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Earth Week 2012 Challenges: Reusable Bottle Wednesday

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Day 3: Earth Week Challenge -- Reusable Bottle Wednesday

From April 16-22, HuffPost Green invites you to take on one simple endeavor per day to reduce your impact on the planet. We can't extend a challenge without attempting it ourselves, so our team will tackle each goal as well and share with you the highs and lows of our experience.

CHALLENGE: Give up disposables and drink from reusable water bottles and coffee mugs.

One easy and economic way you can go green is to eliminate disposable plastic water bottles and paper coffee cups from your life. Reusable water bottles, from brands like Nalgene or Sigg, are quite affordable and can help to cut down on the number of plastic bottles that end up littered or in landfills.

Disposable plastic water bottles can also contribute to plastic pollution, a major problem facing the world's oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a "massive area of plastic waste fragments collected by the swirling natural currents of the Pacific" is considered a threat to important ocean ecosystems. Estimates that the garbage patch is "twice the size of Texas" have been criticized, but the litter gyre is still significant.

When purchasing a reusable water bottle, be aware of the BPA found in certain containers. Last month, the FDA announced that it would not ban bisphenol-A (BPA) in food and beverage packing. Opponents called the decision "ludicrous" and "bogus."

Besides ditching the plastic water bottle, we also recommend that you go for a reusable mug for your hot beverages. A refillable, ceramic coffee mug is cheap and reliable, and also more eco-friendly than paper cups. According to some reports, North America uses 60 percent of the world's paper cups. Those 130 billion cups require around 50 million trees and 33 billion gallons of water to produce.

Today, our Green team took on the challenge of drinking from reusable bottles and mugs:

Sasha: I've got my coffee mug and BPA-free water bottle, so I'm set, right? Wrong. The coffee in HuffPost's DC bureau unfortunately comes in single-serving plastic packets. They're convenient for a big office where tastes vary -- I like Ethiopian, you like Hazelnut, we both win -- and no one has to worry about how long ago the coffee was brewed or having to make a fresh pot. But it's not so good for the environment. So I decide to skip the office coffee this morning and get a cup on my way in. Starbucks isn't an option. Even if you're not getting your coffee to-go, it still comes in a paper cup. (Maybe, since Starbucks is trying to rebrand itself as a serious coffee destination, we can convince it to add some real cups). Luckily there's an independent coffee shop near the office that still uses the real thing. I get a double espresso (I need an extra boost if I'm going to forgo the office coffee today) and a croissant (no bag please!). Tomorrow I'll try to wake up early and make myself coffee and breakfast at home.

Joanna: I already use my UNC mug everyday, in part to reduce waste but also because I have some serious school pride that I have to defend, given the Duke grads roaming this office. My one weakness is the vending machines with sweet tea-- my desk can fill up with empty plastic bottles of iced sweet tea, unfortunately. Today, I decided to take the extra minute to brew my own tea and add about 10 billion packets of sugar. It was pretty awesome.

James: I have been drinking from reusable water bottles for years and was proud to fill up my metal Sigg water bottle this morning. I haven't had any coffee at the office today, but this morning's Joe was splashed into a ceramic mug at my apartment. Either way, my school mug is on standby if I need a caffeine jolt this afternoon. I even told a close friend who has been known to use disposable plastic water bottles to switch to reusables today.

Jessica: Absent-minded is my middle name -- I lose mugs, water bottles, and cups on a regular basis. Still, I know how important it is for me not to waste paper and plastic every time I want a drink. Instead of buying (another) new mug to bring with me to the office, I am drinking out of the ceramic ones they provide in the kitchen. Not only do I get more coffee and save paper, but I love the feeling of holding a piping mug of coffee in my hands! Here's to hoping that for once, this mug won't be lost, broken, or otherwise destroyed.

Becca: At work, coffee is a necessity for me. But I began to realize that I was getting cup after cup of coffee or tea, each time with a new paper cup, a new sleeve, plastic cap, etc. I was only one person and I was producing so much trash in a day, just to supply my caffeine habit. So for today's ecochallenge, I was excited to bring in my favorite oversized mug and save a tree or two. Who knows, maybe we'll start a trend at the office and save a hundred more.

How did you do with this #EcoChallenge? Tweet us your experience and check out tweets about our other eco challenges from participants below. Scroll down for photos of our team taking on today's goals and a list of challenges for the rest of the week:

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The Green team and their reusable coffee mugs:

Joanna fills up a reusable water bottle:

Jess and Joanna celebrate drinking coffee from a reusable mug:


Challenges for the rest of the week:

Thursday: Cut Paper Waste. Reduce your use of paper, adjust your printer settings, cancel junk mail subscriptions.

Friday: (Reusable) Bag Lunch. Bring your own lunch in reusable containers or bring the containers to your favorite take-out restaurant and pass on the plastic utensils, excess paper napkins and bags.

Saturday: Second-Hand Clothes And Products. Instead of purchasing new items, reuse and upcycle old items.

Sunday: Waste Less Water. Take shorter showers, turn the faucet off while brushing teeth, do only full loads of dishes and laundry.

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