Coffee mug – what is greenwashing?

Coffee mug – what is greenwashing?

How big coffee chains gloss over environmental problems

Be honest: Do you like to have your latte macchiato, sweet mocchacino or refreshing iced coffee served as a to-go option? Are you not happy when the barista hands you your coffee in a paper cup instead of the environmentally harmful styrofoam cup? The environmental awareness of the large coffee chains has changed significantly in the past. At least that’s what they tell us in their omnipresent advertising messages, but is that really true or is it just about greenwashing?

The problem is the coffee mug

Coffee is one of the few luxury goods available to a large part of the world’s population. In order to steadily increase their sales, large coffee chains flood street corners and pedestrian zones with coffee-to-go cafes, where they always supply coffee lovers with exotic coffee varieties. The cosiness of a Viennese coffee house has long been a reminder of times gone by. What remains is a carelessly thrown away coffee mug that only had to serve for 15 minutes for quick coffee consumption. It is obvious that such short-term use cannot be ecologically ideal.

For this reason, such coffee filling stations are increasingly switching to apparently environmentally friendly paper cups, recyclable plastic or reusable solutions. So that we do not miss this ecological change, large sums of money are invested in advertising campaigns that tell us about their green awareness – the keyword is greenwashing.

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Greenwashing is cheaper than environmental protection

One thing is clear: for many, it is less about the environmentally friendly serving of new coffee varieties, but more about profit. If companies are seen as polluters, those customers who care about the well-being of their planet stay away. Therefore, a green image is definitely in the business interests of Starbucks, Costa or others.

Huge industrial companies have discovered greenwashing for themselves here. These are PR campaigns that give companies a green image without any real basis. Translated, the term means something like ecological whitewash . In these campaigns, companies selectively describe positive product properties, conceal environmental sins during production, invent tailor-made organic labels or declare compliance with legal regulations as their own environmental initiative.

Greenwashing campaigns of the past

Greenwashing is not a new invention. Older generations will still remember the healthy light, slim or filter cigarettes. The Coca-Cola Group tried something similar with the introduction of Coke-Zero, Coke-Light and, most recently, Coca-Cola life, which does without organic products, but is adorned with a green banderole. Palmolive openly touts “100% natural oils” that are actually there, but only as one of many ingredients.

The two largest operators of coffee houses, Starbucks and Costa, are currently trying to counteract displeasure with paper cups, the plastic coating of which can neither be recycled nor rot naturally. Switching to reusable cups is of little use if walk-in customers would rather throw their cups away than carry them around with them for days.

Coffee mug campaigns in the light of reality

The change from polystyrene cups (Styrofoam cups) to paper cups, thanks to the plastic coating, has proven to be less environmentally friendly than advertised. But what about the recycling products, reusable cups and the filling of cups that you brought with you?

Recycling cups are generally a good idea if coffee drinkers also throw their cups into the recycling bin after drinking. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, which is why baristas have to charge an additional deposit for the cups if they are serious about environmental protection. But then you can go straight to more environmentally friendly reusable cups.

Granting a discount when customers bring their own to-go cups makes sense – especially if they are made from natural materials such as bamboo. By the way, stylish and sustainable to-go and thermal mugs in different sizes and colors are available at Amazon. However, this variant excludes customers who spontaneously decide to have a fresh cup of coffee or are too forgetful to think about bringing their cup with them on their way to work.

A solution for every coffee connoisseur

It is obvious that the solution to our environmental problems should not be left in the hands of those companies that make their profits from selling coffee. Everyone must make their own contribution to environmental protection. The daily coffee shows how easy such a contribution can be.

Start by rediscovering your coffee. Coffee is a high-quality luxury food whose production has gone through a complex process. It only grows in very limited latitudes and altitudes, and has to be carefully harvested, picked, washed, dried, sorted, mixed, roasted and ground. Only then does it become the wonderful drink that is popular all over the world.

Treat the coffee as something special. After all, don’t expect a caviar-to-go stand or truffle-to-go stand in the subway station. Take your time drinking coffee and enjoy it carefully. Sit down for coffee in the café. It is usually served there in a porcelain cup, with some pastries and a glass of water. You will be amazed how much better your coffee tastes with a little rest.

If you still want to take the coffee to work with you, bring your favorite thermos mug with you. Your coffee will stay hot in it for much longer. Besides, you’re the only one who ever drank from it. Your coffee will taste even better if you prepare it yourself, as hot and strong as you love it and from a mixture that contains a selection of flavors to suit your taste. A high-quality coffee machine at the workplace is also worthwhile for fresh, aromatic coffee.

Conclusion: coffee mugs and greenwashing

  • To-go coffee mugs are often harmful to the environment
  • Companies try to convince us otherwise through greenwashing
  • Returnable, reusable and eco cups are better, but not the solution


  • Enjoy coffee on site
  • Bring your own thermos mug
  • Prepare coffee yourself