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Penn State to participate in Kill the Cup 2015 University Challenge

September 21, 2015

Penn State will be one of 16 universities participating in the Kill the Cup 2015 University Challenge, a four-week nationwide campaign that encourages students, staff and faculty across the country to reduce waste from disposable coffee cups.

The campaign, which will run from Oct. 5 to Oct. 30, will reward the university that serves the highest percentage of drinks in reusable cups at participating coffee shops. Student ambassadors, who were selected through a competitive application process, will lead grassroots campaigns to encourage environmentally friendly behavior on campus. Student teams that outperform their peers at other schools will receive social impact grants to fund sustainability projects on their own campus.

Student teams will compete based on metrics for waste reduction and social awareness. Kill The Cup measures waste reduction by the percentage of drinks served in reusable cups at participating coffee shops. The rate of coffee cup reuse has been a point of interest for many national coffee retailers, most notably Starbucks. According to their website, the Seattle-based company has a 2015 goal of achieving a five percent reuse rate. The reported figure from 2014 was 1.8 percent, unchanged from the 1.8 percent that was reported in 2013.

Social awareness is measured by the percentage of the campus population that participates in the campaign by uploading a photo on the Kill the Cup mobile app. During the University Challenge, students, staff, and faculty can upload coffee selfies with their reusable cups to become eligible to win gift cards and other prizes. The total enrollment of the 16 participating universities exceeds 300,000 undergraduates.

The inaugural Kill The Cup University Challenge launched at eight universities across the country in the fall of 2014. In four weeks, the percentage of coffees sold in reusable containers rose by 65.4 percent. The campaign saved an estimated 15,440 cups, equivalent to 244 pounds of landfill waste, 3,860 gallons of water and 1.93 tons of CO2 emissions associated with the manufacturing process. During the 20-day campaign, 1,260 students uploaded more than 2,200 photos to the Kill The Cup website.

How to Win Prizes

Those interested in participating at Penn State can download the Kill the Cup mobile app from either Apple Store or Google Play.

  • After downloading the app, users will need to create a login. (Only those using a .edu email will count toward the competition.)
  • Weekly prizes will be awarded at each school for students who submit selfies
  • Prizes last year included gift cards, iPads, Kindles, etc.
  • Faculty and Staff ARE eligible to participate and win prizes!
  • Photos of reusable water bottles are appreciated, but will not count toward prizes a this competition is aimed at COFFEE mugs/cups

Winners will be chosen in a manner similar to a raffle. They will receive points for photos submitted on the app.

  • (Ex: 1 point for a reusable coffee mug; 3 points for a selfie with a reusable coffee mug)
  • Points are like raffle tickets, in that the more points you have, the better your chances of winning. Winners will be selected at random from the pool of eligible individuals for a given time period. Consider the following example leaderboard for week 1.

Week 1 Leaderboard       Raffle numbers
Student A: 25 points           1-25
Student B: 20 points           26-45
Student C: 15 points           46-60
Student D: 10 points           61-70
Student E: 5 points              71-75

  • There are 75 total points, A random number will be selected from 1-75, with the “raffle number” selected being matched to the corresponding individual. (In this example, Student A has a 33% chance of winning -- 25 points out of the total 75 points.)

For more information on how to get involved and for coordination of university efforts in the challenge, please contact Penn State Eco Action’s Kayla Kalinoski at

Why it matters

Many of us are either aware of or have been working on the ongoing promotion of the university’s möbius waste management program. After all, as Green Team members it is our responsibility to help educate people how they can create a more sustainable community.

Research done by members of the promotional committee noted that a very common set of items on campus was failing to be diverted from landfills: coffee and soda cups.

The committee determined this issue to be two-fold:

  1. The soda/coffee cups used by the majority of campus vendors cannot actually be recycled or composted since they are a cardboard and plastic mix. Thus, the cups themselves must go to landfill until all-plastic or biodegradable cups are introduced.

  2. For the coffee cups in particular, there is a lack of information in regards to how the cups can actually be disposed of, causing consumers to simply throw the entire unit into any bin instead of pausing and separating the lids and holders into the correct recycling bins.

The Kill the Cup campaign promotes a grassroots solution to both of these issues: increasing the use of reusable coffee cups and bottles. 


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