The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

May 3, 2012

This Summer… Go to the Beach but Leave Your Turtleback and Other Plastics at Home

Would you believe there is a company not only producing plastic products for the beach, but actually promoting them using a photo of an ocean wave sweeping one of their plastic gizmos, filled with a disposable plastic cup, towards the sea?

I wasn’t planning on posting a rant today, as I’m leaving in a few hours for my semi-annual silent meditation retreat, but I got all fired up after I and several friends left comments on Turtleback’s Facebook page explaining how plastic pollutes the ocean and asking the company to reconsider its product materials, as well as marketing images.  I would have probably just been satisfied to leave my comment and drop the issue, until I discovered that Turtleback had removed our comments and banned us from further interaction on its page!  That kind of censorship from a company is dishonest and irresponsible, regardless of the product in question.

What’s Wrong with Turtleback?

Turtleback is a plastic cup holder meant to keep your beverage container upright on the beach.  That in itself is a pretty good idea, no?  But there are problems with the current incarnation of this idea.

First, while the Turtleback is made from recycled plastic, that fact doesn’t matter when we are talking about ocean plastic pollution.   Recycled plastic is just as lethal to marine animals as virgin resin is.  And if swept into the ocean, it will add to the growing plastic pollution problem.  It’s not a good idea to bring plastic toys or other plastic gadgets to the beach.  You may not intend to leave them behind, but things have a way of being swept away by wind and waves when you least expect it.  As one of my Facebook friends wrote, “My girls and I do beach cleanups often and it’s nauseating what gets left behind. Absolutely sickening! If someone doesnt realize that he/she left one single sneaker behind, I’m sure a Turtleback cup is more likely to be left behind.”

To be clear, the Turtleback is only the cup holder, not the cup itself.  But that leads me to issue number two: Using an image of a disposable plastic cup to sell your product.   I’ve seen these red Solo cups left behind on the beach.  In fact, there’s a photo of one in my book!

Third, another Facebook friend mentioned the irony of naming a plastic product meant for the beach after a marine animal that is often harmed by plastic pollution.  Many sea turtles mistake plastic for food and have been harmed or killed by it.  A recent study of leatherback turtle autopsy records found plastic in one-third of the animals’ GI tracts.

Please ask Turtleback to Rethink Their Product

I dislike thoughtless plastic products, but today I think I dislike censor ship even more.  Will you please take a moment to leave a message on Turtleback’s fan page asking the company to redesign the product to be made out of a material other than plastic, and even more important, to stop using images of disposable plastic cups to promote its brand?  A stainless steel cup or bottle would be a good choice, since it won’t break like glass and pose a hazard to bare feet.

Next, copy your comment here and let us know what you wrote.  Turtleback may delete your comment, but at least it will be preserved here, and we can deliver them to the company en masse.

Other ways to contact the company if you get banned from posting on their Facebook page:  Email the owner at ryan@turtlebacks.net or send a message on Twitter.

UPDATE:  Turtleback has responded to the criticism with a post of their own.  Unfortunately, those of us who left comments cannot respond to their post because we have been banned.  Please leave your own comment.

Find Plastic-Free Beach Toys and Dishes

So, what can we bring to the beach instead of plastic toys, buckets, shovels, cups, containers, utensils, and all the many plastic products meant for the beach?  For sand castles, how about old metal pots and pans, metal buckets, big metal spoons or garden trowels, stainless steel cups and bottles and foodware, etc.  What are your favorite non-plastic items for fun in the sand?

 

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Maria of Culture-ist Mag
9 years ago

Thanks for sharing. I am going to express my deep concerns to Turtleback for producing plastic toys for the beach.

Sven
9 years ago

it is perceptive of you to foresee the dangers of this product. However, as you prove in your post, it isn’t the Turtleback’s fault, but the users who leave them behind. The company is not and should not stop selling a product that they designed and it’s not their fault if consumers are cluttering beaches. Wouldn’t it be wiser and more effective to spread the word to consumers to be careful rather than demand that a company recall their product?

Beth Terry
9 years ago
Reply to  Sven

No way. It would be MUCH more effective for the company to make the product out of a less destructive material, to begin with. I addressed this issue in another post last week. Read to the bottom: https://myplasticfreelife.com/2012/05/what-can-environmentalists-learn-from-bad-kitties/

Patty
9 years ago
Beth Terry
9 years ago
Reply to  Patty

Wow. Thanks for the link, and thanks for linking back to this article on the Unclutterer website. I love and hate Unitasker Wednesday. I love that someone is pointing out all these useless single-purpose items, but it also just makes me feel so sad that these things exist. I just left my own comment on her blog.

Emily
9 years ago

My comment on Turtleback’s Facebook page:

It seems that your product is marketed for use in the surf at the beach. I worry about the risk of your plastic product, plus plastic cups or glass bottles/aluminum cans being swept out into the ocean. I walked 25 miles along the coast in MD/VA recently, and the amount of plastic trash I encountered was atrocious. I would caution others about buying this product.

Maeve
9 years ago

Here’s my comment on their Turtleback’s fan page:
‘I understand your intent is to provide people with a useful way to hold their drinks. However, selling a plastic item for use at the beach does not strike me as a good idea at all. I do beach cleanups and the amount of plastic items that wash up on shore or get left behind is truly appalling. It’s unsightly, and worse, marine animals ingest this stuff and can die from it. Please rethink this unnecessary and potentially harmful item.’

Danger Kayutak
9 years ago

This is the contents of the email I sent to the ryan@turtlebacks.com:

From: Danger Lee Kayutak [mailto:dangerleekay@gmail.com] Sent: Thursday, May 03, 2012 8:25 PM To: ryan@turtlebacks.net Subject:

To Who it May Concern,

The construction, intended use and marketing of your Turtleback drink holder is at best thoughtless and irresponsible, at worst a malicious disregard for our environment and the animals and people who live in it.

Perhaps you think this language is harsh and judgmental? I would then ask you to take a walk through any park, on any beach or riverbank anywhere is this country but make sure to bring something to collect all the empty plastic soda bottles, candy bar wrappers, and potato chip bags that currently foul our green places and waterways. For every piece of plastic garbage you see bobbing in the ocean there are many more lurking just under the water, too many to accurately count. You have designed a product that, by it’s very nature, is likely to become another piece of plastic garbage. Garbage that will be floating in the ocean long after we are gone, long after our children are gone.

Perhaps you will also say that you have the right to free enterprise and that jobs are at stake. My point of view is that your right to free enterprise ends where our right to have clean, healthy and plastic free places to have fun and enjoy nature begins.

I am also saddened by the fact that you are banning people from voicing this message on your Facebook page, that seems to be the most telling indication of what kind of company you have created.

I will never buy your product and will encourage everyone I know not to buy your product.

Thank you for your time,

Danger Lee Kayutak

And this was his response:

Thank you Danger. Did you have any constructive advice on how to improve our product?

Does anyone have any ideas for him? I can’t think what it could be made out of that is not either impractical or equally environmentally damaging.

Irina
9 years ago

I worte this on FB and tried to be kind in hopes that my message will be better received:
This is a nice idea but I would reconsider the plastic material and go with something sustainable and not harmful to animals and ocean plants instead. The turtle logo is really cute so your marketing is on the right track…now the product just needs some extra development!

Green Jeanne
9 years ago

In Earth On Turtle’s Back the Woman From The Sky had a dream about a tree being uprooted and when she looked through the hole where the tree once was she fall down from the sky. Doves caught her fall but couldn’t put her down because there was no land nothing but water and she didnt have webbed feet like the animals did. All the animals get together to help her and one by one each animal took his or her turn turning to pull earth up to the surface from under water. Every last animal failed.
But it was the muskrat that was determined to the death that she would pull up earth and she did! She came back up to the surface half dead when she realized she had nowhere to put earth.
Turtle came in the mix and instructed her to place earth on his back and that he would bare it. They placed Woman From The Sky on the earth and she began to plant and grow trees, grass, forest, and run rivers and streams alond the earth.
This was the beginning of life.
Read more: http://www.answers.com/Q/Could_you_explain_the_earth_on_turtles_back#ixzz1tx5yzpWJ
In Earth On Turtle’s Back the Woman From The Sky had a dream about a tree being uprooted and when she looked through the hole where the tree once was she fall down from the sky. Doves caught her fall but couldn’t put her down because there was no land nothing but water and she didnt have webbed feet like the animals did. All the animals get together to help her and one by one each animal took his or her turn turning to pull earth up to the surface from under water. Every last animal failed.
But it was the muskrat that was determined to the death that she would pull up earth and she did! She came back up to the surface half dead when she realized she had nowhere to put earth.
Turtle came in the mix and instructed her to place earth on his back and that he would bare it. They placed Woman From The Sky on the earth and she began to plant and grow trees, grass, forest, and run rivers and streams alond the earth.
This was the beginning of life.

Nancy Nordman
9 years ago

I commented as well, hopefully maybe even if it doesn’t change the companies mind, it may bring more awareness to the consumers of this product of the problems in the ocean.

YourOrganicLife
9 years ago

So Beth, I see that you’ve been unbanned, but now I’ve been banned. I’m trying to decide if it’s even worth emailing the owner. He really doesn’t seem to get it, but like you, the censorship pisses me off. So, I may still write him, but I think I need to cool off first. And, I wasn’t going to write about this issue, but now that I’ve been banned, I most certainly will be doing so next week. I’ll be sure to link to your post, too.

Roseanne
9 years ago

This is what I posted – kind of borrowed from some earlier posts I agreed with.
A cute product with, no doubt, good intentions on the part of its developers. If you made it out of a renewable biodegradable resource I would actually buy one. Promoting the use of plastic oceanside is no good.

Michelle Cassar
9 years ago

I made a comment. Maybe it’ll be deleted. But at least they might read it first.

lacedog
9 years ago

I think you guys need to relax a little instead of assuming that every piece of plastic brought to the beach will be left behind and become marine debris. It is about personal responsibility. My kids have a multitude of plastic beach toys that never get left behind, because I am responsible. We bring reusable, insulated plastic cups for our beverages that are better options than glass (should never be on a beach) or metal (get too hot in the sun. Each cup cost $15 so I am not about to leave it at the beach. We carry in-carry out everything from a beach day.

And please don’t consider me a wacko. I work for a state environmental agency and I coordinate all the statewide beach cleanups each year, so I know my marine debris issues.

Danger Kayutak
9 years ago
Reply to  lacedog

I disagree with you, even if the “intention” is not to leave it behind it doesn’t mean that it won’t be. No one even hinted that the majority of people leave things like plastic buckets and plastic bags on the beach, but they get left behind nonetheless.

Danger Kayutak
9 years ago
Reply to  lacedog

I disagree with you, just because the intention is not to leave these articles of plastic behind does not mean that they won’t be.

I don’t think very many people who post here are saying that nothing should ever be made out of plastic, but do you honestly see the necessity for this product? Does this product add such benefit to humanity that is is worth the risk?

We honestly need to start asking these questions because once you or I deem this particular item is no longer of any use to use where does it go? It doesn’t really biodegrade and if it’s not in direct sunlight it hardly degrades at all, at least not in our lifetime. Burning it comes with it’s own set of issues as does recycling.

I’m glad you and your family hold on to the plastic you bring to beach, I commend you for it. I am sure you will be passing it all to your children when they leave home because otherwise the plastic toys they have now will end up in a landfill.

I think the majority of people are too relaxed about this issue, including yourself.

Karen Lian
9 years ago

After a couple of comments there I wrote to Ryan and he has responded very professionally and reasonably, I genuinely don’t think he realized the full implications of the product and the knock on effect of encouraging people to bring more rubbish to the beach but now the troll supporters are all up in arms and will just respond defensively with their derp derp uneducated and stupid comments so I’ve decided not to continue wasting my time with the dumb.

Grant Maddock
9 years ago

Thanks for a very enjoyable hour. I went to Turtlebacks page, opened their photos and littered them with mostly humorous plastic pollution commentary. I had to stop when my humor ran dry! Lots of pics left to comment on though! Such fun…

Christine Jarc
9 years ago

Exactly! You rock, woman!

Leona McEachern
9 years ago

They’re messing with the wrong person … :)

Angie Dial-Butler
9 years ago

Good for u! :-)

Sarah Willis
9 years ago

One of the best things about going to the beach is you can just stick your water bottle in the sand for an all natural cup holder. What a pointless product.

Melissa Brown
9 years ago

I hate to be a negative Nancy Joshua etc, but I think telling someone they “need” to do something is likely to turn them off. Why not try “I/we would consider buying your product if it were made of other materials”. They don’t “need” to do anything.

Joshua Gardner
9 years ago

That’s what I’m here for.

Autumn Dann
9 years ago

this was a huge eye opener to me that it is likely that millions of people like Ryan have no clue about plastic. he prob thought he WAS being responsible in using recycled plastic. omg its frightening but Beth thanks to you people are learning. and joshua thank you for spelling it out so beautifully.

Sharyn Dimmick
9 years ago

I just posted or their page and wrote an email to Ryan as well. I’ll be following along with this.

Lucy Slack
9 years ago

I got your back, Terry!

Ben Wurst
9 years ago

Did they ban you from Twitter? Either way you could bash them through there… Throw in some #@ tags to alert other groups involved in ocean conservation too! I know I’ll be sending some tweets later! ;-)

Jennifer Mo
9 years ago

I left a quick comment: “I think Turtlebacks are a cool idea, but that photo makes me wince. I hope you’ll consider making them out of more turtle-friendly materials!” I was surprised that Turtlebacks ‘liked’ my comment. I doubt Turtlebacks has a social media policy in place about responding to FB criticism, so whoever running it responded defensively and fearfully, but…I dunno, conversation might still be possible.

Joshua Gardner
9 years ago

You can always tweet at them

Jeanne Bruner
9 years ago

A Dislike button is needed on fb.

Ferris Duvall
9 years ago

Recyclable alluminum or steel turtlebacks would be cool!

Amanda Parr
9 years ago

Turtleback obviously doesn’t get “IT.” They’re unable to comprehend their implication(s). If we see it we have to bring it into peoples’ awarenesses. Many thanks.

Suzanne Afuhaamago
9 years ago

Censoring criticism on Facebook pages and blocking users is nothing new to me. I got deleted and banned from Earth hour’s page for criticism of their choice to feature F*** Yeah Polar Bears on their page. I thought it was better suited for a personal page. Profanity on that type of page is not professional. Earth Hour was meant for us all, not just those who throw that word around all day. I now “like” Anti-Earth Hour and celebrated by turning on every light in my house this year. A big difference from talking to people about signing up for earth hour and handing out soy candles in years past.

Matter of Trust
9 years ago

Joshua–well said

Joshua Gardner
9 years ago

This is the letter I sent to the email address provided. I am interested in hearing their response:

Ryan,

Firstly, let me just say that it is very unprofessional for you to delete people’s comments from your page. If you are willing to have this discussion over email, you ought to be willing to have it in public, on Facebook. While you have every right to moderate what is posted on your Facebook page, it is intellectually dishonest to continue to delete comments from people with genuine concerns about your product. While that’s your prerogative, I hope that you would be more open to discussing this issue on Facebook in the future.

Secondly, regardless of whether your product contains recycled plastic, your product seems designed specifically to be used with single-use plastic products, whether red Solo cups as pictured on your page, or plastic bottles. Additionally, because a Turtleback is made from plastic, it will break. People will lose them, misplace them, forget them, they will be washed away in the ocean. The single-use plastic products they are used with, and the Turtlebacks themselves will end up in the ocean. That is just a fact.

Once they end up in the ocean, they will poison and kill turtles, and various other wildlife. In fact, there is so much plastic in the ocean that, as fish eat the plastic and we eat the fish, your product will end up poisoning people, too.

It is a shame that you use a turtle in your logo and have designed your products to resemble turtle shells when your products, and products like it, will result in the extinction of sea turtles.

So there are a million products out there that are made from plastic. Why are people so concerned about Turtlebacks? Because they are designed to be used near the ocean, coupled with plastic cups and bottles.

You may not know this, but there is a concentrated mass of plastic garbage twice the size of Texas floating in the North Pacific Gyre. The water there looks like Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Plastic Soup. It is disgusting. It is irresponsible for you to add to this ecological disaster.

It is irresponsible for your company to continue production as is.

I understand that you are a small business, you had an idea for a clever product that provides a specific convenience that people want.

You need to stop producing them from plastic and produce them from materials that biodegrade. Biodegradable plastics made from corn and potato exist; I don’t know whether they would suit your needs. Hemp, metal, wood, and biodegradable plastic seem to be alternatives.

I truly hope that you will be willing to make this conversation public and on Facebook, and that you take these concerns seriously. Disposable plastic has only really been used for the past 40 years, and it has already destroyed thousands of square acres of oceans and killed innumerable populations of animals. If we don’t stop it now, soon might be too late.

Thanks,

Jeb Berrier
9 years ago

Yuck! Go get ’em Beth Terry!!! That is plain old irresponible and lame-oh ta boot. Thanks for sharing this.

TraceyTief
9 years ago

I blew it. When I saw their defense I wrote: “I think your product is stupid and wasteful.” That’s why you are a published author, Beth, and I am the person people are afraid to talk to.

Jessica
9 years ago

Beth, thanks for writing this!! Here are the comments I posted on their “fan” page:

“It seems to me that we have developed our lives, and been conditioned to think we need things that we don’t really need. Turtlebacks is a case-in-point. I understand that it is *just* one company, but there is a horrible cumulative effect from all the companies out there that create these things that are not needed in the first place: ones that have adverse effects on the environment. We need to simplify our lives, by reducing and eliminating the things in it that we can do without. Can I conduct my life happily without this product? Yes, definitely. I know most of us try to make a living in this world, by any means that we can. But contributing to the potential environmental impacts just perpetuates the environmental problems we humans are solely creating. We are the only species causing such environmental degradation, and at the end of the day, why not try to make a profit off of figuring out ways to better this place, than contribute to its associated problems, inadvertently or not. This product does *nothing* to help relieve environmental degradation, and, if anything, causes additional stresses on our fragile planet.

I notice too, the “fans” on this page, or rather the pro-Turtlebacks, seemingly think so singularly. I’m sure you all have the best of intentions of keeping track of your *own* Turtleback, but not everyone has that same mentality, and you can’t rely on everyone to have that same environmental responsibility. There are possibly millions of people that do not have those same intentions, due to ignorance, or straight-up apathy, that litter the beaches, lakes, waterways, parks, and other outdoor places, creating these massive deaths among sea life, and other flora and fauna. Not to mention companies that pollute your precious recycled plastics headed to China for processing that simply fall off container ships into the ocean…because that happens too, people! Even those with the best of intentions create unintended consequences.”

Ann
9 years ago

Beth,
I just posted on the turtleback page: ”I planned to write to ask Turtlebacks to use a less harmful product – I’d personally like a wooden or metal one – but, having read so many of the comments above, I wonder what chance our planet has of us changing our mindset in time. Such incredible selfishness from some of your readers!”

Honestly, many of the comments sickened me.

KiKi76
9 years ago

I whole heartedly disagree w censorship of any kind but feel some of you have gone a little overboard here…
We live near the beach; we volunteer w community clean ups as well as w the local aquarium w sea turtle nest identification & marking…
Yet my family still *gasp* takes plastic toys to the beach. It’s about personal responsibility & teaching others to be good stewards of the planet not simply raging the minute you see anything made from plastics…

Bizzmckill
9 years ago

I tried commenting about how Tim Horton’s Roll Up The Rim contest is encouraging the use a disposable cups and they did the same thing: deleted the post (within seconds) and banned me.

Beth Terry
9 years ago
Reply to  Bizzmckill

That is so frustrating. If a company stands by their product, they should be able to defend it in public.

nicole
9 years ago

I whole heartedly disagree w censorship of any kind but feel some of you have gone a little overboard here…We live near the beach; we volunteer w community clean ups as well as w the local aquarium w sea turtle nest identification & marking…Yet my family still *gasp* takes plastic toys to the beach. It’s about personal responsibility & teaching others to be good stewards of the planet not simply raging the minute you see anything made from plastics…

Beth Terry
9 years ago
Reply to  nicole

I agree that we need personal responsibility, but the the ocean is being polluted with plastic faster than we could ever hope to educate everyone about responsible use, and other people’s pollution affects us all, you know? That’s why it frustrates me to see companies promoting disposable plastic at the beach, like this company is. I want them to at least get rid of the red Solo cup in their advertising, which is made from polystyrene, the same kind of plastic as Styrofoam except without the air. It’s pretty toxic stuff.

KiKi76
9 years ago
Reply to  Beth Terry

@Beth Terry – I created an account hopefully that helps w the posting lol
I totally agree w you re: the toxicity & sheer wastefulness.
And yes educating people does take time but seems a better use of energy in the long run.
Just last weekend my girls & I were at the beach and these (obvious) tourists were snorkeling… one man came up to the surface w a glass beer bottle; showed his friends; then turned & tossed it back out into deeper water!!???! You’d better believe I told them when they came out that it would have been just as easy to bring it to any of the dozen + trash cans in the area; instead of tossing it back out to possibly break & wash up shards of glass on the shore where ppl are fishing & swimming!!
They mumbled something about being sorry & not thinking about it…
Now maybe they went home laughing at the crazy lady at the beach but maybe they &/or anyone else that was near by WILL think about it next time…
Plastic is in almost everything we touch; telling people never to use it will close a lot more ears than encouraging responsible use…just my perspective…

Beth Terry
9 years ago
Reply to  KiKi76

I think we need to approach the problem from all angles, and normally I am all about the education. But the images on this company’s FB page were too much, as well as the censorship. Okay, have to get off the computer for the weekend. Just arrived at the retreat center and not actually supposed to be on here. :-)

TiffanyW
9 years ago

Naming it after turtles is in such poor taste and then deleting any dissenting comments and acting as though the commenters are political wackos because they care…sheesh!

Becki
9 years ago

Here’s what I wrote:?Turtlebacks I think that the debate on environmental issues is coming up because you are claiming that the product is “eco-friendly.” If you don’t want the debate, please consider changing your advertising.

Reenie
9 years ago

Here’s what I wrote:?Turtlebacks I think that the debate on environmental issues is coming up because you are claiming that the product is “eco-friendly.” If you don’t want the debate, please consider changing your advertising.

Reenie
9 years ago

Unable to post my comment on FB. My computer binds up when I click on “Send”. I’d like to say: Plastic and the oceans don’t mix. Turtles and other sealife mistake plastic for food, eat it, and often die. Surely there’s something else you can create that we won’t feel bad about in 100 years. The pieces of cups and holders will still be floating about in the water. Is that a green legacy that your grandchildren will appreciate and be proud of?

Gina
9 years ago

I whole heartedly disagree w censorship of any kind but feel some of you have gone a little overboard here…We live near the beach; we volunteer w community clean ups as well as w the local aquarium w sea turtle nest identification & marking…Yet my family still *gasp* takes plastic toys to the beach. It’s about personal responsibility & teaching others to be good stewards of the planet not simply raging the minute you see anything made from plastics…

Gina
9 years ago

I don’t even understand why this product is necessary. If I have a drink at the beach, I can just burrow it into the sand to keep it standing up, and if I’m worried about sand getting on the bottom of it, I can nestle it in my beach towel before burrowing it. Also, they make coolers with cup holders on the top of them – if you have a cooler, you can bring drinks in stainless steel or glass bottles (although beware broken glass, as Beth mentions, if you choose glass) instead of drinking out of a disposable cup.

Becki
9 years ago

Here’s what I wrote:

?Turtlebacks I think that the debate on environmental issues is coming up because you are claiming that the product is “eco-friendly.” If you don’t want the debate, please consider changing your advertising.

Reenie
9 years ago

Unable to post my comment on FB. My computer binds up when I click on “Send”. I’d like to say: Plastic and the oceans don’t mix. Turtles and other sealife mistake plastic for food, eat it, and often die. Surely there’s something else you can create that we won’t feel bad about in 100 years. The pieces of cups and holders will still be floating about in the water. Is that a green legacy that your grandchildren will appreciate and be proud of?

nicole
9 years ago

I whole heartedly disagree w censorship of any kind but feel some of you have gone a little overboard here…
We live near the beach; we volunteer w community clean ups as well as w the local aquarium w sea turtle nest identification & marking…
Yet my family still *gasp* takes plastic toys to the beach. It’s about personal responsibility & teaching others to be good stewards of the planet not simply raging the minute you see anything made from plastics…

Gina
9 years ago

I don’t even understand why this product is necessary. If I have a drink at the beach, I can just burrow it into the sand to keep it standing up, and if I’m worried about sand getting on the bottom of it, I can nestle it in my beach towel before burrowing it. Also, they make coolers with cup holders on the top of them – if you have a cooler, you can bring drinks in stainless steel or glass bottles (although beware broken glass, as Beth mentions, if you choose glass) instead of drinking out of a disposable cup.