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With the hot September sun shining brightly above a nearly empty café, drenching the many unoccupied tables and chairs in sunlight, a mother and daughter sit enjoying French toast, eggs, and freshly brewed coffee by the window. The girl, watching people passing by the restaurant, notices one man in particular. As she observes him slowly open his car door, he simultaneously speaks into his earpiece, takes a bite of his blueberry scone, and balances his BlackBerry atop a disposable cup displaying “STARBUCKS” in large letters. Though the girl and her mother eat alone at the restaurant, similar people with similar to-go coffee cups are dispersed all around the busy street. Just like every other morning, Coffee Bean, Starbucks, and Peet’s are all filled with people waiting for their morning coffee – to go, of course. Each customer waits in line, pays, adds milk or sugar, rushes into her car, and then drives off. The popular to-go cup symbolizes the fast-paced lifestyle of America, the constant commuting involved in everyday life, the dependence on caffeine and the growing wastefulness of Americans.

In modern-day American cities, people are frequently on the move, whether driving to work, picking up children, rushing to school, or hurrying to be on time for an appointment. Busy schedules leave little time for the average American to sit in a coffee shop to enjoy a drink. The solution? A coffee cup that travels. Instead of simplifying schedules or cutting back on extraneous activities to make time for relaxation, people in America choose to add yet another stop to their daily routines. Everyday across the country, people board trains, catch buses, hail taxis, and drive their cars. One man may take a 45-minute train ride to work every morning, and another every evening; one woman may drive for several hours in a single day, busy chauffeuring children and running errands. Whichever mode of transportation, and however long the travel time, Americans are constantly commuting. And so coffee cups have become a staple of American society, commuting along with them. They are easily portable, for a man always on the move; they fit in a car’s cup holders, for a woman always stuck in traffic; they can even be carried into class to re-energize an always-exhausted high-school student. The omnipresence of the portable coffee cup shows how centralized American culture is around keeping busy and being on the move.
Incredibly busy days often lead to later bedtimes and earlier wake-up calls. With less sleep, less energy throughout the day is inevitable. To-go cups also represent the dependence on caffeine in America. Coffee shops sell drinks with a variety of flavors and specializations, including cinnamon, vanilla, steamed milk, and extra espresso shots. But no matter what type of drink, within each plastic or paper cup is some amount of caffeine. Coffee shops open early and close late, making such drinks available at all hours of the day. Every morning before work and school, coffee shops across the nation experience a crowded rush of customers. Since coffee energizes so many people so early each morning, it is clear that having stamina all day long is important to Americans. But as coffee cups, which are even sold at airports, bookstores, and gas stations, grow increasingly ubiquitous, it seems that having natural energy has become a lower priority. Instead, mass amounts of Americans consume coffee frequently, depending on it as a substitute for lost sleep.
Unfortunately, coffee cups symbolize a negative side of America as well. Americans have three types of trash bins: one for trash, one for plants, and one for recyclables. The bins designated for trash are utilized far more frequently than the others. As a result of the excess trash in America, landfills cover the country. Because they contain liquids, coffee cups cannot be recycled, and eventually end up in landfills As they continue to grow in popularity, coffee cups are used more frequently, meaning thousands of these cups are thrown out each day. In addition, a coffee addiction can be expensive. If one person buys two coffees a day for two dollars each, she will spend over $1400 on coffee in just one year. This thought does not cross many people’s minds, however, because spending two dollars at a time can seem like a decent bargain. Coffee cups highlight how wasteful Americans have become. They are single-use items – once the drinker finishes her coffee, she throws out the cup without a second thought – and yet to-go cups of coffee are sold in almost every city of every state. Coffee cups have become an American symbol because they are able to travel with any American to any place, providing energy along the way. However, they represent the wasteful tendencies of Americans as well, because they are costly, mass-produced, and harmful to the environment.
Back at the café, the girl and her mother, eating their last bites of breakfast and drinking their last sips of coffee, notice a young couple stop in front of the restaurant. The girl overhears the woman commenting on the restaurant’s delicious food as she follows her husband inside. As the waiter comes over to greet them, the man asks,
“Can we get some breakfast to go, please?”





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