How to be a sustainable student: Straws aren't enough

Bringing personal tumblers to grab your daily cup of joe is sustainable and can save money in the long-run

Sustainability, but make it fashionable — that’s what I say every time I slip into my local Starbucks to fill up my blue cheetah tumbler with a soy, blonde latte. 

It has been estimated that around 500 million drinking straws are used in the U.S. every day, a number that has been highly disputed but cited by the Nation Park Service and multiple major news sources like the New York Times and the Washington Post

This number has caused a prominent debate on whether plastic straws should be removed from coffee shops and restaurants, but some believe that straws are only a drop in the ocean compared to all the plastic disposed in the U.S. every day.

500 billion plastic cups are used globally every year and 16 billion disposable coffee cups, coated with plastic with plastic lids, are used each year, according to Earth Day Network's 2018 facts sheet. According to reporting done by CNN, industry estimates show that 60 billion paper cups end up in landfills every year in the U.S.

So instead of choosing to use reusable straws or not use straws at all when you go out, why not contribute to lowering the amount of plastic thrown away by bringing both your own straw AND cup? 

With tumblers, mugs and insulated travel cups in all sizes and styles – there are so many to choose from. 

From your local Dutch Bros Coffee or Starbucks coffee-brand drinkware to cheaper options like selections from Amazon, there are different sizes and shades of reusable cups to help you contribute to decreasing your carbon footprint and live a more sustainable life.

A mass majority of cardboard coffee cups are non-recyclable and can not be made from recycled materials due to their design. Insulated mugs can keep your drink hot and eliminate the tossing of one of these cardboard cups.

Every year, 20 million trees are cut down to make paper cups, and every four paper cups manufactured equals one pound of C02 emissions, according to Freelancers Union

Some coffee shops have implemented discounts to encourage customers to bring in their own cups, which helps students be sustainable and save money at the same time.

Dutch Bros Coffee offers a 25 cent discount if customers bring in one of their reusable cups. If customers bring in personal cups, mugs or tumblers to Starbucks, they can get 10 cents off of their beverage and Press Coffee Roasters also has a 10 cent personal cup discount. 

Although the discount may not seem like a lot, it adds up with every purchase and can save students money in the long run. 

Additionally, reusable cups aren’t limited to tumblers, you can also bring in cups like Hydro Flasks, S'well bottles and more. 

Some designers have been collaborating with popular brands, making the reusable cup almost a fashion-piece. Try matching your cup to your outfit — sustainable fashion at its finest. For example, Starbucks has been collaborating with LA-based lifestyle brand for accessories like cold cups, travel mugs and more. 

Collaborations like this one are helping to make sustainable drinkware trendy and appealing to buyers looking for aesthetic designs. A coffee-run with your personal tumbler is both cheaper and stylish.

If students are concerned with not having the energy to physically bring their own cup to a coffee shop, they can always ask to have their chai tea latte, or whatever your-go-to order is, “for here” at shops. This is an easy gesture if students are sitting in a shop doing work or grabbing a bite to eat with friends. 

If you're staying in the coffeeshop for a while, why use and throw away a cup when you could have a cool photo opportunity to display some latte art?

Being sustainable as a college student on a budget is not as hard or time consuming as it might seem at first. These small gestures of bringing your own personal cup or asking for their latte in a house mug, can slowly create a trend of mindfulness that will benefit this planet's environmental future and influence humanity's growing impact. 

Reach the reporter at or follow @jessiemy94 on Twitter. 

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