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Compostable cups: A sustainable alternative

Undergrad Net Impact blog 900x600Five hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci started working on the Mona Lisa. And 500 years from now, the red Solo® cup you used last weekend might finally decompose in the landfill. The 24 fraternities at UNC use an estimated 432,000 cups each academic year – and this number does not include the Solo® and Styrofoam cups used during meals.

UNC’s Net Impact Undergraduate Chapter focuses on sustainable and socially responsible business. Our on-campus project committee saw this situation as an ideal opportunity to reduce waste and have a positive net impact on campus. We began researching to find compostable cups that fraternities could switch to that are made in the USA and are price-comparable to the popular red Solo® cups that they currently use. Fabri-Kal, a plastic foodservice containers and packaging company, fulfilled all of our requirements.

We view fraternities on campus as a major component of our University that are capable of leading change through this initiative. Getting them on board with the switch required not just a behavioral shift, but an educational awareness component as well.

Carolina Conscious cups created by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School student entrepreneurs

Carolina Conscious cups

In the process of working with the fraternities, we paired up with another organization, Carolina Conscious, which came at this idea from a social responsibility standpoint. Carolina Conscious wanted to take a stance on sexual assault and at the same time tackle sustainability issues. Together, we began branding cups with sexual assault resources and created what became our mission: to be “Respectful of each other. Grateful for the earth.”

We have multiple fraternities ready to participate in this cost-effective, sustainable and socially responsible initiative. As sustainability-focused businessmen and women, we believe that it is essential for businesses to keep the triple bottom line in mind in order to have a positive net impact. We strive to have a positive change on all three: people, planet and profit.

Cheers to business as UNusual.

By Lisa Dunleavy (BSBA ’17), president of the UNC Net Impact Undergraduate Chapter