Common Ground’s green goal

Switch to non-toxic, biodegradable coffee cups contributes to price increases

Common Ground Head Manager Ellen Allwright says patron pressure factored into Common Ground’s decision to switch to GreenShift products.
Common Ground Head Manager Ellen Allwright says patron pressure factored into Common Ground’s decision to switch to GreenShift products.

The Common Ground is going green one cup of coffee at a time with the introduction of non-toxic, biodegradable hot coffee cups.

The new environmentally sustainable cups are supplied by Toronto-based environmental sustainability resource firm GreenShift. The Tea Room, Coffeeco and the Sleepless Goat also use GreenShift products.

GreenShift is an environmental consulting, brokering and distribution company that offers a wide range of products to provide businesses with cost-effective environmentally friendly solutions. Their product line also offers a wide range of environmentally friendly products such as biodegradable household cleaners, non-toxic greenhouse gas emitting fuels and fair trade, shade-grown organic coffee.

Common Ground Head Manager Ellen Allwright the change was the result of patron pressure.

“There was high demand from the student body for CoGro to become more environmentally sustainable. It was something that we talked about and then worked on implementing over the summer,” she said. “The [AMS] Sustainability Coordinator, Anna Tombs, helped us with research for this initiative and we were able to get this project off the ground.”

Allwright said customers were unhappy with the amount of garbage the cups produced. “The issue was that they were wax covered so people couldn’t recycle them,” she said.

Allwright said the initiative has yet to fully stream the new biodegradable cups into their full line of sizes as they are still in the midst of phasing out their previous stock.

“Basically what we’re doing is filtering our old cups out. … It’s a gradual progress. We’re going to be 100 per cent GreenShift in two weeks.”

Allwright said the new GreenShift cups mark a significant increase in price, from seven cents to 14 cents per cup.

This is in addition to a recent increase in price for all of Common Ground’s products.

“Our costs that we’re purchasing at are 10 per cent higher this year. They increased a lot. We’ve based our new prices on the increase in costs in general.”

AMS Food and Safety Director Holly Archer said the AMS will have to be frugal this year in order to avoid an additional price increase as a result of the switch over to GreenShift.

“We’re trying to be as efficient as possible to save funds. … It’s a constant struggle but there is definitely a cost associated with sustainability.”

Archer said the Common Ground changed its food and drink preparation practices in order to increase operational efficiency and reduce waste.

The AMS is hoping to introduce two new environmental sustainability initiatives in the near future, Archer said.

“We’re planning a composting program for use in all our food outlets. It should hopefully be up by Christmas. …We’re trying to go Styrofoam free as well. We’re working towards that sometime by the end of this year, preferably by the end of the term.”

AMS Sustainability Coordinator Anna Tombs said this move is a small but influential step towards a more sustainable campus.

“Only the hot coffee mugs are being switched to GreenShift. We’re not planning on expanding right now for financial reasons. … Considering how many people use the Common Ground, it will make a difference. There’s over 100,000 coffee cups used each year there. We still encourage students to bring their own travel mugs. The discount has increased from 15 cents to 25 cents this year.”

Tombs said she was involved in the project during the summer.

“Specifically, I researched companies that [had] environmentally friendly products, shipping costs and compared prices. We didn’t do any market research because biodegradable cups are something that not many students really know about. … GreenShift was chosen because we felt that it was the best option.”

Tombs said this is an example of a broader environmental movement on campus.

“We plan to make AMS services as green as possible. … Students want to be proud of the services that they use. Because CoGro is a student-run initiative, we have the opportunity to make these changes.”

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