When Even a Mug is Too Much

My writing professor walked into the classroom, set his paper Allan Brothers coffee cup on his desk, and hung his leather messenger bag over the back of his chair. His eyes swept around the circle of our desks, and came to rest on me. Looking both bewildered and bemused, he said, “can I ask you a question?”

“Sure,” I said.

“How does that work, you bringing a mug to class?”

I looked at the ceramic mug of tea on my desk. “Well,” I said, “instead of paying for a hot beverage I just bring a mug and some tea to school, and get hot water for free from the hot water dispensers.”

“And you just…carry it around in your backpack?” he asked, even more bewildered.

“Yeah…” I said. I mean, it was a mug, not a live manatee or a sewing machine. Mugs fit into backpacks.

He shook his head, laughing a bit, out of words.  My classmates looked equally confused. “doesn’t it, like, break?” one of them wanted to know.

“They’re pretty sturdy,” I said. “And besides, you can buy another mug for 25 cents at a thrift store.”

“I’d be afraid of breaking it,” my classmate muttered. And then my professor took a swig from his paper coffee cup and we got on with the lesson of the day.

Still, the incident buzzed around in my brain.

Most of my professors make an attempt to hide their political affiliation, but this particular professor was pretty bad at it. “I don’t know who you’re voting for,” he’d say, “but I really hope I know who you’re voting for, based on the options we have.” He’d begin class with a cynically amused dissection of the latest terrible thing Trump had said, and when Trump won he was visibly shaken.

He never mentioned climate change specifically, but it’s fairly reasonable to assume, based on his obvious partisanship, that he believed climate change to be a real, human caused, threat.

So why, I mean really, WHY would he bring a new disposable coffee cup to class every single day, and look with bewilderment at the girl who used a mug?

Democrats and Republicans, I’ve decided, are like two people who passionately argue about whether a bridge is structurally sound, and then both proceed to cross it anyway, because going downstream to the next bridge is too much bother.

My campus is full of people who embrace liberal ideas but refuse to live their life any differently if it’s the slightest bit inconvenient. Their virtue lies in KNOWING the right thing, not in DOING the right thing. Granted, some people live very consistently with their values, and I respect that a lot. But SO many share “I’m right you’re wrong” climate change infographics on Facebook, but find carrying a mug in their backpack to cut down on waste to be too much bother. They may hope that governments and corporations make climate-friendly policy changes, but governments and corporations are made up of people. If none of those people are willing to go to a little inconvenience to live a sustainable life, why on earth would the corporations and governments be interested in doing so?

Me, I refuse to participate in your politicized climate change debate. I will try to live as sustainably as I can because honestly, I think consumerism is a form of gluttony, and I don’t want to be part of that system.

But don’t tell me that the system is killing us and then refuse to change your behavior, as though the mere fact that you know and I don’t will absolve you of guilt.

April Blogging Challenge day 6, written by Jenny.

April Blogging Challenge day 5, written by Mom.

11 responses to “When Even a Mug is Too Much

  1. Paulette McNeal

    Excellent article! Very good insight, well said. Thanks! A lot of people would benefit from a developing world gap year! Where it isn’t a question of getting your choice of an item, but rather the fact that the item in any form doesn’t exist. Your mug probably causes a little niggles of guilt, and I say, good! Heart change has to come before anything else!


  2. In addition to reminding me of infuriating people I went to school with, I’m also amused because I thought West Coast liberals, especially from Oregon, were people who drank out of recycled water bottles.

    I keep trying to think of a way to write about this that isn’t a rant, but certain experiences have certainly given me strong opinions about people like this. Much has been written recently about the smug style of liberalism, and what I find so frustrating is how willing and blind they are to how limited they see the world, as in being completely dumbfounded by your mug.

    “I mean, it was a mug, not a live manatee or a sewing machine.”


  3. Amen! Preach it, sister.


  4. Perfect. Loved your voice in this.


  5. VERY well stated.


  6. Appreciate your insight on this subject. I agree whole heartedly with you.


  7. Grew up in Corvallis when it was considered a “hippie” place….when the beanery was new and suspect territory for anyone over 25. I am often “that person” because I try to live sustainably, not because of being a hippie, but because of the belief that what we have is a gift from Someone very important, and we should treat it all as such.
    Thanks for sharing your voice.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. “I mean, it was a mug, not a live manatee or a sewing machine.”

    I just had to laugh at that. Now I want to see if it’s possible to fit a live manatee in a backpack.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Pingback: How To Write an Opinion That People Will Listen To | The Girl in the Red Rubber Boots

  10. Pingback: Eliminating the Freezer Bag – Handmaid's Distaff

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