Sometimes however, usually at places like an airport café, on an airplane, or at any range of coffee-selling places that are not the typical coffee house, the attendant will either refuse to fill my mug, or will do something completely stupid like pour the coffee into a disposable cup, pour it from the cup into my mug, and then throw the disposable cup into the garbage.
What is it with these people?
I’m guessing that their problem is simple lack of education at two levels.
At one level, many of these folks, working in places like an airport Duncin’ Donuts, are not very well-off and have been concerned with just surviving for most of their lives. Sustainability is the last thing to come to the forefront of their attention. They have learned to do what they are told to make sure they get a paycheck. When they see something a little bit out of their norm, such as a green citizen bringing their own mug to save a little paper or plastic, and it doesn’t cleanly fit into the “small”, “medium” or “large” category, they either refuse to do it, or have to make sure they serve the “right” amount of coffee by measuring it out in a disposable cup.
When I politely ask them to please not do that and try to help by telling them how many ounces my mug is (or just ask them to “please save yourselves a cup pour it into my mug – everybody else does”), these types of folks usually get angry and refuse to serve me coffee unless they use the disposable cup.
The best solution, I have found, is simply to explain what I’m doing, walk away for a few moments, and then come back and try a different attendant, who is usually fine. It’s usually just that one person’s ignorance (and stubbornness) that is the problem. Sometimes, it’s a bad manager who doesn’t have a clue and holds their employees to these dumb rules. But they’re out there. Those people whose way of doing things is just so far removed from the green revolution, and so stuck to wasteful, inefficient routines, that it makes those of us who take pride in living more sustainably wince.
At a second level, many of these folks are just not receiving the proper (if any) corporate education in (1) how to use efficient sustainable practices and (2) why these practices are important for benefiting the company’s bottom line (and, when used at home, help save money). The company is not adequately (if at all) making sure that efficient green practices – from knowing how to handle somebody who brings their own mug, to recycling, to using materials efficiently (I don’t need a bag for a single pack of gum or 12 napkins for my small fries), to using energy and water efficiently – are properly ingrained in the training of its employees.
Too often, I still find that we have a long way to go before internal corporate sustainability training – of employees in how to live and work and use resources in a smart, efficient manner – becomes ingrained at the mainstream level. Then again, too often, when visiting friends and family outside of my little green bubble, even the most basic of green (and often money-saving) products and practices have yet to be put to use. What will it take for this to change?