Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tales of Travel: Roaming the World with my Re-usable Cup- by Lauren Campbell Kong

I awoke this morning with excitement, but I was also nervous about preparing for my travels to Texas.
I did all of the pre-travel chores: Taking out the trash, taking out the recycling, cleaning the litter boxes, etc. I packed the necessities for the dog and his week-long stay with friends and put together the things I wanted to tote around in my carry-on bag. I realized that the one item that has not left my side all summer long may be forced to stay behind: my re-usable cup.

I have one of those standard ‘iced coffee’ reusable cups, with the durable plastic straw and the green hand grip around the side.

Sometimes I find myself basking in all of its BPA free gloriousness!

This cup has been by my side in all my car rides to friends’ houses, while I worked in the garden in the baking heat of the Mid-Western drought, and even traveled with me to Missouri earlier this summer to visit my sister. It’s amazing how many places will pleasantly fill your cup with ice and water: gas stations, coffee shops, fast food drive-thrus. It is also feels wonderful knowing how many plastic, foam, and paper cups are saved in the process.

My adventures with my cup to so many different places made me realize how upset I would be if my reusable cup could not travel with me to Texas. Can a large cup (24 oz) pass the airport security, albeit empty?

I pondered for a while and decided that I would take it with me and if it wasn’t allowed in my carry on, then I would just shove it into my checked baggage; but regardless, it was going with me. I had come to appriciate the benefits of having it close to me, especially since I use it frequently. I find myself drinking more water now.

With my trusty  reusable cup I think I drink around 96 oz a day on average; more than the recommended 64 oz a day. I find that when traveling to friends' houses with my cup, it makes it much easier to grab something to drink as well as saves a cup that they would later have to be washed. It helps them save water, time, and energy in the process. I discovered on my 6 hour drive to visit my sister that stopping at a gas station and using a reusable cup prevents one from having to purchase a bottle of water; saving money as well as another plastic bottle. My reusable cup also came in handy if I craved a fountain pop, saving foam and plastic cups from hitting the land fills.

Most fast food restaurants also allow you to fill up a reusable cup with ice water on your own, or will fill it up for you in the drive thru; this helps cut back on soda, opting for water, an obvious healthier choice as well as saves money by not buying into the super-sized soda.

It was because of all of these benefits that I was hoping the airport security would allow me to bring my cup. When I arrived at the airport I was told that if the cup was empty then I would be able to take it through security. So, to my pleasant surprise, the adventure of my traveling cup began:

When we were ready to leave, Lauren put me into the cup holder of a friend’s car. It was a nice cup holder, with a high back. It made me feel safe. Once we arrived at the airport, Lauren emptied my contents and proceeded into the check in area. She had a short discussion with the agent regarding my accompaniment on the airplane and she replied that I could join. I was so happy, I hadn’t flown before and I didn’t want to spend my first time flying shoved in the checked luggage.
Once we got to security, Lauren placed me into a plastic container with her computer. I was belted through a machine and a bright light hit me. It was the most terrifying experience I have ever had. It felt like they were looking right through me. I think Lauren knew I was shaken, so she took me to a nearby Starbucks and had me filled with ice and water, my liquid of choice. I felt much better after that and knowing that I was quenching Lauren’s thirst made the terrfying experience worthwhile.
Lauren, cradling my handy no slip grip, found a comfortable place to sit and began using her computer. We sat there for almost an hour while she typed and sipped water. It is these moments I cherish the most; helping her hydrate her brain while she thinks and writes.

Then loud sounds came over the speaker and we were up and in line to board the plane. I looked around and saw another reusable cup, it was more of the sporting breed, one you might take on a hike, but it was nice to know that I was joining a fellow reusable vessel. I also noticed all the plastic and paper coffee cups wondering about. It is so sad to think of their lives; they spend such a short amount of time with actual people providing liquid sustenance and so much time sitting in a land fill or floating in the ocean. I actually saw a few being thrown away and one poor plastic fellow wasn’t even thrown into the recycling bin, he was just tossed in the trash can!!!

An elephant made entirely out of plastic bottles
The audacity of some humans; they don’t always see the value in plastic bottles and the ability they have to be recycled.

Thankfully Lauren took the deprived soul from the trashcan into the recycling bin. I know people sometimes stare at her as if she’s crazy, but it makes me proud of her; it delights me to see her care for plastic bottles in such a way. She also isn’t discriminatory, she will always help a paper coffee cup and the stray aluminum can find their way to a recycling bin too.

Once we boarded the plane, people made glances at me; I guess I am not a popular accessory for plane travel. Lauren shoved me into the magazine holder in front of her, where I rode for the entire flight. It wasn’t the most comfortable place I’ve sat, but it sufficed.

The flight attendants came around and offered drinks to people. This confused me because there weren’t any cup holders…yet they offered people cups; plastic cups. Lauren turned down a drink; after all, she had me and didn’t need anything else. I was there to hydrate her, to cut down plastic use, and to lower her carbon footprint while traveling. Overall, I was there to help Lauren be green and in more ways than one.

We landed in Atlanta, the largest airport in the nation, and it was crazy! So many people, from all over the world, traveling to the farthest reaches of the globe. Lauren stopped at a coffee shop to fill me up and the lady behind the counter wouldn’t do it. She stated that it was airport policy and they do not allow outside cups behind the counter, but could offer me a cup of water free of charge. Lauren stated that the point of a reusable cup was to not use disposable cups; she declined the offer, thanked her, and kept walking, looking for an opportunity to fill me up. She was thirsty, but after all, it wasn’t like she had just walked out of the Gobi desert…she could make it.

Sure enough, she walked by a self-filling soda station and filled me up! Most often times her patience will reward her; this time it rewarded me as well!

We boarded the flight to Dallas and I rode in the magazine holder again, but again, Lauren rejected a drink from the flight attendants-saving yet another plastic cup. Once we landed in Dallas, I had the whole week to look forward to driving around Dallas and accompanying Lauren along the way.

My first flying experience as a traveling re-usable cup was overall a success. I am excited to see the new world Lauren refers to as Texas and what sustainable features this place has to offer! Farewell for now!!

I hope that through my experiences and my travels that I will be able to view the world through a sustainable lens, even if that means using that lens through the eyes of a re-usable cup. It is because of these experiences and the diversity of individual communities around the world that my cup and I are able to view sustainability independently and holistically. Each area on this globe requires something different from the sustainability movement, yet all are interconnected and dependent upon one another, just like I am dependent on my reusable cup and he is dependent on me.

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