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Our cafes are always doing as much as they can to be more sustainable. From replacing all plastic cutlery with wooden cutlery, to making oat milk our default and getting rid of plastic water bottles. This is all part of our mission to be a net zero-carbon organisation by 2030.

Our next big challenge is to reduce the amount of hot drinks we serve in disposable, single-use cups. Disposable cups are terrible for the environment. Many end up in landfills, in fact over 1 million single-use cups are thrown away every year at UCL.

What are we doing to tackle the problem?

Using a reusable coffee cup every working day for a period of one year results in 88% less emissions compared to a the same use of single-use cup made of cardboard linked with bioplastic, regardless of how many drinks a day you have. This is based on so called Life Cycle Assessment, so from cradle to grave of the product (the entire production and post-disposal included). In October 2023, 21.1% of all hot drinks in Students’ Union cafes were sold in reusable mugs. This is great, but we want that number to be much higher.

In a bid to encourage more of us to opt for a reusable mug, our single-use cup charge increased to 50p earlier this year However, if you order a drink with a reusable cup or to drink in (crockery now available for drinking in an all Union cafes except Bloomsbury!), your latte or cappuccino will cost exactly the same as it did before. And our student friendly prices mean we're still much cheaper than Pret.

Why do we think this will make a difference?

History shows us that small changes to the way we buy and consume food can cause a huge shift, long term, in public attitudes. When the 5p charge for plastic bags was first introduced as an environmental measure in 2015, it took a while to get used to, but this has since resulted in an 83% reduction in plastic bag use.

What is more, evidence suggests that 50p is the threshold charge for encouraging habitual uptake of reusables as very few people are willing to pay that much and beyond to continue using a disposable cup.

Where can you buy a reusable mug?

We have our very own Students' Union UCL branded e-coffee cups on sale at all of our café outlets. As an extra little incentive, our cups are currently on offer for £10 (from £12) until November 30 - and you'll get a free drink, too! They come in a range of colours, from pink to black and white to teal. Of course, if you already have a mug of your own, you can still bring this in, and your drink will cost the same as before. You can also choose to have your drink in crockery if you are sitting in.