Heroes

A city in Germany wants you to abandon your single-serve coffee cups.

In 2014, Keurig sold 9.8 billion non-recyclable K-cups. That's enough cups to circle the Earth almost 11 times over.

A city in Germany wants you to abandon your single-serve coffee cups.

There are few things more satisfying on this planet than a hot cup o' joe. Coffee, I mean.

It lifts our spirits on the way to work. It gets us through that dreaded morning slog. It's, well...


Exactly. GIF via "The Mentalist."


In recent years, the single-serve K-cup (or whatever brand you choose) has quickly become a favorite method for delivering this heavenly elixir into our bodies as quickly and efficiently as possible. It better suits our unique, individual tastes than brewing an entire pot of coffee, and it cuts down on all that needless waste ... right? Nope.

Hamburg, Germany, just became the first city ever to ban single-use coffee cups from its government-run buildings because of how wasteful the cups are.

While the single-serve pods popularized by Keurig save us from having to dump the remainder of our coffee pots down the drain every day, the pods themselves are actually far more damaging to our environment.

The pods are made from a mixture of plastic and aluminum, and many of the world's recycling plants don't have the necessary resources to process them accordingly. There's also the issue of the cup's size, which at three grams, accounts for a third of the product's total weight.

Hello, you pretty little ... totally wasteful ... thing. Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

About 13% of Germany's citizens are daily drinkers of coffee made in a single-serve brewer, so the problem is quickly getting out of hand.

Hamburg has about 1.7 million, which means at least 221,000 single-serve cups are being disposed of by the day.

So in an effort to combat this K-cup epidemic, Hamburg government officials issued a series of purchasing regulations in January with the goal of making their city more sustainable and eco-friendly.

"These portion packs cause unnecessary resource consumption and waste generation, and often contain polluting aluminum," Jan Dub, spokesperson for the Hamburg Department of the Environment and Energy, said in a press conference held over the weekend.

It's not just Germany that has a serious caffeine problem.

GIF via "Futurama."

Here in the U.S., the percentage of households with single-serve coffee makers has jumped, from 15% in 2014 to 25% in 2015. In Western Europe and the United States, sales of single-serve cups have more than tripled in the past five years, with industry leader Keurig selling over 9.8 billion of them in 2014. And of those near-10 billion pods sold in 2014, only 5% were recyclable.

While Keurig has promised to produce a completely recyclable K-Cup by 2020, even its founder (and the inventor of the K-Cup), John Sylvan, admits that's an unrealistic goal.

"No matter what they say about recycling, those things will never be recyclable," Sylvan said in an interview with The Atlantic. "I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it."

In any case, a tip of the cap is due to Hamburg for recognizing a problem and taking preventive measures so quickly.

The conveniences we desire in life can often come at the cost of sustainability, unfortunately. It's one thing to say that you're "going green," but it's another thing entirely to actually stick by your convictions when they require sacrifices.

In this case, that "sacrifice" could be as small as occasionally brewing a pot of coffee for you AND your co-workers to share. You know, like human beings.

And besides, it's not like drip coffee is that hard to make, right?

Unless you're Dwight Schrute, that is. GIF via "The Office."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less