This is an ongoing project for Design for America, which I am a Team Lead for, along with co-Team Lead Steve Veres. In identifying environmental and recycling issues, particularly on campus, we were driven towards an interest in solo cups. Solo cups are the most commonly bought and used disposable cup, and produce a lot of waste, particularly on campus. Most importantly, however, was the idea that most people though they are as recyclable as other kinds of plastics, and therefore would use them without hesitation. We began by designing an online survey for WashU students, creating personas for our users, conducting interviews with organization social chairs (who often purchase red solo cups), recycling plants, and Schnucks, a local grocery store.
Our primary user was a WashU college student who uses red Solo cups for various reasons, and uses an average of 1-5 cups every time, prefers to use Solo cups but is willing to switch to a more sustainable alternative. Our survey also showed that the majority of students surveyed used Solo cups because that was what was provided to them.
After going through many stages of prototyping, we realized the most feasible idea was to try and make compostable cups that already exist on campus, more accessible to students. The biggest difficulty was in our marketing strategy to make compostable cups desirable.
After finding out that compostable cups are much cheaper and testing that students were indeed willing to use compostable cups in place of red Solo cups, we have been in contact with WashU's Dining Facilities in order to make compostable cups available in campus stores and dining areas. We have also been in contact with leaders in Greek life and Green Initiatives Group to try and limit red Solo cup usage, particularly during the "Green Cup" competition.
Our goal is to bring awareness to this issue, inform students that red solo cups are not recyclable, discourage their use, and provide a cheaper, more sustainable alternative that is easily accessible to students.
Michelle Heredia | Chemical Engineering | Washington University in St. Louis
Anna Xu | Computer Science, Economics | Washington University in St. Louis
Michael Auron | Mechanical Engineering | Washington University in St. Louis
Ben Perlman | Environmental Policy | Washington University in St. Louis
Steve Veres | Architecture | Washington University in St. Louis (Co-Team Lead)
Raissa Xie | Architecture, Psychology | Washington University in St. Louis (Co-Team Lead)