Monday, April 27, 2009

Bike Race Travel and Paper Cup Conundrums


I don't count airline travel, Starbucks, or disposable to-go cups among my favorite things in life. Today I got to experience all three...

Ten Speed Drive, the team I race for, makes a concerted effort to lessen its environmental impact. But, the facts of trying to run an elite bike racing team and the associated travel - often by air - can throw a wrench in those good intentions.

The time convenience and price of air travel can't be beat but, were the airlines to charge the true "cost" of a flight, including greenhouse gases, environmental damage, and the cost of cleaning it all up, airfares would be much less appealing. Consider this: If every passenger on my flight today drove an SUV solo to their destination instead, the total environmental impact would still be one-third of us all sharing ONE flight.

I admit it. From time to time, I fly to attend big team races. There was no way I could have driven from Portland to Silver City, New Mexico for the Tour of the Gila. Although I love hitting races like this, from an environmental perspective, at least we only have a couple of trips like this per year.

On to Starbucks. I'm not a big frequenter of the omnipresent chain - I prefer the unique character of local indie shops when I can find them and loathe the spreading homogenization of the American landscape that generic chains have brought. Boston, my hometown, is, sadly, a prime example with Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts alternating corners.

When I fly, and am unable to tote my own bevvies through security, Starbucks often becomes my caffeine-fix beacon. I'm always carrying my beloved stainless steel travel mug, which may be an absurd gesture in conjunction with air travel. But, disposable cups and bottled water are major pet peeves of mine.

This morning, after I patiently awaited my turn among business commuters, the Starbucks cashier told me, "We no longer can take refillable cups behind the counter. I can pour into a paper cup and you can transfer it into your own mug."

"Will you reuse the cup?" I asked.

"Yes," she responded. But her accent made me worry about a communication gap.

It was a bad sign when she automatically put a plastic cover over my bleached paper cup. I asked again, "Will you reuse that cup?"

She couldn't, she informed me. Something about Port of Portland regulations.

I expressed my displeasure over what seemed like an absurd rule as I precariously transferred my steaming hot liquid over the narrow counter and tip jar. One comfort that I take from our over-litigated ways is that, with $million lawsuits against McDonald's for even serving hot liquids without a warning, I imagine this policy will be short-lived.

In the meantime, for what it's worth, I blog about it here and am drafting letters to Starbucks and the Port of Portland. I'll post any replies. Stay tuned, don't follow my recent example and fly less, and make a difference with your reusable mugs and your opinions.

Photo via flickr by cafemama

1 comment:

TriVeggies said...

Good luck at the race Josh. All of the cylo club is sending you positive thoughts!

I love your outlook on life and our place in the environment. We share a lot of views. Always enjoy reading your blog.

Best, Colleen