Paper Cups

I am such a routine-based individual. I work at routines until I get them the way I like them, down to their fastest, easiest, or most enjoyable versions, and then I find comfort in their familiarity. Only recently have I begun analyzing my routines and how they work for me and our lifestyle goals. One particular subject is my nightly hygiene routine, which has been very similar since middle school. Basically caring for my contacts and brushing my teeth, it’s varied a bit as I added or removed items. For example, I don’t wear makeup now, so my skincare process is very simple: only washing my face every other night or so with a bar of soap and adding moisturizer. Last year I also started using a sinus rinse at my doctor’s urging to help with the allergies that plague nearly all those who transplant to Houston. But the one thing that I had never changed in at least twenty-five years was my use of paper cups when brushing my teeth.

A year or two ago, my partner suggested I do away with paper cups altogether but, as she pointed out, it wasn’t my idea and I wasn’t in a place where I had a stronger reason than myself to make the change. Now I do, but it still wasn’t easy. Honestly, I kept paper cups in my routine because they were easy to use and made my process cleaner. I only feel like I’ve accomplished a good teeth brushing when I have that clean mouth feeling that I get from swishing around a little water. In my experience the two alternatives didn’t work as well for me. Using a reusable cup meant I had to wash it regularly and take it with me when I traveled. Paper cups were simpler: the lazy person’s alternative. The other alternative was to do without a man-made cup altogether and use nature’s scoop: my hand. I didn’t care for that because I got less water with each sip and had to end by cleaning my hand and often a wet sink.

A few months ago I had to purchase a new box of paper cups; they come in boxes of 200 or 500 two-ounce cups and cost around $6 for the smaller set. That’s cheap, but I was struck with the thought that it was such a waste of money for a product this was destined to either be recycled if it had only contained water or end up in a landfill if it was used for anything else. Not only was it an average of $15 a year we could save but a way we could reduce our waste. My partner called that one correctly–I need my terms to push me to making a change, and I had finally found it.

It’s been almost three weeks since I used my last paper cup. The first few days were slightly frustrating to me with it changing my routine, small of a change as it was, but I adapted quickly. Now it is part of my routine: I stopped reaching for paper cups every time I brushed my teeth and I haven’t had to pack them with me the last two trips we’ve taken, saving a little space. In these three weeks, our change has kept at least 42 paper cups from being used and tossed, and that feels really good to know that a simple change like that has had such an impact on our landfill contribution.

Do you have any small items you’ve replaced or habits hay you’ve changed to be more environmentally friendly?


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