There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth lately by folks nationwide concerned about what happens to all those Starbucks cups that are thrown away, but only recycled in a few states. But before you wrack yourself with guilt over the Caramel Macchiato cup you just tossed, or inundate the coffee company with letters about how its cups aren't green enough, check out these five examples of common activities that are way more destructive than trashing a coffee cup.
4. Driving to work. Driving an average MPG car a mere five miles to and from work or school five days a week can translate into 1.225 tons of carbon dumped into the atmosphere per year. If you walked that distance and threw away a Starbucks cup at every trashcan along the way, the earth would likely be better off.
3. Not buying locally. How much of a carbon footprint your food habit creates is very much dependent on whether you prefer home grown spinach to imported beluga caviar. Obviously there is a lot of gray between those two examples, but by buying food that comes from who-knows-where (which, if its in a chain grocery store, often means it comes from as far away as South America or Asia) you're adding energy costs onto every mile that the food traveled to get from whatever field it grew on to your plate.
2. Not weatherizing your home. With the rain, wind and, of late, snow, terrorizing the Seattle area, it's tempting to crank up the heater and hibernate for the next several months. And while sleeping may be the most earth conscious activity one can do, if all that heat is escaping out of the house and all that nasty Washington winter weather is coming in, you're not doing the earth any favors. In fact, some estimates say a non-weatherized home (with windows caulked, water heater wrapped, doors sealed, etc) adds 4,000 pounds of carbon a year to the atmosphere.
1. Leaving appliances plugged in. Sometimes referred to as "Vampire Power" (settle down, Twilight fans, it wont make you leap through trees or develop rock hard abs) the DOE says the 75 percent of the electricity used in an average home comes from appliances that are turned off.
But most of all, if you're concerned about where your Starbucks cup ends up after you toss it. Try not tossing it. Bring your own reusable cup and save the energy used to email hate messages about the packaging the company uses. Changing one's own behavior takes much less effort than trying to change someone else's.