Is your daily cup of coffee detrimental to the environment? What about a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich at Moulton Express Lunch?
In an effort to promote sustainability, local businesses as well as on-campus eating establishments offer small benefits in exchange for a customer commitment to eco-friendly measures.
Paul Harrison, owner of The Little Dog Coffee Shop in downtown Brunswick, tries to incorporate sustainability into nearly all aspects of the café. In addition to using mainly recyclable products and energy efficient lighting, he regularly donates coffee grounds for use as fertilizer to a local family. Similar to many downtown cafés, Little Dog offers up to a 50-cent discount on coffee if customers bring in their own travel mugs.
"It is becoming more common for people to come in with travel mugs, which is great for both us and them," said Harrison. The Station Coffee Shop on Maine Street also offers a discount for customers who use their own travel mugs.
Students may be familiar with the incentives offered on campus by the Café in Smith Union. Although the five-cent discount for bringing a travel mug may seem inconsequential, especially for a $3 drink, the money saved adds up and it helps the Café continue its commitment to being an eco-friendly establishment. Keisha Payson, coordinator for Sustainable Bowdoin, admitted that the five cent discount might not be widely used.
"I'm not sure if the average person thinks about using a mug for a discount," said Payson. "My impression is that the people who do bring their mug do it more because they believe that it's the right thing to do and not because they get a discount for it."
The Express Lunch in Moulton also has the environment in mind. The Express Lunch station offers an alternative to using a paper bag every day by selling canvas bags for use. Each time a student uses the canvas bag, he or she receives a stamp to enter a raffle for a stainless steel Sustainable Bowdoin mug. A student waiting in line for Express Lunch recently commented how the canvas bags are "a pretty easy way to not be wasteful" and "something little we can do each day to be more environmentally friendly."
Canvas lunch bags are available for purchase with Polar Points. Other students opt out of using paper bags in other ways.
"I throw my food in my backpack for easy transport instead of using a paper bag that will be thrown away soon after," said Tana Scott '10.
Are these small measures even worth taking? Kathryn Engel '09, a former eco-rep at Bowdoin, said that the small changes really do add up.
"It's helpful, because most of the stuff in Express Lunch you have to throw away anyway, so using the bag cuts down on waste," Engel said.
Both Payson and Engel agreed that the five-cent coffee discount is not as popular or widely used as the canvas lunch bags.
However, Payson added, "I think it's worth providing the incentive. There may be people for whom it is just enough of an incentive to make [bringing a reusable mug] worth their while."
For Payson, offering incentives seems to be the best tactic to promote sustainability.
"Incentives are always better than taking paper cups away to force people to use reusable mugs," said Payson. It's sort of the carrot versus the stick in terms of environmentalism."