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My Humble Cup: Destigmatizing Reuse Culture

Reusable pastel coloured coffee cups lined up on a shelf.

How attractive is a brand new reusable cup to you? Pastel colours lined up in a row on the shelf, shiny (or maybe a perfect misty matte), sleek, clean... How good will your beverage taste in that cute AF canister?


(Thanks AI for making this image I described)



Now how do you feel about my cup?


Sadie's hand extends into a nature-y frame holding a yellow reusable metal coffee tumbler so the camera can see the severely dented underside.

What does my broken-in coffee container say to you? How does it make you feel?


Normally it makes be feel safe, comforted, prepared, loved by myself and by others, and it reminds me of my values... this cup rocks on the desk next to me as a I type this post because I've dropped it enough times that the base is no longer flat.


Eventually, reusable things look, well, reused... so how does that impact those of us who choose to prioritize reuse in our lives? Every once in a while, even though reuse is drastically destigmatized in my life, I will find I'm self-conscious about my cup. Is it clean enough for them to accept? Can others tell it's stained and dented, not dirty? Is it making me look less so-called professional?


These aren't my concerns... these are someone else's concerns... so why are they in my head? If bringing my well loved reusable cup into professional spaces diminishes others' opinions of me, then the work I do will be diminished in the space and I try to make environmentalism look good.


But... doesn't my cup look good? I think so!


Sadie's hand extends into a nature-y frame holding their reusable coffee tumbler which they spin slowly over the gif, displaying 360 degrees of wear. It is a yellow cup and covered in stickers in various states of worn and it is covered in dents.
Actual footage of my actual cup

My cup looks like it's been reused, not just once or twice, but nearly everyday for three plus years. My cup has replaced at least 2 whole boxes of disposable cups from production (upwards of 1000 single-use products Refused). My cup is a talisman of my values that I relish in others noticing and admiring. My cup bears the markings of a well lived life like the crows feet starting to appear on my own face.


Reuse; to destigmatize or restigmatize?

Stigma is a strong motivator, or demotivator, based on ours and others' perception of what is good or beautiful or attractive. But each of these factors is at least somewhat subjective... subjective and constantly evolving even!


So can we add to our being (knowledge, experience, connection) to change the stigma in our mind so it acts as a force for what we think is good? How do we add a healthy bit of stigma to not using a reusable cup -- especially in so-called professional spaces? How do we build respect for a well smashed cup like mine?


Sadie's cup is rested on a desk before being briefly picked up and removed from frame (presumably so Sadie can have a sip). When the cup is replaced on the desk it wobbles back and forth slightly. The sticker most visible on the cup reads "Be proud" in rainbow lettering with a series of inclusive troll dolls lined up above the lettering.

There are managerial answers to share with coffee shops and policy makers, but for you dear reader, the answer is simple: use a reusable cup (actively refuse single use cups), keep it as long as you can, and use it indiscriminately of the company you keep.




With love,

Sadie


The Sustainable Fox logo in text format

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