In celebration of Earth Week, students can enjoy a free beverage if they bring a reusable, non-paper cup to any of Cornell’s nearly two dozen coffee shops on Wednesday.
This collaboration between the eateries comes as a part of a campus-wide initiative to decrease waste. All on-campus cafes will be participating, including those that are not run by Cornell Dining, such as Manndibles in Mann Library, Temple of Zeus in Klarman Hall and Gimme! Coffee in Gates Hall.
Eligible free drinks include drip or iced coffee, hot or iced tea and fountain beverages. For specialty beverages, students can also receive a $1 discount if they bring a reusable mug.
“I’m really glad we were able to partner with not just all of Cornell Dining’s cafes but ALL of the coffee shops all over campus, for such an important reminder to be sustainable,” Stephanie Ellis, senior dining manager of coffee shops and retail dining, told The Sun in an email.
Usually, bringing a reusable mug will get a 10 percent discount on any beverage of any size at Cornell Dining locations. However, Ellis said many consumers are unaware of the permanent discount with reusable cups.
Each year, Americans throw away more than 80 billion single-use paper cups. These cups take more than 20 years to decompose in a closed landfill. In terms of production costs, it takes 8,095 gallons of water to make 10,000 paper cups with sleeves and 20 million trees are cut down annually to manufacture the cups.
In response, Kathleen Pasetty, co-owner of Manndible Cafe, spearheaded the free beverage event. In her own journey to decrease waste, she began to examine how she could translate that personal investment to her business.
“How are we each going to tackle [the waste problem] personally? And where does that come from?” Pasetty asked. “In food service, [single-use waste] is the single thing that we have impact on.”
The collaborative event has been in talks since summer 2018, when Pasetty first had the idea. Since then, she has worked to expand the initiative with other dining workers.
“We were trying to figure out a way to get people to use their own mugs,” Pasetty told The Sun in a phone interview. “Everybody knows that it’s a better way to go, but it doesn’t mean it happens.”
Originally, Pasetty envisioned a disincentive via a surcharge for a paper cup, but they ultimately decided on a free option to sway any pushback from customers. This option is still a financial risk, but an investment that these businesses are making to “put their philosophy in front, and not capitalism,” she said.
“There are no gimmicks here,” Pasetty explained as the motivation behind these initiatives. “I’m deeply terrified about climate change … If we wait for people to say, ‘Wait, no, I don’t want it to be convenient anymore,’ we’re going to run out of time.
Ultimately, this event is part of a much bigger conversation about waste, the future of the planet and how individuals and business can make a difference. Ellis hopes the event will have lasting impacts.
“We want to see everyone with their insulated travel cup, their Cornell mug, something from home,” Ellis said. “Not just this Wednesday for Earth Week, but every day.”