Mug Share!

As I entered my school???s pantry the other day, there was a small congregation of students near the coffee machine.?? Amidst morning greetings and casual banter, I noticed my colleagues using reusable mugs, disposable paper cups, or both. Because her mug did not fit under the spigot of the single-serve pod coffee machine, my colleague used a disposable paper cup that did fit, dispensed hot water from the machine, poured that hot water into her reusable mug, and then throw out the cup ???dirtied??? with water.

Appalled, I considered how many students were engaged in this same practice and thought of a solution. ??I rummaged through my cupboard, found an old mug, and left it in the school???s pantry with this sign:

Next, I pondered how to motivate students, faculty, and staff to use reusable mugs.?? My initial thought was to have a mug sale of personalized mugs with the CUNY Law logo and environmental themes.?? That thought lasted as long as the aforementioned disposable paper cup ???dirtied??? with water.?? I did a quick research on how many times a reusable mug may be used before its environmental impact is less than that of a disposable paper cup.?? According to a study by Martin B. Hocking, the number of uses of a reusable ceramic mug necessary to make up for the energy required to make such mug is about 500 or more uses. ??The energy used to wash a reusable mug (based on a dishwasher machine, not hand wash) is as much as more than half that is required to make a disposable paper cup. ??Consequently, having a mug sale is counterintuitive to sustainable practices and would not be in my agenda any time soon.

With this information, I contemplated other solutions and thought of a ???mug share.????? Here, instead of those who do not have mugs purchase a new mug, others could bring in old mugs stored in the back of their cupboards collecting dust.

I am not discounting that energy was used to actually make these mugs, but I merely offer a solution to optimally use our current resources without exploiting further materials and energy.

To read the Hocking study, please visit