Environmental sustainability is frequently touted as a key concern on Goucher College’s campus. Go to Alice’s Restaurant and you’ll see examples of where the campus succeeds—and fails—with their promises.
On one hand, order a cold drink and you will be given a Greenware, plant-based plastic cup accompanied with the motto, “Make a difference.” Sounds pretty good, right? Order a hot drink though, and you’ll receive a paper cup.
Paper cups are particularly bad for the environment, and the vast majority of them are non-recyclable. According to CNN, 50 billion of these cups end up in landfills every year. That’s enough that if placed back-to-back, these cups could reach the moon and back roughly five times. Having these same cups on our campus doesn’t reflect well on the school.
Two students are trying to change this.
Madison Parris-Bacon ‘18 and Leah Ruggiere ‘19 are trying to implement a mug program on campus. Bring your own reusable mug to Alice’s or a similar dining hall, and you’ll receive a discount.
“We were thinking about somewhere between 15 to 25 cents, somewhere in that ballpark range, because those are some numbers that have been thrown around [in similar programs]. And if you’re a regular at Alice’s that can definitely add up to another drink in the long run,” Parris-Bacon said.
The two hope that by encouraging more people to have reuseable containers, the number of paper cups Goucher students throw away on a regular basis will be reduced.
“We’re trying to teach other students to be more cognizant about their waste,” Ruggiere said. “That saves money for the school, and it is more environmentally sustainable as well. A lot of the paper waste goes into landfills. Just one little action can make a difference.”
“[Using paper cups] is so much a part of people’s daily routine, that it really makes a difference over the long haul,” Parris-Bacon explained. “We hope that the incentives that we give will maybe encourage people to go maybe a little out of their way to make some changes to their lives.”
Parris-Bacon and Ruggiere aren’t representatives from an on-campus organization. In fact, the two decided to pursue the enforcement of the mug program on their own.
“It was kind of a friendship project,” Parris-Bacon pointed out. “We did it because we came to this consensus that we wanted to enact this change. I feel like if we did it through a campus organization, it would feel like more of a requirement. It’s more about something that we actually solely within our hearts wanted to do.”
Parris-Bacon added, “The more people you have and the more responsibilities you delegate out, the harder it gets to manage. So if it’s only two people, it’s a lot easier to just move forward with a goal.”
Goucher has had this program in the past, but it was discontinued due to lack of interest. Parris-Bacon and Ruggiere are hoping to not just reimplement it, but also actively promote it so the program doesn’t go unused again.
Don’t have a mug? No problem! Parris-Bacon and Ruggiere are also designing mugs to be sold around campus that can be used with the discount. Don’t worry though—you don’t need their mugs to receive the incentive. While there are high hopes that the mug program will be a success, Goucher still has some hurdles to overcome with regard to the environment. The greenware cups used for cold drinks might not be as good for the environment as one might think.
“Those cups are compostable, but we don’t have composting facilities, so usually they are just thrown into the trash, which is a big issue too,” Parris-Bacon explained. “It’s almost more for Goucher to boast about how environmentally sustainable they are. But really, those cups may actually do more harm than good when they are thrown into normal trash cans.”
The discount is expected to go into effect by Friday, April 29. So, if you’re reading this before heading over to Alice’s, make sure to bring your travel mug with you.