by Micah Wilkins, Editor-in-Chief
Walking down to recycling, on my way to find some cool junk from the free store, I usually come across pleasant moments: students in the dumpster tossing around paper, sorting trash while listening to metal, and driving loud, beat up trucks, trudging their way up the hill to pick up more trash and compost.
But this week when I went down to Recycling, I was greeted with a not-so-pleasant image. Hundreds of disposable cups were stacked together and laying on the table where crew members sort through trash. The vast majority of these cups are from Sunderland Café.
I was overwhelmed by the huge mass of identical, coffee-stained cups that were scattered throughout, stacked several feet high, filling a couple trash cans.
With the snacks and coffee that it provides, Sunderland Café is a real gift to us students. Most students, like myself, are coffee drinkers. According to the National Coffee Association, the average American drinks 3.1 cups a day.
But since the café opened, I have noticed countless students drinking from these cups throughout the day, in class, in the library, at work.
I understand that sometimes, disposable coffee cups are necessary. But I can not seem to justify the excessive use of disposable coffee cups on campus, for several reasons.
Our backpacks are already heavy, but adding a travel mug to our load every morning would not be too much of a burden.
With our dorms so close, why not just run home and grab a mug, rather than using a disposable one?
And finally, I don’t understand why we continuously ignore the encouragement to bring our own mugs—Recycling crew has placed bins of travel mugs outside of the café and Gladfelter to encourage students to use those instead; Sunderland café offers a 25¢ discount for those who bring their own mug.
So why are so many students using the disposable ones?
Perhaps the harm of these is less obvious. The disposable cups are green, after all. It’s an official “Eco Product.” Printed on the cup is an image of the globe with the words: “we know small choices make a world of difference. We make this cup from 100% renewable materials because cups made from plants are better than cups made from oil.”
But aren’t cups made from ceramics better than cups made from oil and cups made from plants? They can last for years, while these cups barely last a day before they’re tossed. Wouldn’t the best thing for us to be doing is to be using non-disposable things altogether? Does it really matter whether they’re made from recycled materials or not, if they just end up in the trash anyway?
Sustainability is not only about using green products, it is also about reducing our total waste, in everyday ways. Just because something is supposedly “green” or “eco-friendly” does not mean that we should use as much of it as we can.
Even though we go to a school that boasts a commitment to environmentalism, that does not mean that we should give up our own fight and our own efforts as individuals to lead sustainable lives. There is always room for improvement, and that starts with the individual, with simple acts like bringing along your own mug to the campus coffee shop.