Trying to Do My Part to Save the Environment


For many reasons I’ve decided that it’s time to take more seriously the concept of reducing single use plastic and start taking some baby steps in that direction. I’ve made a few changes like switching to shampoo bars, and laundry detergent strips, and dryer balls, and mesh produce bags. They all work great. The biggest challenge is how to enjoy the take-out cold drinks without using one of the single use plastic cups.

In the summer, we always enjoy the frothy cold coffee and fruity concoctions at Tim Horton’s, but they all need to be made in the  “sterile” plastic cups because they’re mixed by a sterile machine, or so I was told. So I gave up my Cappuccinos for Iced Coffee and started taking my own reusable cup with me. The coffee is poured into my cup, a squirt of flavor is added, followed by a scoop of ice cubes. No cross contamination right? Well, a few service people tried to say they couldn’t do it because their hand stirrer could not go into my cup. Then someone told them, just use a plastic straw to stir it. That was fine until I got stainless steel straws and began taking one with me. “Don’t worry about stirring it,” I’d say. “I’ll do it myself.” Everyone was happy.

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Then we ventured away from the franchises that had become familiar with me. Too often, even though the service person would agree to make my coffee in my own cup, I’d catch them making it in their plastic one and then pouring it into mine. I again explained why that was unacceptable and how it could be remedied. Obviously they had no concept of why I was doing this and some got quite defensive with me.

One time, I went onto the Tim Horton’s website and sent a message of complaint, about that policy, and their need to reduce their garbage better recycling. The next day I got a lovely boilerplate reply telling me how they are reducing waste with their recycling bins.

Things were going smoothly until a week or so later. We were at a Tim Horton’s in the Brookdale Plaza in Peterborough. I asked for an iced coffee to be made in my cup and, “don’t worry about stirring it. I’ll do it myself with my own straw.”

Her reply? “I can’t make it in your cup, but I can pour it into there once it’s made.”

I tried to explain nicely to her that it can be done without violating any health codes, but she wouldn’t even listen.

“I’m not allowed to do that! I’ve been working here for four years and I’ve never done that!”

Jim asked to speak to the manager. She claimed she was busy serving the drive-through. “You can call the owners if you want,” she yelled from the other end of the counter. “Or you can call Head Office. They’ll tell you it’s not allowed. Peterborough Health Unit won’t allow it.”

Again I tried to explain that there would be no cross contamination, that it wouldn’t be any different than refilling a hot coffee mug. But she would have none of it. She even said something about she couldn’t touch my cup.

I eventually got Jim to walk away and we went to MacDonald’s, where, after I explained what I wanted and how to do it, the manager said, “I can do that.”

The next time we were in our own local Tim Horton’s and the owner/manager cheerfully accepted my cup for refill, I told him about my Peterborough experience. He was surprised. He told me that he’d worked for the Head Office for several years, setting up franchises across the country, before deciding to become an owner, and that that woman was totally wrong. He said several people now take in their own cups or mugs just as I do.

Have you taken steps to try to reduce your footprint on the environment? If so, what has been your experience?