Tips & Tricks

If You Really Need an Excuse to Love Sustainability…Blame it on Your Wallet


I will openly admit it…I love Starbucks. I know. It’s against the Holy Grail of all things cool and “actually” hipster, but hey, I’m not a hipster, so it’s all good. I frequent the coffee shop about two to three times a week and I am proud to own a few reusable travel mugs and iced coffee cups that I bring in and hand over the counter to be filled. However, this morning I was in a rush and left my travel mug in my apartment. In the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge deal, but I wince a little bit every time a barista hands me a paper cup (even though they are much more eco-friendly than they used to be). The same thing goes for plastic bags at the grocery store. As a city dweller I walk to and from the store every week, so remembering a durable reusable bag is totally worth it from the I-don’t-want-sea-turtles-choking-because-of-me perspective and from the common sense I-don’t-want-my-vegetables-falling-on-the-sidewalk side of things. Although I have no problem unabashedly flaunting my eco-friendliness, some of my friends find it a little odd that I will go back up the stairs to grab that canvas bag from Old Navy and are slightly embarrassed to do it themselves. It’s not that they are bad people or don’t care about the earth, there’s just a lack of motivation and a societal status quo that encourages us to be lazy and get that cool holiday themed disposable coffee cup. Well I’m going to make you love sustainability, and it’s all because of your wallet. And the sea turtles.

One thing most people don’t know about Starbucks is that when you bring in your own reusable mug, they will give you 10 cents off  of your drink. Now, that may not seem like much, but let’s do the math on my caffeine habits. If I go an average three times a week, I will save a total of thirty cents weekly. Multiply that by 52, and all of the sudden at the end of the year I have an extra $15.60, which will go straight into my fun budget (or, if I’m feeling really ambitious, my Emergency Fund i.e. my last post). The 156 paper or plastic cups I haven’t used are an added bonus. What was the total saving in paper cups in 2012 you ask? Well, last year coffee was served in reusable tumblers 35.8 million times, saving more than 1.6 million pounds of paper from landfills. Not too shabby, my friends!

The same thing goes for paper or plastic bags. If you use your own bag at Whole Foods you save 10 cents for every bag you bring, and in some cities like Washington DC, it’s a mandated law that you can save that 10 cents in any grocery store. It doesn’t stop at Whole Foods either. In every Target, CVS, Safeway, Kroger, Winco and Fred Meyer (I swear I’m not making names up…some of these stores are just regional!) you can save money off of your total purchase if you BYOB.  If I use two reusable bags once a week for one year, it adds up to $10.40 (considering you receive the ten cent savings). Again, I know that may seem like a pittance amount, but I am stubborn enough to keep these habits up, so over my lifetime I will save around $1500. Oh, what a twenty something could only dream about doing with that sum of money to spend guiltlessly.

From just a sustainability perspective or a financial perspective alone, this argument may not be that convincing. But that, my friends, is what the beauty of my blog is all about. When the two merge together it becomes more than just money and more than just a few trees. So if you’re embarrassed or annoyed at the thought of lugging your own reusable bag or travel mug somewhere, take solace in this: you will make the person behind you in line wince at the thought that they won’t get the discount. And hey, the clink of another dime in your piggy bank isn’t bad either.

By Jenna Heffernan

5 thoughts on “If You Really Need an Excuse to Love Sustainability…Blame it on Your Wallet

  1. excellent tips — Along the same vein, did you know that if a family decides to own 1 car (rather than 2) they can save $570,000 toward their retirement over the course of their working careers.

    • Nice! Hybrid cars are a great way to save up as well, the extra $5,000 or so usually pays itself off within the first year, especially with rising gas prices.

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