The Harvard Law School (HLS) Green Living Reps sponsored a contest challenging students to submit photos of themselves using their red Harvard mugs. The creators of the most popular and most creative photos won prizes like Blue Man Group tickets, massage certificates, and TerraCycle coasters. The contest was part of a larger campaign to raise awareness about the costs of disposable products.
Americans discard approximately 16 billion paper cups and 25 billion styrofoam cups every year; accounting for production, washing, and recycling costs, plastic mugs "break even" with paper cups after approximately 30 uses. Every use beyond the "break even" point results in even more energy savings and less garbage.
At an individual level, if a person discarded one single-use cup per day, it would generate about one trash bag per year and thus cost Harvard University about $15 in cup purchase fees and $2 in trash/recycling fees. In addition to saving the University money, the user toting that reusable mug will save at least $91 (assuming $.25 discount for bringing reusable).
To encourage and support a reusable mug culture, HLS gives reusable mugs to incoming and transfer students at the beginning of the fall semester. This year, 800 reusable mugs were distributed to 1Ls, LLMs, and SJDs.