It's a well known fact that caffeine gets kids through college. Walking around any college campus you'll see students carrying around coffee, tea, cocoa, lattes, or a variety of other caffeinated drinks on their way to class, the gym, breakfast, or really anywhere!

However, if you look more closely you'll notice that most of the time these hot beverages are accompanied by a paper or styrofoam cup and often a plastic top and cardboard sleeve. Suddenly, for nature lovers like me, that cup of coffee just got a little less appealing...

As an environmental studies major, I became interested in the impact paper travel cups are having on our environment. After poking around, I discovered that in 2000, Starbucks and the Alliance for the Environmental Innovation completed a study that concluded that the manufacturing of one disposable cup is responsible for 0.24 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions.

Additional research found that by using just one disposal cup every day, one person could end up creating about 23 lbs of waste in a year. Think you can use styrofoam cups instead? Unfortunately, styrofoam cannot be completely recycled and that cup will be sitting in a landfill for hundreds of years. 

Suddenly very aware of your carbon footprint? Me too, which is why a month ago I challenged myself to reduce my carbon footprint and no longer use disposable cups for hot beverages... and you know what? It was pretty darn easy! And fun! Here's how you too can stop using disposable coffee cups in college and in your everyday life.

1. Find a mug

black tea, green tea, coffee, tea
Kaitlyn Thayer

The first order of business is to find a travel mug that you love. I’ve found that finding one that you really like makes it more fun and you're more likely to use it. It also makes you look pretty professional.

2. Options, options, options

coffee, tea
Kaitlyn Thayer

Having a variety of mugs is also key. Pull out all your travel mugs, thermoses, and ceramic mugs and find the ones that fit your lifestyle the best. Having different sizes is also great! I’m always down for a large cup of tea in the morning, and a small mug of hot chocolate at night.

3. Your mug is your new BFF

tea, cake
Kaitlyn Thayer

Bring your travel mug with you wherever you go! The easiest way to slip up is if you want coffee but you don’t have a vessel to carry it in. If you have a mug with you initially you’re all set! Make packing one of your favorite travel mugs a part of your morning routine.

4. Water is everywhere

You may be surprised at how many places on a college campus you can find hot water: campus cafes, dining halls, dorm rooms, admissions, the bookstore, and where you work are all great spots. Plus, hot water is almost always free. Additionally, cafes will sometimes give you a discount on your drink purchase for bringing in your own cup. Saving money and the environment? Sign me up!

5. Be prepared

Kaitlyn Thayer

If you’re like me and wish you could be drinking a hot beverage all throughout the day bring what you need around with you. Take a small bag and fill it up with your favorite teabags, sweeteners, hot chocolate packets, or instant coffee and throw it in your backpack. With hot water pretty much everywhere and a mug in your bag, whenever you have the urge for a hot beverage you’re all set! 

*Spoon tip: Buying these items in bulk and then carrying them around with you will save you a lot of money, especially if you’re an avid tea drinker like myself.

In the end, I reduced my carbon emissions by around 14.4 lbs in one month alone and plan on keeping it up for the rest of the year. Plus, I saved a few extra bucks here and there by bringing my own cup to cafes, and carrying around my own teas.

I didn't do much but I began to do something. Imagine what that something could become if we all stepped up. 

Try it out yourself and encourage your friends to do so too. Not only will you be a trend setter, but Mother Nature will be thanking you. 

Looking for more ways to reduce your carbon footprint? Check out these articles!

5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint 

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Eating Your Cup

Reduce Your Ecological Footprint Through Your Diet 

Why You Should Eat Sustainably