U Students Create Competition To Encourage Those On Campus To Recycle Coffee Cups

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A cup of coffee from Mom’s Café can be the difference between getting that final research paper done and throwing in the towel and going home. But the manufacturing of the paper cup it comes in also means putting 0.24 pounds of CO2 emissions into the environment.

When Sarah Martinez, a senior in international and environmental studies saw this figure from a study done by Starbucks and the Alliance for the Environmental Innovation, she knew she wanted to help reduce the waste produced by U students’ coffee-drinking habits. To do so, Martinez and three other students developed the #Ucupproject social media campaign and competition for their environmental studies capstone class.

Martinez said the project derived inspiration from seeing how other coffee shops in the Salt Lake City area incentivize waste reduction by offering discounts or coupons to customers who bring in a reusable coffee mug for their drink.

To create a similar incentive on campus, students were told to buy their coffee in a reusable cup, take a picture of themselves with their mug, and post it to Instagram with #Ucupproject.

The competition ran from April 11 to 25. Martinez said she was pleased with the participation but that the project encountered some obstacles. Several participants were confused about the rules and posted pictures of their coffee mugs at home or in locations other than coffee shops. While the idea was to lessen the number of students buying disposable coffee cups, Martinez said she still appreciated the increased awareness for reusable mugs in general.

Those who posted on Instagram with the hashtag were entered into a drawing for five prizes. The winners — to be announced Tuesday or Wednesday — will receive a 20-ounce wide-mouth hydroflask, two will receive bags of Ibis coffee beans and three will receive gift cards.

Martinez and her classmates received a micro-grant from the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund to purchase these prizes. Emerson Andrews, the fund’s coordinator, said the group received $275.

n.venugopal@dailyutahchronicle.com

@NikilaVenugopal

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