KillTheCup.com: A Social Venture to Reduce Disposable Cup Waste at UCSD

With their new sustainability campaign, KillTheCup.com, they hope to encourage coffee drinkers at UCSD to bring their own reusable mugs when buying coffee anywhere on campus by giving away prizes to those who reuse.

The campaign, funded by a $3,000 university grant from UCSD Housing, Dining and Hospitality, began last month and will continue through May 26.

Those who upload photos of their coffee purchases with their mugs to the campaign website (each person is limited to posting one photo per day) are entered into raffles to win Triton Cash gift cards, with both daily ($10) and weekly ($50) prizes awarded. Additionally, a grand prizewinner will be selected from the entire pool of participants to receive an Apple iPad at the end of this month.

“We’ve doubled in growth every week in terms of the number of pictures that get uploaded,” KillTheCup.com CEO Drew Beal said.

Cash prizes aren’t the only incentives provided through the campaign — free coffee is also up for grabs.

“At least five days a week, we’ll tweet where we’ll be [at one of the six UCSD HDH markets],” KillTheCup.com Chief Operations Officer Mike Taylor said. “If someone happens to bring their mug, then we’ll buy their coffee.”

According to Beal, integrating social media with the incentive of larger prizes has garnered tangible results. He said that based on sales records provided by UCSD HDH, there’s been an increase in the percentage of those who bring their own mugs for coffee.

“[UCSD HDH] told us that for the first half of winter quarter, the average reuse rate was 12 percent,” Beal said. “In the last two weeks of this quarter, it was about 17 percent. So more and more people are bringing their own cups — that’s exciting for us.”

Unlike the data observed on campus, Beal noted how coffee shops that offer 10-cent discounts for those who bring in their own mugs, such as Starbucks, haven’t seen substantial increases in reuse rates. Most on-campus markets, including Goody’s Place and Market and Roger’s Place and Market, offer these discounts as well.

“We’re proving that people respond to [what we’re doing],” Beal said. “And the coffee stores like it, because they’re using less cups.”

But there appears to be more to KillTheCup.com than numerical value alone.

“[The students] get it right away, and they have a lot of fun with it,” Taylor said. “The goal of the project was for us to have fun, and we’re glad to see that that spreads to other people when they join us.”

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