Plastic or Ceramic?  We road tested two reusable travel mugs for coffee and tea on the go.

Have you ever experienced Eco Envy?  On a recent road trip from San Francisco to Laguna Beach with author Eden Canon, I found myself in a Livermore Starbucks before dawn, twitching with envy as she deftly pulled a plastic reusable travel mug out of her handbag and handed it to the barista with her order.

I had been meaning to get one for a while, but wasn’t sure which kind I wanted, and frankly, hadn’t put much effort into deciding.  So there I was, about to command yet another cup that I would use for 5 minutes and throw away.  And how many more such cups would I be using on this 8 hour drive?  Considering how sleepy I was, probably a lot.  I decided that the time to do something was now.

Luckily, there were options.  Starbucks sells many kinds of reusable mugs and tumblers, for both hot and cold drinks.  Of course, all the options came with a giant logo, something I typically refuse.  It came down to whether my distaste of branding was worth using up some untold number of disposable cups before I finally got around to finding and obtaining the absolutely perfect reusable cup.   So it was easy: the logo won.

I am picky, and I hate the taste and mouthfeel of plastic.  I hate the way that it absorbs odors and flavors.  And I just really dislike plastic for food or beverages.  There is something post apocalyptic about sucking liquid out of a hard plastic barrel.  And notably, I’m a tea drinker who occasionally drinks coffee.  I would notice if my tea had even a hint of residual coffee flavour.  So I opted for the porcelain cup.

On our way to and from the OC, we made many such stops, and drank lots of coffee and tea in the two weeks in between.  One of the great things about my new mug (other than the dozens of disposable cups its use has already avoided), is that it will last forever, or at least a very long time.  My mother has porcelain tea cups that are a hundred years old, and they are a lot more fragile than my Starbucks double walled coffee mug.  The downside is that, a hundred years from now, one of my descendants lucky enough to be remembered in my Last Will and Testament will be drinking out of this very cup with a giant logo on it.  Perhaps the logo will fade over the decades? Perhaps it will be vintage cool by then.


Aladdin 16-Ounce Transform Recycled and Recyclable Tumbler



  • Made entirely from recycled plastic
  • It is itself recyclable, so you can put it in the plastic recycling bin when it is worn out
  • Easy to use flip lid is simple and secure
  • Lightweight, so it’s easy to carry in a purse, briefcase or backpack
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Screw top lid keeps drinks securely inside
  • Durable


  • The plastic will absorb odours and flavours
  • Screw top lid makes drinking without the lid on unpleasant
  • It’s plastic
  • Won’t last forever, since plastic gets gunky over time

Starbucks Double Wall Ceramic Traveler, 12 fl oz



  • It’s a real cup—this will matter to some more than others
  • You can use the cup without the lid, since there are no screw ridges
  • Lid locks on tightly
  • Drinks stay hot
  • Doesn’t absorb any odours or flavours
  • Should last forever, if you don’t drop it


  • It’s double walled ceramic, so it is heavy
  • Lid opening is not so easy to manipulate if you are driving
  • Must be washed by hand
  • It’s only 12 oz, which is built-in discipline if you’re trying to cut back, but you will not be able to order larger drinks
  • Has a giant logo on it
  • Breakable if dropped

Take another important step away from the single-use culture today by buying a reusable mug for yourself or someone else. 

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