Red Mugs Go Green in Campus Dining Halls

Hamilton took another step toward environmental sustainability last week, as the College (in conjunction with the Hamilton Environmental Group and food service provider Bon Appétit) implemented a new, campus-wide reusable mug system. Hamilton Environmental Group (HEAG) posters around campus read, “Red is the New Green.” What they refer to are the stacks of brand new red plastic mugs that have replaced the disposable paper cups in Commons and McEwen.

The reusable mug system was originally proposed by HEAG and is a project that has been in the works since the beginning of the fall semester. The idea came from Bates College, which was the first college in the nation to institute a Take-A-Mug-Leave-A-Mug program back in 2008. The motivation was to decrease Hamilton’s waste by drastically reducing the number of discarded mugs, and to decrease the College’s carbon footprint by curbing its demand for disposable, environmentally harmful mugs.

The project was under the supervision of the Dining Hall Subcommittee of HEAG, and was a collaborative effort between HEAG, Bon Appétit, and Physical Plant. HEAG members met with Assistant Director of Grounds, Horticulture and Arboretum Terry Hawkridge, who was supportive of the cause and helped facilitate conversation between students and Physical Plant about the program. HEAG also met with Patrick Raynard, general manager of Bon Appétit, to discuss the logistics of adding the new mugs into the dining hall’s daily routine.

With the details hammered out, HEAG moved forward with the ordering of the mugs. Director of Environmental Protection, Safety, and Sustainability Brian Hansen generously provided the funding, and HEAG ordered 1,000 plastic mugs and lids from Graphic Ice, a promotional products company. Mugs were in the dining halls for the first time on Thursday, February 18.

There are yellow bins in popular student hubs around campus to where students can return the used mugs. The bins are emptied daily, and Physical Plant returns the mugs to the dining halls, where they are sanitized and put back out the following morning. Response from the student body has been impressive. “I think that it’s a great idea,” notes Brett Banhazl ’11. “They’re so easy to return. And they’re really sturdy.”

Sarah Schultz, a HEAG member who helped to spearhead the reusable mug program, says that the project has been arduous but thinks that it has paid off. “We have been working on this since our very first meeting back in September -- it was quite an undertaking and took a long time and a lot of hard work to achieve.”

Sarah thinks that the initiative sets an example and inspires a sense of awareness among the community. She is very pleased with the progress that has been made and has seen a positive response to the change. “I think the campus is having an overwhelming positive reaction the mugs. It is a tangible, student-initiated change that can inspire our peers. Moreover, it makes being environmental cool. You don’t want to be the one kid walking around with a paper cup—paper is so last semester."

Student author Patrick Dunn '12 is a graduate of Marcellus High School.
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