I don’t go to Starbuck’s too often. I do when I travel, though. I think because Starbucks feels familiar.

It felt familiar in Saint Louis last week.

It felt familiar in Louisville and Fort Collins and even in Sydney a few weeks before.

And don’t know of any coffee houses for locals that compare to my local, Kean Coffee.

I think Kean has the best coffee you can find. The owner, Martin Deitrich, was awarded this distinguished coffee lifetime achievement award. From the International Guild of Coffee. (I’m not sure if that’s the name of the guild but his award was a really big deal and he told me they’ve only given like 9 of them, ever.)

Anyway, I don’t want to write about coffee right now. I want to write about… waste. And guilt. And ethics — what should one do?

I hate wasting stuff. But not as much as mom. My mother has a scarcity mentality. Or, she had it before the stroke. She spent her life trying to save and conserve stuff. She didn’t waste anything. I’m not even kidding. She would rewash those cheap plastic cups. She saved those wires they put on bread bags. Her mother, my Nonna, would rewash those cheap paper plates —the white ones that always had stains on them after use.

Mom was always walking around the house turning off lights in every room.

One time I walked in and found her on the dining room table. Literally standing up — a 70-year-old lady swaying around — removing half of the bulbs in the chandelier. To “save electricity.”

She could have killed herself.

I’d hate to live that way if I’m honest. I am most certainly a conservationist, but not her version. I don’t lose sleep over the fact that Americans are the most wasteful people on the planet. I think Mom did. I even think her scarcity mentality about waste could have led to her stroke.

A few years ago, she was doing a wedding. She was a florist. As a part-time thing. And she had all these white five-gallon buckets for the flowers. Like 20 of them. And after she made all the bouquets, there were all these empty buckets in her garage, half-filled with water. I saw her carrying one of them into the back yard. They were pretty heavy. Each one probably had three to four gallons. And one gallon of fresh water weighs over 8 pounds.

So I ask my 70-year-old mother who’s lugging this 30-pound bucket of water, “Mom, what are you doing? Do you need help?”

Mom didn’t ever really like help with things. She was kind of a martyr in a way. So I just jumped in to help her because I didn’t want her to break her back.

In her garage was a sink. So I grabbed one of the buckets. I went to empty it (in the obvious place where anyone would empty a bucket of water). Mom intervenes: “Don’t waste the water, you can use it to water the plants in the back yard!”

She was serious and emotional. Scarcity mentality does that to you. I’m not even kidding, it can make you almost crazy.

Three to four gallons of water costs way less than a penny. And there was no drought; we were past that. So I’m like, “Mom, seriously, a gallon of water costs about $.001 cent!” I can be pretty logical sometimes and as I get older I’m realizing that sometimes emotion can dwarf logic. But I wasn’t thinking about that, I just didn’t want to carry all these buckets to the back yard to save an entire penny.

And then she, in the martyry way of hers, grabs it out of my had, “Fine, I’ll do it myself,” and she starts lugging it away so she could live by her scarcity mentality

“Okay Mom, I’ll conserve that water!” I didn’t have to, but the thought of watching her would have made me feel really guilty and I hate feeling guilty, especially when it comes to my mom. I think most sons don’t want to feel guilty for letting their moms down.

When I go to Starbucks, when I travel, I always ask them to not give me a plastic lid. But it’s not not in the spirit of my conservationist mother. I like to drink coffee and everything else out of the glass or cup. Those lids get in the way. I don’t use straws. Not because of my mild conservationist proclivities and mom’s indoctrination, but because I just prefer to sip out of the cup. It tastes better.

Last week in Saint Louis, I told the barista, “No lid please,” but then she quickly slipped one of these sleeves on the cup. I almost inturrupted her effeciency. But she pretty much had it already slipped on so I didn’t want to be one of those kinds of customers that’s always so picky about every little thing.

But while I was drinking my grande latte with an extra shot and whole milk (why would anyone ever drink nonfat milk?) I kept thinking about that sleave.

And the Starbuck Lady on it.

And I felt the Starbucks Lady’s eyes were Mom’s eyes — glaring at me, with that guilting look of hers, the one she used when I didn’t want to save her that penny.

Don’t you dare dare throw away this sleeve.

I stressed for 10 minutes about this utterly insignificant first world problem — or not so first world problem. Me and my overthinking — or not over thinking — about this shred of recycled paper.

Two simultaneous thoughts — “Don’t disappoint mom who is staring at me and “This sleave is utterly insignificant to the issue of global waste.”

I finaly stand. I returned the sleeve to the barista: “I won’t need this anymore.” She shoots me an “oh brother” look.

I felt I did the right thing, the barista did not.

But mom matters more.