Thursday, September 25, 2008

Students flip at Flip-A-Cup Project

The free use of green plastic travel mugs to hold your hot beverage in. Not having to worry about cleaning the cups. Decreasing waste on campus. These are not just sentence fragments but are pieces of a larger puzzle that is one solution to an astronomical garbage problem. Introducing the Flip-a-Cup Project.

Wait. Let me back up and explain more of the story of this idea and how it got off the ground.

Back in June of this year Melissa Lacey, a student here at Nipissing University in the Environmental Biology and Technology program, approached me with an idea: get some cash together to purchase reusable mugs that folks can use to drink coffee out of without having to use paper cups and plastic lids that are normally provided by Tim Horton’s. Folks could use the cups during the day and drop them off in return bins that would be strategically placed throughout the school. These cups could then be picked up, washed, and used by the next consumer. This brilliant idea for a cup sharing program was identified and I was flabbergasted; the Flip-A-Cup Project was born.

So, after putting together a proposal and circulating it through various departments at Nipissing, sufficient funding was secured to purchase 400 reusable travel mugs, 4 return bins, and some signage to promote the Project. The launch for the project occurred this past Tuesday.

In an ever increasing environmentally conscious world, it is more important than ever to not only make conscious choices about our actions but to also change our behaviour. With customer convenience in mind, the Flip-A-Cup Project could not be an inconvenience for the consumer and still be successful. This is where the helpfulness of Aramark (the main cafeteria food provider on campus) in committing to wash the reusable cups and lids assists with the Project. They are willing to collect the cups, clean and sanitize them in their dishwashers, and set them out for next use beside the main Tim Horton’s location at the main cafeteria. Now coffee and other hot beverage drinkers don’t have to worry about washing their own cups, taking them home, or dragging them all over campus. Even though these seem to be small inconveniences, making the Project as efficient as possible was a main goal.

If I have not convinced you to take part in the program yet, hopefully I can by generally discussing the waste generated by disposable cups. In a waste audit that was conducted by the Environmental Action Committee (a student led environmental issues club) last year, they discovered that approximately 20,000 paper cups are thrown into the garbage each week at the North Bay campus. This amount translates to 33,000 lbs of unnecessary paper waste and 5,500 lbs of plastic waste (lids that can be recycled) generated each year from coffee cups alone. That is 142 cups per year per capita! So, if reusable plastic cups can be used over and over again it would result in less waste and a cleaner environmental conscience.

But, we need your help. Students, faculty, and staff must commit to the concept of the Project in order for it to work. This includes keeping the cups on campus, returning them to the bins when you are done, and most importantly not taking them home to keep. The Project is propped up by both university and student money and it would be a shame to have cups go missing that would lead to the eventual termination of the Project. But, I do have faith in my fellow students and colleagues and would hope that they participate in the program the way it is intended.

So grab a coffee or hot chocolate, tea or apple cider in a Flip-A-Cup. The cups are 16 oz in size (the equivalent of a large paper Tim Horton’s cup) so the taste will be the same (cream and sugar are usually proportioned to the size of cup). The travel mug insulates your beverage and keeps it hotter for longer. You’ll also save money at the point of sale since you need to pay for only a medium even though you’ll receive a large beverage in quantity. Most of all, you can rest assured that by taking part you are saving at least one paper cup and plastic lid from being carelessly thrown in the garbage.

The Flip-A-Cup Project is targeted at consumers who do not normally use a travel mug due to its typical inconvenience. As a consumer, I feel that this innovative idea is not only creative but practical. And hey, if the concept catches on, we can issue even more reusable cups in the future. So grab a Flip-A-Cup and take part in the latest trend to descend upon our campus. Our Earth will thank you for it.


Kyle Marsh said...

I think the Flip-A-Cup project is outstanding. There are never any cups left, though! We need to buy more cups.

Big Green Giant said...

This is true. I have experienced and agree with this frustration. However, there is a desire to keep the attrition rate of cups to a minimum. Perhaps having minimal cups on hand is doing just that though?

Anonymous said...

Hi I live in Stuttgart, Germany and do volksmarching with the German nationals and would love to start this concept instead of them using throwaway plastic cups that collapse with hot broth in the winter. Also the down side of cost to the hosting club and trash. Where did you purchase your plastic cups with lids from? How much were they? I would like to buy some and hand them out to my club members when they attend meetings. Maybe enough of us will be seen and start a trend. Boy Scouts do this using a shoe string tied through the handle and looped through a belt loop.
thanks and great work!
Bushy Hartman