Every day, over 2,000 disposable cups are used in Trinity. Multiply that number by weeks, months or years, and very quickly you’re looking at colossal figures. And that’s just within the College itself.
It’s impossible to even conceive of the formidable amounts of waste we send to the landfill each year. What isn’t so hard is imagining ways we might begin to cut down.
Nearly two years ago, biochemistry student Joanne Coyle saw that coffee cups were an obvious way for students to cut their environmental impact. She soon began talking to people to see what could be done.
Several surveys and pitches to a long chain of Trinity staff later, the College has now gained its own official KeepCup. “Once I found the right people, it got there in the end, the idea kind of carried itself”, says Coyle, speaking to The University Times.
The first batch of Trinity KeepCups, which went on sale in Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) shops recently, sold out in three weeks. KeepCups are non-disposable coffee cups that preserve the taste of coffee and are “Barista official”, meaning they fit under coffee machines and easy for coffee shops to use. Importantly, they also look good.
At first, Coyle was driven more by a love of coffee than by a passion for activism. But the more action she took, the more that changed. In the two years since she first had the idea, she’s been steadily learning more and more about environmental issues. Now she believes it’s paramount to spread the awareness.
At first, Coyle was driven more by a love of coffee than by a passion for activism. But the more action she took, the more that changed
“Whenever you buy the cup you get a leaflet in the middle of them that has some information on the environment, like what they do and how many cups that are gone to landfill, like 500 million a year I think it is”, she says. “That’s kind of why I wanted to get them here, so when people got them maybe they would have the same experience as me and they’d realise what we’re doing, and kind of accidentally informing them.”
Coyle’s sister was studying at Bath University where the idea had already taken off, so she thought it was about time it came to Trinity too.
Like with anything in an institution as bureaucratic as Trinity, implementing even a simple initiative can seem like a huge rigamarole. But Coyle says she was pleasantly surprised by how much help she received on the project from start to finish. She had support from the Provost, TCDSU and the Provost’s Sustainability Officer Michelle Hallahan, among many others. Coyle believes the recent successes of environmental groups such as TCD Plastic Solutions and the Staff and Student Sustainability Networks have created a more open attitude towards these kind of changes within the College.
“Between both of those groups, if you had an idea, they’d be amazing people to go to. They were so helpful to me. They were definitely really involved in the process the whole way through as well”, she says.
While the Trinity KeepCups are selling out fast, their popularity means they’ll undoubtedly be back in stock soon. Coyle points out that if everyone who bought one of the 480 cups that were sold uses it just twice a week, 50,000 cups will be saved from landfill every year.
“One thing I’d like to try and express is that if [somebody] has an idea to just go for it”, she says. “I wouldn’t be head of anything or anything, and it was still amazing that everyone listened to me. So I think it’s a really good thing for people, if they have an idea, just to go for it, just go for it.”