Bringing Your Own Coffee Cup To The Drive-Thru? Don't Skip This Step

Plastic or paper "to go" coffee cups are everywhere. Just in the United States, per CNN, it is estimated that 50 billion paper coffee cups are disposed of annually. When confronted with a statistic like this, it is easy to see why so many people favor reusable coffee mugs. It is more environmentally sustainable to drink your coffee out of something you can wash and reuse than a cup that is destined for disposal. That is why many people opt to bring a ceramic or travel mug with them when they go to a coffee shop — they can have their morning brew without creating excessive waste.

But if you bring a reusable mug with you to the coffee shop, there is one thing you must not forget to do — if you miss this step, you risk canceling out any positive environmental impact you may have had by bringing your own cup.

Let the barista know in advance

If you are taking your personal mug to a coffee shop drive-thru, you must tell your barista when you place your order. Simply bringing your mug to the delivery window can make operations difficult for the baristas.

During the morning coffee rush, a team of experienced baristas is like a well-oiled machine. This is especially true for businesses with a drive-thru window. Baristas have to work together to take orders, make drinks, take payment, and send you on your way so you aren't idling in the parking lot for too long. The entire goal is to have your drink ready for you by the time you get to the window. This means that if the baristas don't know that you brought your own cup, they may have already put it into a disposable one. Even if they then transfer the drink to your cup, the used disposable one is likely on its way to the trash can.

The same goes for order-ahead apps. The baristas are aiming to have your drink made by the time you arrive, so if they don't know you are bringing a reusable cup, your drink will likely be in a paper cup. Whether you are ordering on an app or at the drive-thru window, make sure you mention that you've brought your own mug when you order.

Personal cups could be the future

Even though bringing your own cup to the drive-thru requires some foresight, it very well could be the way of the future. Many coffee shops already offer incentives or discounts for bringing your own cup or sell their own branded travel mugs to encourage reuse. While bringing your own mug is a personal choice, some industry leaders are hoping to make it the default.

Coffee giant Starbucks is planning to make reusable mugs the main option for customers by 2025. For customers who don't bring their own cups, the company is hoping to institute a cup-borrowing program where people could essentially rent reusable cups. If they accomplish this goal, more companies could follow suit. 

One day very soon, bringing your own mug to the drive-thru could be the automatic choice. But until then, make sure to tell your baristas when you place your order that you have brought a person cup — it will make everyone's life easier.