Watch the hot water swirl into your tea in a rich brown stain. Breathe its steam into your mouth, and feel a little more at peace. Wrap your fingers around the porcelain of your mug. Settle your eyes on the person across from you and really hear what they are saying. This one thing, this conversation, this hot drink in your hand, is a good, simple gift.
And you’re enjoying it at your church’s coffee hour.
Impossible, you say? Your church coffee hour, or your Sunday school class, or your small group meeting, is best identified by its rows of stacked polystyrene (better, though inaccurately, known as Styrofoam) or paper cups next to the coffee pot? Well, as you know, a comforting ceramic mug is one small thing, but it can have a big impact. And it is not impossible to find at church coffee hours.
Around the world a simple cup made out of, well, basically dirt, and filled with hot, flavored water has a comforting, humanizing effect on us and our interactions, bringing us together with others or giving us a quiet moment of reflection and healing. And this one small thing–a coffee mug instead of a paper cup at your church coffee hour–can have a substantial effect on the world’s waste stream. Both polystyrene foam and paper cups have dubious environmental beginnings and endings, so cupping a reusable mug instead unburdens landfills and the ecosystems that suffer from their waste. But more importantly, habituating ourselves to reusing what we have distances us from the narrow throw-away mentality that pervades our society, and orients us toward what is more lasting and nourishing than convenience.
There are a few ways to implement this practice in your church community:
- Encourage people to bring their own mug or thermos with them to church or church-related activities. Many of us bring a thermos to and from work every day–why should we do anything different when we go to church? A thermos will keep your drink warmer than any paper cup, and will keep any leftovers from spilling out as you travel to and from church. A well-slurped mug will do just as well. This same principle can apply to cold drinks, too–bring a water bottle to fill up on those!
- Keep reusable mugs at church. Some smaller churches provide cubbies for holding individual members’ mugs, plus a cupboard of extras for guests and visitors. A larger church may not be able to use this system, but reusable mugs can still be set out for members to use.
- Use mugs on special occasions. It may be too much of a stretch to ask members of your weekly coffee hour set-up and clean-up crew to wash your dishes. If that’s the case, use mugs and glasses only for special events, when non-disposable dishes and flatware are already being used. A fuller dishwasher is a more efficient dishwasher, anyway.
‘Tis the season for a warm drink, so start luxuriating in your own personal mug at this week’s coffee hour or Christmas celebration!