I was asked to write a blog about the environmental impact of disposable coffee cups. You know, because we have these cool new KeepCups, which you should get because we’re not supplying disposable cups anymore and you’ll end up having to drink it out of your hands. I did some research, found some scary statistics and awful images of landfills… but I thought that, perhaps, that’s not really what I needed to talk about. Instead, I’m going to talk about community, why it’s important to me, and why it’s important for the environment.
After years of reading Superman comics, the audience started to dwindle; people were getting bored. Being able to swallow atom bombs whole and delete planets with a stern glance just made everything too easy. It wasn't relatable for us normal folk. No matter how hopeful you were on your eleventh birthday for a letter from Hogwarts, no matter how hard you strained trying to use the force to turn your light off from the bed, it never seemed to happen.
As a kid, I was always optimistic that some day my super power would be revealed, and I would be able to use it to save the world, protect my friends and other useful things like doing the dishes from the sofa. Giving up on those dreams was hard. My hands are still covered in suds, my friends still get berated by the occasional lout at the taxi rank and most days I am faced with a new crisis – homelessness, refugees… the environment. All these things make me feel too small to help.
Without a Yodic/Dumbledorean hybrid of mystical ability it's easy to get the idea that these problems are an immovable object, the likes of which require an unstoppable force that couldn't possibly be mustered in an individual such as yourself. Then, one day, you meet a real hero. Someone who seems greater than any person should be. It isn't because they are twice as strong as you or that they can read your thoughts. It's simply a person who moves with such conviction that each time they take a step, its impact reverberates off the boots of their community. Each of their steps is felt by every other person willing to be held accountable for their own footprints.
As a kid I probably would have preferred being able to fly, to feel the wind in my hair and to see the world below, watching my ant like compatriots going about their everyday business. Today, however… given the choice? I would ask for that conviction.
I have had my moments, gloriously fleeting many of them may have been. I have felt the rush of self belief that can only be fostered through a space of trust, support, and the opportunity to step into the darkness, armed only with the courage to fear the unknown on which my feet will tread, and do it anyway. It is that courage that builds the path in front of us and that path can't even exist until we put our best foot forward.
There are many opportunities to choose feeling small, and to diminish the power of each decision by hiding in a crowd. But, when I am the 499,999th person to litter my disposable coffee cup that day and I see someone opposite me doing the same, that small decision has just piled up into a house that is bigger than mine.
Hearing about the 7 million cups of coffee bought every day in the UK is not easy to comprehend. It’s like reading about a blue whale; no matter what words appear, none of them can describe the feeling of being in the water next to one.
7 million disposable cups each day is scary, but life is scarier still, especially when you feel as though you are the only one on your path. That the faces you pass each day don't hold a piece of what you find divine in their hearts. It's a scary experience to feel alone in the fight for our home. It’s a scary experience that we must all share, lest we disregard the beautiful mess that churned and spluttered each one of us in to existence.
7 million disposable cups is scary, but it doesn’t stand up to the scariness of experience. The greater the fear we experience, the greater the power and responsibility. We hold responsibility not just for the path we tread, but also the paths we make available to our neighbours. When we take pride in our decisions, we set an example for others to take a step on their path.
Sometimes we need kind words. But, most of the time, a well-timed kick up the arse gets the job done much quicker. Friends are good for kind words and life tends to provide the backside-kickings in abundance - though not always in any particular direction. I will say now that having a friend who offers both is more valuable than any super power or house made of coffee cups. When you allow yourself to keep the company of others willing to shine at their brightest, you may just find that you too are lighter, brighter and more beautiful than even your mother imagined.
Like I said, I was supposed to write an article about reusable coffee cups, but I got carried away with how brilliant and powerful you are, and... well, that just seems more important right now. Shine when you can, and when that energy manifests itself in the care for your planet, your community, and yourself, it’s appreciated by all.
I often have days that don't feel particularly shiny, but when I catch the eye of those heroes, those people brave enough to take the little steps towards what they believe to be proper and be accountable for them… I feel a shade lighter. The day greets me with a beauty that reminds me of the power and awe of all that has led to this moment.
If 7 million disposable coffee cups a day in the UK alone scares you... you’re not alone. Be brave. Be powerful. Be counted. Treat yourself, your community and your planet to a reusable coffee cup.
Which you can buy at the café.
Written by Daniel Breeze
Edited by Raphy Mendoza