The only thing better than a reusable mug is a reusable mug you decorated yourself.

After expressing a desire to ditch Styrofoam cups, Harvard's Whiteside Lab, with the help of the FAS Green Program, found a mug rack for the office and held a reusable mug painting party to help fill it.

The FAS Green Program finds that holding mug painting parties is not only a fun activity for students and staff members alike, but also a way to give groups reusable mugs that, because of the time they put into them, they take pride in using.

Hold your own reusable mug painting party taking these 5 steps:

1. Obtain mugs.

We like to purchase them from Goodwill, as not only are they cheaper than buying new mugs, but you’re also reusing mugs that had a previous life. Further, you rarely find mugs of the same type, so our mugs will come in a variety of shapes and sizes, making the mug painting more fun.

  • Ideally the mugs should be blank, but don’t have to be. Mugs with patterns or logos on them still often work for a mug painting, and the logo can be incorporated into someone’s design.

2. Obtain paint and brushes.

There are a number of paints that are made for ceramic, are non-toxic, and can be baked in an oven to seal them. We’ve had success with Pebeo Porcelaine 150, and with Folk Art Ceramic Paint.

3. Set up your mug painting event.

Put down newspaper on the tables, set out your mugs, and let people have fun (don’t forget cups of water for cleaning brushes). Chat with people while they paint their mugs and tell them about all the other ways they can be sustainable on campus!

4. Drying time.

When people are done, have them set their mugs aside to dry. Many of the brands suggest letting them dry for 24 hours. After they have dried, they probably need to bake in an oven for a little bit (for example, for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit).

5. Enjoy!

Give the mugs back to the group. It’s usually fun to do this in a way that allows them to use their mug...say with hot chocolate or an ice cream party!

It is worth noting that if you want to make your mug reuse program a true success, you need all the pieces. Make sure your group has a way to wash and keep their mugs, like installing a mug tree or drying rack for them.