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A Sippy Cup Crisis On Campus?

By Briana Mitchel (’19)

A hot topic that I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot about is how to best combat the use of plastic straws. A while ago, our very own Einstein’s on-campus made a step to take part in Augsburg University’s sustainability commitment by using compostable straws, but many people noted not knowing where the straws should go when tossing their waste. Recently, Einsteins changed from spendy compostable straws to a more “Sippy cup” method, as I’ve heard some call it, as well as paper straws.

cup with sippy lid
The smoothies are drinkable without letting it melt first… but it definitely takes extra effort!

I talked to some people about the change in cups as well as a someone who works at Einstein’s for their opinion. This change seemed unexpected to some but was not a surprise for customers who knew Einsteins workers. Some students were mad about the change because of preference, but some appreciated it. A student and customer at Einstein’s noted when I interviewed her,

“I don’t really like or care for the new cups all that much, but I do appreciate the thought of getting rid of plastic straw use on campus. It might be difficult for those with disabilities, so it’s nice that they at least have the straws on hand. The only difficult thing about it is that for the smoothies and blended drinks it doesn’t really work, but they have paper straws if need be. The con is that it does suck to use them if you leave the straw in the drink for a while.”

Even though the general reaction was mixed at first, it seems to be something that people do not mind now. However, in the effort to make the campus more sustainable, it has some drawbacks. Paper straws fall apart eventually in the drink, making the drink less appetizing. An Einsteins employee told me,

“I think it’s a great first step. If Augsburg’s truly committed to promoting sustainability, eliminating single-use plastics such as straws, and using compostable or recycled cups is a great start. The only challenge that is posted is the frozen drinks. The lids they’ve started using aren’t really built for someone to drink those unless you wait for them to melt.”

I agree that Einstein’s is doing a good job at becoming more sustainable and supporting Augsburg University’s commitment to sustainability. However, the quick change allowed for some messiness to come through. Sustainability is complex, and often solutions are not one-size-fits all (or one-lid-fits-all). Is there a way to reduce waste and still be able to drink smoothies without having to let them melt or having the straw falling apart?  If these things change, I believe people will have a more positive response and be willing to support sustainability efforts. Changing behaviors and habits and preferences can be slow and frustrating, and a positive response to change doesn’t happen easily. We’re adaptable creatures, though, and the urgency of our sustainability problems may require us to keep adapting and trying new things quickly!