When you are on the go, it is easy to forget that the little things you do can have a big impact. Take that cup of coffee you pick up at the café on the way to work; have you ever thought about where it goes after you’ve had your morning pick-me-up? And what about the multitude of other people who also grab a hot drink whilst they are out and about? In the UK alone, 8 million disposable cups are thrown away every single day , and globally 500 billion cups are produced and used . Many of these cups are a mixture of plastic and paper, making recycling in the regular way impossible; in the UK, only 1 in 400 of these cups is recycled .
As students of the Green Student Bootcamp Challenge, we decided we wanted to do our bit to combat this waste, and came up with the idea for a Reusable Cup Month. Other initiatives have taken place in the form of Kill the Cup Challenge; for one month in 2015, students at several universities in the US were challenged to bring reusable cups around campus . For us, the idea was to pledge to only use reusable cups for the month of November. Working together seemed to be the key here, as the waste generated by disposable cups is something that we all contribute to.
We teamed up with CollAction, a crowdacting platform set up to combat “collective action problems”, and which enables people to come together around issues they care about, to create a bigger social impact. The Reusable Cup Challenge seemed to fit perfectly. We launched our project, and 33 eager participants signed up to take part.
As it’s nearly the end of the challenge (last day already!), I thought it would be nice to check in on some of the people who took part to talk about our experiences doing the challenge. For me, I used my cup primarily in the office at work. It was also super handy for bringing my breakfast into work. This challenge really made me more conscious of how much I waste on an average workday, also by buying snacks at the train station. In the office I brought in a stash of loose leaf teas… so no more tea bags! I also learnt the hard way that it is important to have your cup on you at all times; some places serve drinks in throw-away packaging even when you aren’t taking away, which can catch you out!
Some of the others who took part also started noticing the other throw-away products that are common in their everyday lives, and took steps to combat these as well. There was also some interest from other people who noticed the reusable cups (often because of how cool they look!). Their experiences are included in the “Our Stories” segment of this article.
We are all going to keep up this challenge, and you can also give it a go! Reusable cup brands such as KeepCup and ecoffee cup are great options, or you can grab your favourite mug to take on the go. You will love it!
“Hi Everyone! For me it’s going well! I was actually already using my KeepCup for all the outdoor coffees I bought (and if I may be so arrogant, feeling fabulous doing so, since everyone’s always asking me where I got it), but this challenge was an extra spark for me to go all the way. I must admit I wasn’t fully successful though, with the hardest struggle being the coffee machine at my work. It should be able to recognize a mug, but it usually doesn’t work for me and still spits out a paper cup. I’ve been asking all my colleagues how this works and tried every tip I heard, but still no success. At least I got everyone thinking about it, I guess.” Roos
“I went to Bagels & Beans and it was no problem there! At my school it’s also easy to put my own cup in the machine. I noticed also that they use a lot of plastic forks and paper plates for lunch and soup at school, so I try to re-use them and keep them in my bag haha!” Amy
“I bought a ecoffee cup (made from bamboo) for this challenge! (and beyond of course). It’s been super super easy. Also because the coffee cup is just super pretty. We are trying to get these cups for sale on the UvA, especially made for students with an UvA logo, so we can promote the use of reusable cups. The students will get a small discount! It’s not final yet, but I have good hopes that this plan will work.” Alissa
“I almost never drink take away coffee or tea and at my job I can just use the reusable glasses that are there. However, my boyfriend drinks a lot of take away coffee so I convinced him to do the challenge and bought the Ecoffee cup for him in his favourite colour. He was really happy with it and is using it every day:) this challenge also made me more aware of the amount of plastic we use especially also at Crea café where I work. Instead of putting plastic cups at the water bottles I tried to convince my colleagues to use the reusable glasses. And I also try to come up with other alternative to waste less plastic like not using plastic butter cups.” Sheila
CollAction is an online platform which serves as a place to launch crowd-acting campaigns. Crowd-acting aims to bring people together to take part in initiatives that will be best solved with community action. Check out their projects and start your own here: https://www.collaction.org/
The Green Student Bootcamp Challenge is an initiative run by the Green Living Lab. It offers workshops that teach students about a wide range of topics related to sustainability, from permaculture and organic composting to waste management and social entrepreneurship. The program is offered in Amsterdam in the spring. To learn more, follow this link: https://greenlivinglab.org/our-programmes/green-student-bootcamp-challenge-2016/
 The Guardian. 2016. Caffeine hit: what happens to Britain’s 3bn empty coffee cups? Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/15/coffee-cup-britons-3-billion-so-few-recylced
 CHOICE. 2017. Let’s grab a coffee – billions of them. Available from: https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/drinks/tea-and-coffee/articles/are-takeaway-coffee-cups-recyclable
 The Red & Black. 2015. Kill the Cup campaign challenges students to bring reusable coffee mugs. Available from: https://www.redandblack.com/uganews/kill-the-cup-campaign-challenges-students-to-bring-reusable-coffee/article_fe23f902-82a5-11e5-b2aa-7333dfdb7365.html