On-campus cafes offer discount with use of reusable mugs

Pictured is a coffee drink in a reusable mug and a croissant from the Cascadia Cafe on March 8. Two on-campus cafes, e.Cafe and Cascadia Cafe, are now offering a 50 cent discount for drink purchases with resuable mugs.

Emma Coke, News Contributor

Correction: The Barometer was informed that the details of the pilot program for reusable mug discounts at e.Cafe and Cascadia Cafe have been changed. This article has been updated to reflect these changes.

Students who bring reusable mugs to the e.Cafe or Cascadia Cafe on the Oregon State University Corvallis, Ore. campus can save a total of 35 cents with their drink purchases. 

The Waste Watchers club at OSU, an on-campus club run by Campus Recycling that aims to reduce waste, is running a test pilot that started on March 28 to encourage students to avoid using disposable coffee cups. For now, only e.Cafe and Cascadia Cafe are participating in this pilot.

According to Andrea Norris, the marketing and development coordinator of Campus Recycling Surplus Property, students who do want to use a single-use cup at these two coffee shops will be required to pay 15 cents for it, but students who bring their own reusable mugs will avoid paying this 15 cents and receive an extra 20 cent discount.

Norris also said the University of Housing and Dining Services has reduced beverage prices at e.Cafe and Cascadia Cafe.

For other coffee shops on campus, Waste Watchers has been working with their sustainability colleagues, as well as UHDS, to reduce the use of disposable cups on campus by rewarding students who bring reusable mugs with a standard 35 cent discount, which started in February.

This standard discount is available to students at all on-campus coffee shops except for e.Cafe and Cascadia Cafe. 

“Data from the past several years shows that discounts are not always effective at persuading folks to bring their bottles and mugs,” said Lily Butler, recycling program assistant and Waste Watchers coordinator. 

According to Traci Melton, general manager of Retail Sales at UHDS, on-campus coffee shops have also had more people participate in the past then they currently have now. 

Melton said when the COVID-19 pandemic began, OSU had to stop allowing students to use their own reusable mugs due to health and safety reasons. 

“We are just now getting back to a place where we can start using reusable cups again,” Melton said. “We are starting to get this information out to campus and we have seen a few more people start to use their own cups again.”

According to Norris, this return to reusable mugs was coordinated by Waste Watchers and guided by a desire to focus on solutions that prevented waste materials being created in the first place. 

“The majority of the climate change and environmental impact of disposable cups is not from the act of throwing them away, but all the resources—water, energy, natural and non-renewable resources, etc.—that go into their manufacturing and transportation,” Norris said. “In other words, by the time a customer receives a single-use cup, the majority of the negative impact has already occurred.”

Butler said OSU was estimated to produce about 1.35 million disposable cups per year prior to the pandemic. 

Norris said the disposable cups are also commonly found in recycling, which can cause issues by contaminating recycle bins because no kind of cup is accepted regionally for recycling.

For those who do not like coffee or tea, or simply want to do more to support the effort to reduce waste on campus, there are other opportunities to do so.

“On a collective level, students can join the Waste Watchers club to work with their peers on events and campaigns to reduce waste at a larger scale on campus,” Norris said. 

According to Butler, students can also shop at local and second-hand stores in Corvallis.

“Check out the OSUsed Store for second-hand, affordable school supplies,” Butler said. “Finally, you can learn more about waste reduction and sustainability in general by taking a sustainability class. Many of them fill bacc core requirements and they apply to all majors and interests!”