Roger Marolt
Snowmass Village, CO, Colorado

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February 12, 2013
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Roger Marolt: Leave a little room in your reusable coffee cup for cream and Tylenol?

There's something disgusting going around town. It's enough to make you green, but not only in the environmental sense. Spread the word. Spread the flu. Bring your own mug and get the "friend of the environment" discount, coming to a cafe near you. Buy a cup of coffee, and they'll throw in a case of the crud for free.

There's a lot of fuss over doorknobs in these days of cough and cold. You twist one and touch your nose or eyes and you might be in for a few weeks of misery. They are supposedly the most virile virus spreaders known to mankind. I touch them, you touch them, and everybody ends up blowing their noses raw. If we could get rid of them, the world would be a healthier place and the Kleenex company would have to retool to toilet-paper manufacturing, but automatic doors are impractical for most in-and-out applications so we are stuck with the common miserable cold for the foreseeable future.

Under the theme of "if you can't beat it, grow it," then, we might as well reincarnate this germ-trafficking device in the form of the reusable coffee mug. You know the super-hip save-the-world coffee klatch pitch: Bring in your own reusable cup, and we will give you a deep discount on your dark roasted Sumatra blend. You will feel good (for a while) about helping to save the planet. We will feel good for not having to do the dishes.

Think about the process, though. We are talking about a device that people hold very close to their noses and actually touch, over and over again, to their lips, and which they might not wash out very often since they are the only ones drinking out of them. I have to admit that I have actually sneezed into my hand, rubbed my nose, picked my ear, and adjusted my briefs from time to time while sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee in front of me that I pick up at least as often as my pen. I would be surprised to learn that other people have not experienced the same rituals of desk jockeying.

I hate to think what the outside of my coffee mug might grow in a petri dish, so I won't. But, what if I want a cheap refill for a discount at our favorite coffee shop? Uh huh, you better hope you get ahead of me in line. I'm going to transfer my contaminated mug directly from my hand to my barista's, and it will be handed back to me full. Within seconds, the same barista will grab the next person's contaminated mug and repeat the process. As this practice is repeated hundreds of times a day, you can see why cold Pepsi out of a can might be a better option for that late afternoon caffeine fix.

Reusable, refillable coffee cups might be a microscopic piece to the saving the planet puzzle, but it is certainly going to cause more misery than it prevents. So, what's the point?

When I get the flu, glued to the couch and running a high fever, I could honestly not care less about saving the planet. My 7-up cans and orange juice bottles go right in with the rest of the garbage. I'm not going to take the bus to the doctor's office. I'll turn the heat up to 80. And, I'll run hot, steamy showers for an hour. In the throws of body aches, delirium, and shivering I am anxious for the world to end.

Does anybody know the environmental damage caused annually by the manufacturing of flu vaccines and common cold remedies? Neither do I, but it must be tremendous because huge multinational conglomerates are making obscene amounts of profits doing it, so it must be horrific for the ozone layer. Yet, who cares when they're sick? Pass the Nyquil!

If the germs and viruses passed around via the reusable coffee mug could be quarantined to dedicated sections of coffee shops so that only super-environmentally conscious coffee sippers get infected, I wouldn't be so Howard Hughes-ish about the issue. Let them secretly pine for global warming as they are wracked with bouts of feverish chills watching daytime television in a wad of blankets. But, this isn't reality. Contaminated baristas' hands not only handle reusable coffee mugs. They touch your bagel and my croissant, too.

It doesn't end there, either. We scarf our food and wipe our mouths, then what happens? We head out into the big, broad world and start grabbing doorknobs.

Roger Marolt is walking around his house wearing shoeboxes on his feet. Contact him at

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The Aspen Times Updated Feb 12, 2013 03:53PM Published Feb 12, 2013 03:52PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.