To supplement my student loan, I have a part-time job working in the cafe and shop at my university campus. This is all hunky dory generally, but today I had a very dismaying interaction with one of my bosses, the chef in the cafe. Basically I casually queried why we always use paper cups for tea and coffee rather than real cups. I’ve wondered this since my first shift but after hauling seven bin-bags of rubbish – a significant amount of which was just cups – outside at closing time, it was in the forefront of my mind. In answer he exclaimed that it would cause too much washing up. What! God, I didn’t realise running a cafe involved washing up! Next he’ll be telling me serving decent food requires buying decent ingredients! Anyway, I mentioned that most cafes actually employ somebody to do the washing up – which he doesn’t. He also said we don’t have enough space. We actually have three sinks. The last cafe I worked in had two tiny sinks and was busier than the one in question and yet seemed to get by with real crockery. I think this is all a shocking waste and if this is the 3rd greenest uni in the UK (apparently so) then I don’t even want to think about what the others do. After we came to this standstill, my boss wandered off to attend to some form of paper work, and had obviously been mulling this over because he came back to me and said ”anyway Tegan, I don’t mean to be horrible, but this world is screwed until the bloody orientals and the yanks change their ways…”. That’s a direct quote – I can assure you I don’t speak like that. He added something about the Chinese not caring about anything – but in more offensive language. I was pretty shocked by all this… He could have just admitted that they use paper cups because it’s the easy option, there’s no need to blame other countries for his business model, and there’s certainly no need to get all racist about it. I disagreed with his statement on so many levels that I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to say that wouldn’t risk losing my job. I just ignored him and swept the floor. I honestly can’t believe some people actually think like this. I thought perhaps Starbucks paid us to use their special cups or something… Which would still be a stupid reason. But ‘because America and China still cause loads of environmental damage so there’s no point in us making an effort’ is even stupider. As if we’ll ever get anywhere if we don’t bother doing anything until everyone else is doing it perfectly! Not all seven billion of us can be last! Aaaaaargh.
I’ll end my rant with something a bit more positive though. I had a really good lecture on sustainable development today! It was very introductory and to be honest it didn’t tell me much that I hadn’t already read about, but it set the tone for what we’ll be doing later in the year and I’m so excited about it. It was by my course leader, Dr Jenny Elliot – I find her so inspiring because she’s involved with sustainable development projects in Africa as well as her teaching. I’m looking forward to learning about some trends and projects that’ll prove Mr Paper Cup Man’s negative viewpoint to be flawed. We’re not ‘all screwed’ unless we give up. And why would we want to do that? We can create a positive future!