Keiran's World World by word by word

Analyses show no easy environmental answers for
consumer choices

Coffee cups—reusable is more environmentally friendly if you use them often and for a long time. Photo © Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar, via creative commons and flickr

Coffee cups—reusable is more environmentally friendly if you use them often and for a long time. Photo © Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar, via creative commons and flickr

Back when I was young, a University of Victoria researcher published a paper that shifted the ground under my idealistic, environmentally conscious, fairtrade sock-clad feet.

The year was 1994. Scientists had published the first big studies documenting rapid, modern climate change. Alberta’s tar-sands companies had publicly accepted government bail-outs. Earth Day was big, and environmental education was the new cool, despite—perhaps in spite of—Canada’s conservative Fraser Institute’s statements that it constituted social brainwashing.

Chemist Martin Hocking’s paper presented an analysis of which type of beverage container was most energy efficient to use—paper cups, ceramic mugs, glass mugs, styrofoam cups, or hard plastic cups.

The answer surprised me and many others.

Conventional wisdom was that ceramic or glass—reusable—cups beat plastic or paper cups in eco-friendliness….

Read the rest of this editorial at the Victoria Times Colonist….

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