MCLA Introduces Sustainable Mug to Curb Coffee Cup Waste

The MCLA Sustainability Committee, students, and Aramark Dining Services have partnered to combat the use of disposable cups on campus with the new addition of a customized SAVRcup. The mugs are now available on campus and arrived during last week’s Earth Week events.

The sustainable mug is manufactured by SAVRcup at an affordable cost and can be purchased for $4 at the P.O.D. By reusing the mug at the Trailblazer Café, as long as it's clean, there’s an incentivized discount of $.50 per refill. Jerel Dydowicz, Director of MCLA Dining Services, said the mug will pay for itself after eight visits.

“We are trying to reduce the number of disposable cups across campus and thought this was a great idea. Aramark & MCLA Dining have always been committed to having a greener campus through our recycling efforts and purchasing compostable paper products when available,” said Dydowicz.

In 2018, Dr. Kebra Ward, Associate Professor of Physics, conducted a waste audit with her students in the Energy and the Environment course, to assess the feasibility of recycling at MCLA and identify the most common trash items – disposable coffee cups.

“I think the students are really engaged and they’re really focusing on recycling efforts,” she said.

This semester is the second time Ward has taught the class. The projects that are pursued can be built on previous waste audits or new ones. Students first talked to Aramark to discover that reusable cups can be used in the centennial room and at the cafe, however, it wasn’t safe to do so during the pandemic. This is the first semester reusable cups can be utilized. Once students conducted an awareness campaign promoting reusable cups, they took it one step further to identify a customizable sustainable mug equipped with a carabiner to fit the lifestyle of a college student on the go. It can also be used for hot and cold beverages and is made from 100 percent recycled plastic.

Marina Fortier ‘23 was recommended to the sustainability committee to commission the design of the mug. The initial concept explored MCLA’s branding: ivy, the gates, maple leaf, etc., which evolved into Fortier’s design that symbolizes equal balance and dedication to sustainable living depicting a squirrel crawling up a tree with roots embedded into the ground surrounded by a circle of ivy.sustainablemug

“Firm roots tie us to the earth, and from there the propagation of a healthy relationship with our planet is possible, and necessary,” she said. “The ivy laurel, a circle around the border is an image of MCLA, and of continuity, links between generations, and sustainability. The squirrel in the center was inspired by our furry friends that are all around campus.”

This opportunity motivated Fortier as someone who is passionate about sustainability.

“I'm grateful for the opportunity to align myself with a cause I profoundly believe in, and to work with a mindful community,” she said. “A big thank you to the sustainability committee, for doing what they do, and for believing in my work.”

Based on the food waste data from 2018, Ward said during the most recent accepted students day, students from the sustainability committee piloted a compost system in the centennial room to spread awareness. Aramark currently composts food waste while prepping meals, however, they can’t take anything back to compost at the risk of contamination.

“That can be a big step forward,” she said. “A lot of the food waste that ends up in landfills decomposes and turns into methane gas and it’s a large emission that’s driving global warming and climate change, so if we can mitigate that and repurpose the compost on campus for gardens, we’re keeping it all in the same system.”

The sustainable committee is made up of 10 students and a variety of faculty members. Professor of Environmental Studies, Dr. Elena Traister leads the committee and said there has consistently been a focus on waste reduction (including improving single-stream recycling systems on campus, e-waste, and food waste reduction).

“The overarching aim of the MCLA Campus Sustainability Committee is to reduce the environmental impact of the college while providing students with expertise pertaining to institutional sustainability,” she said. “Campus sustainability at MCLA is student-driven, which means that specific priorities shift in response to the goals of students who engage with the group.”

The group uses education and outreach to build awareness of sustainability projects. Other recent priorities look at sustainable landscaping/gardening/pollinator conservation and greenhouse gas emissions inventory.

Learn more about the MCLA Sustainability Committee at: and follow their journey on social media @stustain.mcla.