The Student News Site of Villanova University

The Villanovan

The Villanovan

The Villanovan

Time to Revamp the Holy Grounds Reusable Cup Program

The Holy Grounds coffee shops are a staple of life at Villanova, with its beverages being found in the hands of students across nearly every classroom, lounge and study area on campus. 

Once patrons have extracted the necessary caffeine (and/or serotonin) from their latte or iced tea, their plastic vessels are discarded, either left at a table or tossed into a trash can.

Judging by how consistently long the lines are at Holy Grounds and the extent to which students are consuming the chain’s drinks in class, the amount of waste the used cups generate is likely astronomical.

If somebody were to visit Holy Grounds once per day, that would result in probably around two hundred cups tossed in the garbage bin each academic year.  With thousands of students following that pattern, the napkin math works out that the total number of Holy Grounds cups thrown in the garbage every academic year is likely close to one million.

While I certainly generate my fair share of empty cold brew cups, the sheer volume of waste that Holy Grounds generates nonetheless disturbs me. 

A more sustainable solution to Villanova’s caffeine addiction must be sought.

The University seems to recognize the danger to some extent, but its effort to persuade Holy Grounds patrons down a different path is lackluster.

“Sustainability is important to us,” the Dining Services website said. “We’d like to thank you for helping us reduce waste by offering a $0.25 discount on select beverages when you bring us a reusable mug.”

There is an issue with this discount-based approach. Most students use a meal swipe or an MPE to purchase their daily caffeine fix, and when a meal swipe is used to pay for something, it takes the whole meal, regardless of the individual value of the item. 

Whether one gets a banana or a bagel and a cold brew, the cost to the student is the same. Ergo the discount meant to incentivise people to bring their own mug has little effect.

Even if we could somehow only use part of a meal or pay with points or NovaBucks, a twenty-five cent discount is just not worth the hassle of remembering to bring and clean a reusable cup to most people.

The question of how to combat plastic waste, such as disposable Holy Grounds cups, has also found a home in the minds of Villanova’s faculty and administrators. 

This year, the University’s new chief sustainability officer, Fr. John Abubakar, charged a small action team of interested faculty and staff led by Dr. Jean Lutes with finding ways to reduce Villanova’s plastic waste. 

A revamp of the Holy Grounds reusable cup program has apparently been an often-discussed suggestion.

“Our team hopes to partner with students and with Dining Services to support the re-launch,” Lutes said. 

“Our goal will be to make the program better than before. We don’t want to demand a rushed rollout, of course, but we do feel a sense of urgency, given the extremely negative environmental consequences of continuing to produce so much single-use plastic waste.”

I was first inspired to write this piece because of a discussion in my Law and Economics class. My professor, Dr. Chris Jeffords, began class two weeks ago by asking us if we were aware of the Holy Grounds reusable cup program and our suggestions on improving it. 

There were two popular suggestions born from our class discussion. The most popular suggestion was the institution of some sort of rewards program. 

We discussed the addition of a punch card system, where patrons get their tenth drink free after buying nine using their own reusable container. 

Ultimately, to reduce waste, the system could be made entirely digital. 

The barista could select that a student is using their own container and the digital punch card would be updated when tapping to pay with their Wildcard.

The second suggestion was to award basketball lottery points for each use of a reusable cup. Every time a student orders a beverage and brings their reusable cup, their ticket app gets scanned just like when entering other sporting events. 

Essentially, the points awarded per use could be low, somewhere from five to 10 so that avid Holy Grounds enjoyers wouldn’t be able to overtake those students who attend lots of Villanova sporting events to get their points. 

With the large-scale consumption of single-use items like take-out containers, snack-wrapping and of course the Holy Grounds cups by Villanova students, we generate a high volume of trash. 

The Facilities Management website quotes Villanova as sending 3,998,121 pounds of waste to the landfill in 2022. 

Waste management is a critical sustainability issue on campus that needs to be addressed, and a good place to start would be properly incentivising cold brew-addicts like myself to bring their own containers to get their morning fix.  

View Comments (1)
Donate to The Villanovan
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of The Villanovan with technological needs, training, etc!

More to Discover
Donate to The Villanovan
Our Goal

Comments (1)

All The Villanovan Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • C

    Chris JeffordsSep 29, 2023 at 11:35 am

    Awesome work, Carter! Great job! Shout out to Emma Coakley who had the idea in my microeconomics course of linking the program to the lottery/sports points!