Be My Reusable Mug Valentine

Valentine Pug

Source: Cheezburger

It’s Valentine’s Weekend on the University of Rochester campus, and Team Green would like to wish everyone a super yummy Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Hillside has been stocked with Organic Sea Salt Truffles, Ben & Jerry’s Ice-Cream (but not the vegan one….yet…hopefully, one day…maybe we’ll get it), and Sparkling Apple Cider. All the ingredients for some relatively guilt-free indulgence, whether you’re sharing with a special someone, a group of friends, or basking in self-love. Valentine’s Weekend is also a time for coffee dates, whether you’re in a sorority and shopping around for a potential big/little or meeting up with someone you met on Tindr/in class/in the tunnels/caught out in this horrible Winter wind. For example, this week I have been on 5 Big/Little coffee dates and two “Let’s Catch Up” dates.

Watching myself throw away a paper cup and plastic lid every single day to just go into a landfill really did break my heart, no Valentine’s pun intended. If you’re not an avid coffee drinker, throwing away one disposable cup once a month is easy to pass off as not that big of a deal. But if you’re a normal college student who wakes up early, exercises regularly, manages to stay awake in classes, works a campus job, attends all social meetings, and gets homework done a minute before the deadline, then you drink coffee everyday. If not coffee, then at least a cup of tea.

Imagine that, 7 days a week, 30 days in a month, approximately 12 months in school, and you’re throwing away a cup every single one of those days. With 5,000+ undergrad students on this campus and hundreds of faculty and staff, that adds up to our very own University of Rochester landfill. As Ryan Gosling would say around this time of the year:

Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl"

Source: Rookie

So, this Valentine’s Day, I bought myself a reusable mug. Even wrapped it up and wrote myself a greeting card (I’m that cool, *cough* pathetic *cough*). It was only $16.99, and now every time I get a cup of hot coffee or tea (or an iced drink if I had a cold cup), it’s only $1.39. That translates to spending only $9.73 that week, instead of $13.23. Those savings add up, especially for freshmen with low declining and upper class-men who need their declining for real food too (or upper class-men who chronically snack, *cough* me *cough*). More importantly, that’s 7 cups less sitting on my conscience and my own carbon footprint.

Happy Cat

Source: MemesVault

Some ideas to turn that mug into a gift:

  • Fill a mug with candy/chocolates/your person’s favorite snacks.
  • Turn the mug into a vase and fill it with a bouquet of flowers.
  • Write a bunch of mini Valentine notes (poems, reasons why you love them, memories, song lyrics), fold them up (maybe try origami hearts?), and put them in the cup for your lovely person to discover.
  • Leave a lipstick stain on the rim of the mug, as a little “kiss”.
  • Write a note in marker on the outside.

So, here’s to coffee dates, getting work done, comfy Starbucks chairs, coffeehouse music, and saving the world.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!!! Love yourself, love each other, love the world.


Author: Jackie Ibragimov


How to Properly Recycle Starbucks Drinks

Let’s see how much you really know about Starbucks:

  1. Are Starbucks cold cups recyclable?
  2. How about their warm cups?
  3. Can you refill your reusable mug with tea or coffee for just $1.39?

The answer to Q1 is yes, all cold cups are recyclable! Just make sure you dump out the ice and any leftover iced coffee. By recycling cold cups, waste is diverted from landfills, which prevents more land from being converted into waste facilities. Don’t forget the straw! (They’re recyclable too.)

Q2 is somewhat of a trick; half of the cup is recyclable. Any plastic lid used on a warm beverage is recyclable but the paper cup is not. So if you have been throwing out the lids on your coffee, start recycling them! (However, you can recycle the paper sleeve.)

The answer to Q3 is: absolutely! If you bring your reusable mug into Starbucks, you can get coffee or tea refilled for only a 1.39!

So why do we care about how much goes to landfills? The more trash we deposit, the more energy and oil we have to use for transportation and proper disposal of waste. The more we can recycle and compost, the more resources we can conserve.

So next time you get Starbucks, remember to recycle!


Author: Gabryella Pulsinelli

Organic & Fair Trade Farming: What do they really mean?

This term, I am taking Professor Rizzo’s “Environmental Economics” class. If you’re interested at all in how economics and the environment go together I suggest taking it. He gives out these ‘quizzes’ (which really are more like small exams) in which some of the questions require you to do research and read peer reviewed academic papers and present what you find.

The following question was on one of my quizzes:

So, what evidence is there that “Fair Trade” coffee is “better” for the environment? What evidence is there that “organic” farming practices are better for the environment and better for our health and nutrition?

It got me thinking about how some people may not know much about how fair trade and organic practice  relate to the environment. Fair trade is mostly associated with fair wages for farmers but there is a lot more to fair trade than just that. I thought I’d share what I found with all of you about the environmental side of fair trade and organic farming.

Before you read my response, I thought I’d lay out the differences between organic and conventional farming since in my response I assumed the reader knows the difference.

In order to be considered organic, farmers must follow a list of regulations laid out by the government. If any one is interested in all the specifics they can be found here; the document goes into every little detail you’d ever want to know about what you can and cannot do as an organic farmer. Here is how the USDA defines organic farming:

USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) definition, April 1995

  • “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.
  • “‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.
  • “Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.
  • “Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.”

The biggest difference environmentally between conventional farming and organic is that conventional farming can use synthetically made pesticides and fertilizers. Conventional farms do follow some regulations – you obviously can not just dump DDT on your plants – but they are not as environmentally conscious as organic farms.

Below is my response:

According to the official Fair Trade guidelines for the USA in order to have the label of “Fair Trade” there is an environmental baseline standard that must be upheld. Some of these include limiting use of chemicals, sustainable and efficient use of water, trying to maintain biodiversity, and encouraging crop rotation.[1]  In an interview with coffee farmers they associated becoming a Fair Trade organization with learning more about becoming environmentally sustainable because the information was readily available.* They saw an improvement in their soil as well as their own personal health.[2]  There is not much scientific literature on the impacts of Fair Trade on the environment but because of the product guidelines in order to be considered Fair Trade the farm must have some sort of sustainable farming techniques. In general sustainable farming techniques have been found to benefit the environment.**

Organic farming has been proven to be better for the environment in a few regards.  One is the soil content is higher in nitrogen and organic material then compared to conventional farming. Another part of organic soil is that it has a higher retention of water and has advantages in drought conditions over traditional farming practices. There is also less soil erosion which prevents the runoff into local water resources. The Rodale Institute did a 22 year experiment comparing two different organic systems to a conventional practice. The results lean towards the organic systems having more benefits than the conventional systems. It was shown that “soil respiration was 50% higher in the organic animal system, compared with the conventional system.” Also the biodiversity in the soil was higher in the organic soils. [3]

In regards to organic food being healthier there has not been a definite consensus in scientific research. The main difference between organic and conventional farming nutrition is that organic produce has more nitrogen continent and a few other minerals. In a few cases more vitamin C was found in organic leafy vegetables as compared to traditional farming vegetables. However people who eat more organic products consume fewer pesticides than those who don’t. Even though it is believed washing conventional produce gets ride of the pesticides it has not been proven to do so. There has not been any connection that reducing pesticide consumption is good for a person’s health in the long run. [4]


*When farms become fair trade they are able to have more access to information about the environment through the fair trade program this in turn allows farmers to be more well informed about their impact on the environment.

**This is based off previous research I have done.

As you can see there are environmental benefits to organic and fair trade products as opposed to regular conventionally farming. There however is still much research that needs to be done on both organic and fair trade procedures. I mention towards the end of my quiz response about organic farming and health and how their is no conclusive data. The scientific literature on fair trade and its impact on the environment is also very scarce. In the next decade I hope to see research that address these issue of organic or fair trade being healthier for humans and the environment. 



[1] Fair Trade USA Environmental Standards:

[2]Assessing the Impact of Fair Trade Coffee: Towards an Integrative Framework

Karla Utting Journal of Business Ethics , Vol. 86, Supplement 1: Fair Trade (2009), pp. 127-149

[3] Pimentel, D., Hepperly, P., Hanson, J., Douds, D., & Seidel, R. (2005). Environmental, energetic, and economic comparisons of organic and conventional farming systems. Bioscience, 55(7), 573-582. Retrieved from

[4] Forman, J., & Silverstein, J. (2012). Organic foods: Health and environmental advantages and disadvantages. Pediatrics,130(5) Retrieved from


Author: Gabryella Pulsinelli