We shall overcome…styrofoam

By Vicki Browne, Office Manager at the Micah Center

Does anyone really like a Styrofoam cup? It’s environmentally horrific, while also being too flimsy to save in a backpack or pocket. It tapers so much that it’s unstable, and statically attracts unpleasant things like hair and lint. About the only thing going for it is that it’s inexpensive compared to paper hot/cold cups or real mugs.

This week, creative problem-solving, strategic awareness-raising, and economic incentivizing allowed us to turn the tide on Styrofoam cups. Everyone has mugs in a cabinet. At the Micah Center they mysteriously accumulate in the basement kitchenette. When our staff expressed overwhelming enthusiasm for offering real mugs to our guests, I took the mystery mugs home for a thorough washing.

A few weeks prior we had begun asking guests to take no more than one Styrofoam cup each day because we needed to be mindful of the environmental impact of these cups, which never break down and might eventually bury us all. The challenge of keeping track of each guest’s anonymous cup created the necessary tension and frustration to pave the way for a real solution.

On Wednesday, the clean travel mugs and other real cups were displayed on the ledge behind the coffee urns. When guests took out their quarter for coffee, they got a choice. Yes, we’ll take twenty-five cents and give you a Styrofoam cup that we ask you to keep all day. BUT, if you are willing to choose a real cup, carry it with you, keep it clean, and follow all the usual rules about beverages, you can have FREE coffee all day, every day at the Micah Center.

Our enthusiasm and willingness to create a win-win solution was met with great joy. On almost every day prior to last Wednesday, we would put at least 40, and sometimes up to 70, Styrofoam cups into the world/trash. On the first real mug day, we gave away only six …and this was mostly because we ran out of real mugs to offer.

How can you help? We will definitely need more real mugs. We would like them to be made of plastic, acrylic, or metal. Ceramic mugs are too heavy and likely to break in the rough and tumble interior of a backpack. We will also need more sugar, creamer, coffee grounds, teas in individual bags (not loose tea), and hot cocoa.

If you have been waiting anxiously for news like this from us, then raise a real mug as we salute all our guests who are willing to add something more to the items they must carry each day!

Plastic, acrylic, or metal mugs, sugar, creamer, coffee grounds, tea in bags, or hot cocoa can be dropped off at the Micah Center (700 E Walnut St) between 8:30 -4:30 Monday through Friday. Thank you for your support!

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