle, are easy to forget;  and if we do forget, it is easy to find a disposable alternative.

We are a throwaway society.  I am not proud of that, but I am a part of that.  If I want, I can work to change that of which I am a part.  That is not easy, and it may mean I sometimes give up that cup of coffee, but it is the right thing to do.  I will be a hypocrite again.  I will forget my travel mug or my bags or my water bottle.  But getting busted has its benefits.  It highlights my hypocrisy, and it helps me to keep trying.  From now on, most of the time at least, I will turn down the foam cup.  If it means I can avoid using a cup once and then tossing it, I can get by waiting a little while for my jolt of joe.

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