Coffee Waste

File this under First World Problems.  I wanted to treat my lady to coffee today.  She was nice and made breakfast and had the day off anyway so I thought I'd get her a nice coffee.  We stopped by the nearby Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and got our usual.  We're fans of coffee so we try different places, the more local the better.  CB&TL just happens to be the closest one that boasts a drive-through.

Much to my consternation, our drinks came with splash sticks.  These weren't the long splash/stir sticks you see at Starbucks, but a sawed-off version with the sole purpose of avoiding a couple dollops of coffee to escape while you drive or walk away.  They're a cute gimmick but that's all they are.  And the only reason CB&TL are doing it is because big brother Starbucks is doing it.

This is extremely wasteful, I hope they see that.  We recycle all the cups we get from coffee places, in fact it's more than any other single item in our bins.  But you have to separate it out to paper for the cup, cardboard for the sleeve and plastic for the lid.  Now there's another plastic that's likely a different number, but I don't know what number it is.  (I know, "Wah, wah! Shut up you stupid hippie!")

While I don't mind doing the recycling work, I think the company should take it upon itself to be more proactive about the plastic they use.  I'm okay with lids.  I think the old fashion lids with the perforated openings were just fine.  Plus, it's a single #6 recycling plastic.  They're easy to collect and then toss into your blue bin or take to the recycling centers.  No fuss, no muss.  Plus there's a reason for the lids; the coffee is hot. As we stupid Americans have found out, hot coffee is a litigious beverage.  We need as many barriers between our groins and our scalding morning jump-juice as possible.  We just can't be trusted otherwise, hence the lids. And that's fine.

But these stir/splash sticks are like paper receipts.  Unless you are collecting receipts as part of a business trip, I don't need one.  I have a record of it on my bank account.  Plus, it's not like it's a car or 65inch TV or computer; it's a cup of coffee.  As Mitch Hedberg says, "I give you the money, you give me the donut.  End of transaction.  We do not need to bring ink and paper into this."  Stir sticks have a life cycle of box, coffee cup, trash can in about 30 seconds.  Why even bother with that waste?  If you're going to have these sticks, put a special jar or bin out to collect the unwanted ones.  Or leave the sticks out for people to chose if they need them.  I understand you may be taking a large order to your office and you don't want to spill, but leave that choice to the consumer.  Don't just hand me plastic.

There's a place in Pflugerville called Dazzle.  They make especially good coffee for starters.  They are also very friendly, community oriented, and their overhead is almost nothing.  They work out of what may have been an old burger drive through, but it's maybe a 50sq foot free standing building and all they do is coffee.  What separates them further from the other local shops and the big chains is the lids they use.

I know they didn't make these themselves, but I did some research on the subject (and by research I mean I did some online searching for about 10 mins) and couldn't find the manufacturer of these lids.  (I'm sure it's on the lid itself, but I don't have one with me.  I'll update when I get one.)  The point is, I couldn't EASILY find it online.  Which is a shame because this is a genius level lid.  It's pop-up book technology AND it removes the need for wasteful splash sticks.

So why hasn't CB&TL adopted this instead of following Starbuck's lead with the sticks?  That's a good question.  I thought maybe it was cost, which is why I was trying to find a manufacturer to gauge price.  I can't imagine the cost of fancy lids outweighs normal lids + sticks.  Not to mention the waste cost we must endure afterwards.

So I'm making an effort.  I'm going to ask from my big chains that they not give me a stir stick.  If they insist, I'll hand it back and ask that they recycle it.  I'm going to write Starbucks and CB&TL and suggest this lid instead.  And I'm definitely going to patron Dazzle as long as I'm nearby.

Carry on.


Type A Assholes

A recent article on CNN.com by an Austin based reporter garnered several antagonistic and arrogant responses, not least of which called users of Facebook "sissy men" and encouraged readers to play sports and watch more sports channels.  I tried to weigh in with a comment that was possibly too passive-aggressive, and when others jumped all over me for it, I found I wasn't able to respond to them; further encouraging the beast that is an internet argument.

So I've taken to my own unread blog to respond, mostly because I won't be able to get through my day unless I offer a long-winded, ambling and incoherent response.

The article basically says that despite everyone bitching about social networks, privacy and the erosion of face to face communication, Facebook is here to stay.  One seventh of the world's population uses it.  I think at this point the only thing being more utilized is oxygen.  I use it a lot.  I tried moving away from it, but here's the thing about ubiquitous monopolies; they're usually very easy to use.  I know they come with scary privacy policies and leaky protections against third party data mining, but my view is, if I was worried about that, I wouldn't be using the thing in the first place.  Is it fair to say I should have to trade my personal information in order to use a free social site?  I think that's the price you pay for "free."  I fail to see how much more nefarious Facebook can be than targeted ads.  Think about it.  They aren't getting a dime from you so they have to use advertising to make some money to cover the overhead.  Targeted ads result in more revenue because you're more likely to buy.  So, is that the worst thing that can happen?

Imagine you walk into a bar and start ordering drinks.  The drinks are free, there's no cover, and you can meet all your friends at any time.  You dictate the music that's played and who is invited.  Now, in order to pay for all this, the bar has to sell ad space on the napkins and coasters and TVs and the backs of chairs and maybe the servers' shirts.  For everything you see there that you go buy later, the bar gets a cut.  If they're randomly putting up ads for medical equipment, crochet needles and tours of the airbases at Okinawa, are they going to get a lot back?  Not from me.  If, however, I walk in the door and they ask me some questions about who I am and then all the ads become about space combat games and cheap places to take my kids and a few good breakfast taco/coffee shops, you bet I'd shop those.

Is the trade off bad?  That's up to you to sort out.  I'm not going to comment too much about personal privacy or else I'll have every Libertarian I know yelling at me about government interference and the death of personal privacy.

What I would like to talk about is all the negativity that seems to stem from using social networking sites as a waste of time.  First, let me just say, "Duh!"  Social networking sites are supposed to be a time waster.  What could you possibly be thinking if you feel Facebook and Twitter are built primarily as constructive, community building applications?  To be fair, they CAN be used to organize events, reach out to your constituents, be the face of a foundation or cause, but at their cores, these things are ways for people to talk to each other in much the same way we talk face to face; about nothing.

Think about it.  The last time you hung out with your friends, what did you talk about?  Stuff you saw on TV?  A sporting event?  What your kids or parents were doing?  How many of you (dictators and billionaire geniuses aside) planned the next revolution?  How many of you even said more than a few meaningful and deep things that changed someone's life?  And I'm talking about the most immediate interaction you had.  My guess is very few of us.

So why is it that there's this constant desire to put down Facebook because you're not on it?  Is your time better spent than mine because you aren't wasting time the same way I am?  I don't watch a lot of TV, and when I do put something on the big box sitting on that shelf, it's usually talking head shows or Netflix.  So is my Facebook time somehow worse than your reality TV time?  If I'm posting artwork in the hopes that someone will see it and order something from me, how is that worse than you watching The Bachelor?  Which is more noble, posting pictures of my kids so my grandparents can see them, or you taking that time to have another shot of tequila and then puking an hour later?  Which "social" is more constructive?

Agreed, I don't care to see when people say their lives suck but never follow up.  I don't want to know who is playing what game online.  I don't need to know what purses you like or what opinion you have about certain musicians.  But I read it anyway because that's part of who you are.  If we were at a restaurant catching up, what would you say to me?  I really like this new pair of pants I saw, or did you read that latest Green Lantern, or man I can't believe how much lag there is on Diablo III.  It's the same thing.  We're wasting the same time, so don't get all high-and-mighty about how your beer swilling floats down a river are somehow better than my party organizing or news article reading.

You're not better, you're just bitter.