British Columbia

UVic students call out paper coffee cups with online video

The University of Victoria Sustainability Project is hoping a video with paper coffee cups that has become a hit on the internet will get the attention of the administration.

'We are not saying that coffee cups need to disappear completely,' filmmaker says of campaign for alternatives

Levi Hildebrand volunteered to have dirty coffee cups dumped on his head to bring attention to the thousands of cups that are tossed in the garbage at UVic every day. (University of Victoria Sustainability Project)

When filmmaker and University of Victoria student Levi Hildebrand joked about it, he didn't think people would actually pour dirty coffee cups on his head.

But when the idea gained traction with other students he agreed to take part in the video stunt to draw attention to the number of paper coffee cups that are used and tossed away on campus.

"I sort of had to follow through," Hildebrand said. "This kind of video just says look at the stupidity of what we are doing here. There is a solution."

The student-led University of Victoria Sustainability Project is behind the campaign.

It notes that more than 3,000 paper coffee cups are thrown out every day on campus, although there are programs in place to recycle or compost many of those cups.

The video is also part of a petition aimed at pushing the university to do more to reduce paper cup use.

The petition says coffee outlets at UVic could start by simply offering mugs as an alternative for people who don't need to take their coffee to go.

Petition calls for cup alternatives

The petition also provides other options, including the possibility of a reusable cup share program that would allow people to borrow a travel mug.

A similar program is being tested out at other universities, including UBC, Hildebrand said.

"We are not saying that coffee cups need to disappear completely. That would be crazy because everyone at some point forgets their travel mug or is in a rush," he said.

"We are just saying that providing them as the sole option implies that that is normal, implies that is the standard we should all live at."

The video of the paper cup stunt has been viewed tens of thousands of times on several social media sites.

Hildebrand said he hopes it will catch the attention of the administration at the university.

So far, UVic has responded by highlighting the steps it has already taken to keep paper coffee cups out of landfills.

Those include a discount on coffee for people who bring their own travel mugs and diversion programs that send cups to compost or recycling facilities.

The university says it is also looking into providing a rewards program that would provide free coffees or discounts to people who use reusable mugs on a regular basis.

Students gathered more than 200 coffee cups from bins around campus within a matter of minutes for the video stunt. (University of Victoria Sustainability Project)