The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, or, Consume, Crave and Collect?

A deep dive into the world of Reusable cups and their positive effect on social status, but negative effect on the environment

Stanley, Owala, Hydro Flasks, what do all of these have in common? They are all trendy reusable water bottles that had an explosive growth in popularity, creating a craze that would last a decent
amount of time before dying down. However, all of these trends have gotten out of hand. Stanley cup collectors would fill entire IKEA bookshelves dedicated to their Stanley collection, owning one of every color, every design, and every pattern. This raises the question, is this level of consumerism undoing the good that reusable cups have on the environment?

To understand this issue, we need to look at the prime example of the trendy reusable cup/bottle trend. The 40-ounce Stanley cup. These cups sold very well, and Stanley’s annual $70 million sales went to $750 million in 2023 according to CNBC. These reusable cups were used by every basic girl and their mom from Utah but not always for their reusability. People began to collect these cups in different colors, designs, and exclusive collab designs. People had their Ikea shelves filled with their Stanley cups, having dozens or even hundreds of them. These cups would never be used, and simply sit on a shelf as a status symbol, like a trophy that collects dust. This is where the problem arises.

“You might have a really great product that is more sustainable, but what good is it if it sits in a person’s home and collects dust?” said Nicole Darnall, director and co-founder of the Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative at Arizona State University. And what she says shows the flaws of mixing consumerism and environmentalism.

“If you look at it, they’re not buying it because they want to have more bottles to hold water, it’s so they could display it for other people,” says freshmen Thomas Ahn.

Story continues below advertisement

The critical issue with the reusable cup trends are that they take something that is meant to be helping the environment and turning it into something that is more wasteful and harmful that plastic bottles. The purpose of a Stanley cup is to have 1 and reuse it, but when you have 10, you are essentially producing more waste. In fact, according to an article from the Frontier Group, they say, “Manufacturing one stainless steel bottle requires more energy and emits more pollutants than manufacturing 1 plastic bottle. But using a stainless steel water bottle just 20 times instead of a plastic bottle will “pay back” the initial environmental cost of manufacturing it, and using the same bottle for years makes the impact of manufacturing the bottle very low.”

However, simply collecting Stanley cups and not using them can negatively impact the Earth. You and I both know that the girl who owns 10 Stanleys hasn’t used each bottle 20 times to make sure to “pay back” for the environment. Though reusable cups are being valued and purchased because of their effect on a person’s popularity by some, that issue is easily overshadowed by the environmental capability that the cups possess.

In an article about reusable cups by CNN, a professor named Charles Lindsey stated, “It’s just a cup, but if you think about it money is just paper.” Though money is just an object because of the
value that it brings, it leads people to cheat, steal and kill, but other people with money give it away to do good with the money that they have earned. Too much of anything can bring danger, as well as prosperity. The bottles themselves reduce the amount of plastic cups harming the environment. So if the bottles are generally beneficial, they cannot be the issue, the issue is people’s need for a collectible to latch onto.

Sophomore Mona Ahara states, “I think it’s the designs and the colors and also the influencers.” People need to push the agenda of the cups being a fantastic gift to share rather than
things that are hoarded and limited to only the most financially inclined.

Mona Ahara with her Owala cup, the latest trend that uses pressure changes to “bring” water to you. The Owala cup is a more affordable alternative to the popular Stanley bottles. Ahara also owns two other reusable bottles that she doesn’t use at school. The Owala cups allows drinking from a straw or like a normal water bottle. However, is it truly environmentally friendly? Ahara said she was influenced to buy the bottle because her friends started collecting them at the beginning of the year. The drinking vessel has become a symbol of social status.

“Reusable products are a great way to make it more accessible for people to reduce and reuse and also be more aware of the environment,” says marine science teacher Jackie Cannata Walker

In order to fight the issue that reusable cups are starting to be harmful to the environment, we can stop consumerist trends and start recycling. According to an article from The World Counts, it
mentions, “The negative effects of consumerism include the depletion of natural resources and pollution of the Earth.” With the decreasing amount of natural resources and climate change, these so-called “trends” are negatively impacting our Earth. Although, just owning one bottle would not cause damage, it is the many cups that are now being collected which can cause harm to the Earth.

Additionally, an article from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), writes, “[recycling can] create a healthier planet for ourselves and future generations.” Climate change is a leading issue, but by recycling not only cups but daily items it can improve our planet for the future.

“There are a lot of things you can do, upcycled art, reusing trash, and so on,” says Walker.

Ultimately, using recycling and avoiding consumerism trends to best make a change for our environment. We can still save the environment by implementing sustainable practices that don’t rely on large companies and corporations. Additionally, not just the Woodbridge community, but individuals around the world can do their part in reusing, recycling, and reducing. These actions can save the Earth for the future generations, and hopefully we can move away from ‘trendifying’ sustainable practices.

More to Discover