Gone to Pot

Gone to Pot

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the editors

Creative solutions to a growing problem.

It occurred to us one morning, while waiting at the local java hut for our delicious, life-affirming morning ritual, that we drink a lot of coffee. At least one per day, each, every day. That’s a lot of paper cups. Some rough extrapolations and our minds envisioned mountains of cups being bulldozed at landfills across the country. A quick Google search showed us we were right: some 20 billion disposable coffee cups are used in the U.S. every year. And because these cups are coated with plastic resin, they can’t be recycled. That’s a whole lot of waste.

We immediately switched to reusable mugs. Still, sometimes we forget to bring the mugs, or we pull them out from under the seat to find them caked with coffee residue. We'll take waste over botulism, thank you very much. We finally decided that the only solution was to extend the life of the cup beyond its morning-coffee function. So we queried friends for ideas on how to re-use paper coffee cups; here’s what we came up with.

1. Mini plant or flower pot. Make several and rearrange them daily on your desk or kitchen table.

2. Picture holder. Turn the cup upside down, feed a paper clip up through the bottom, and put the picture in the paper clip.

3. Wall storage units for office supplies. Stick the bottoms of the cups to the wall with two-sided tape, arrange in a specific shape or pattern, and insert pens, paper clips, rubber bands, etc.

4. Bulletin board. Stick the cup rims to the wall and use pushpins on the bottoms to hold notes.

5. Spare change receptacle. A full 16-ounce cup should bring you about $40 when you cash it in at the bank.

6. Golf tee. This actually works pretty well, and it’s fun to watch other golfers’ reactions when you tee off with it.

7. Brake fluid receptacle. Place the cup next to your tire and catch the fluid when you bleed your brake lines.

8. Makeshift funnel. Cut a small hole in the bottom and use for filling lawnmower, weed-eater, and snowmobile fuel tanks and oil reservoirs.

9. Gag spill cup. Use epoxy and brown food coloring for the puddle, and have endless fun with friends and co-workers.

10. Artwork. Stack, glue together, cut into pieces, or fold to create new style of origami.

11. Ball thrower. Glue or tape the cup to the end of a stick, making a hands-free thrower for your dog’s slime-covered tennis ball.

12. Spit cup. Keep a couple in your truck for formal occasions when it’s not appropriate to spit Copenhagen juice on the ground.

13. Carnival game. Glue 7-8 cups onto a flat board, place small prizes (or pieces of paper with prize names written on them) inside, and throw ping-pong balls into the cups from a distance. You can use this on Halloween.

14. Play telephone. Run a string through two cups and play the classic telephone game with your kids.

15. Mini-frisbee. Remove the top and throw it around the office to liven up Monday mornings.

16. Gear-repair organizer. Arrange and label cups for storing buckles, clips, straps, etc.

17. Nuts-and-bolts organizer. Arrange and label cups for storing washers, wingnuts, screws, etc.

18. Board game. Crush flat and stack, removing cups one by one. A poor-man’s Jenga.

19. Bullhorn. Remove the bottom and speak through to amplify your voice. Great for calling the kids in for lunch, waking up your roommate in the morning, and yelling obscenities at bad drivers.

20. Coffee cup. Rinse it out and refill it with coffee later that day or the next morning.

Got any more ideas? Send ‘em to [email protected].

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