If you’ve stopped by Union Square Donuts for your morning coffee or anytime-of-day donut over the last few weeks, you may have noticed a new sign positioned next to the sweet treats and savory squares on the shop’s counter. “Cup Club,” the small chalkboard A-frame reads, “Every 10th reusable cup is on us!”
The Cup Club is the result of a new collaboration between Union Square Donuts and the planet-conscious portable drink enthusiasts over at Cuppow. Here’s how it works: Every time a sustainable sipper stops by with a BYO beverage receptacle, a check goes on the chalkboard. When the 10th person pops in with a to-go mug of their own, their coffee is on the house.
According to Cuppow marketing manager Greg Ralich, the program is an effort to change people’s perceptions about their use of disposable cups. These days, he jokes, “your friends would gang up and beat you up if you got a plastic bag from Market Basket.” But when it comes to grab-and-go drinking and dining, even the most environmentally conscious consumers might not realize the impact their purchases can have.
“These cups weigh more than plastic bags,” says Ralich, noting that he recently walked past a trash can overflowing with coffee cups at a weekend farmers market in the ‘Ville. “We thought it was the weirdest thing, and we needed to put some more creative muscle behind finding a solution.”
That creative flexing led them to an idea: Why not collaborate with an already beloved area coffee shop to raise awareness through a loyalty program? The benefits were twofold—they would get to reward people for doing something good and inspire them to think about their consumption in a different way.
Cuppow is picking up the tab for these free beverages, but you don’t need to have one of their portable drink lids or containers to cash in on the deal. Any reusable cup gets you a check on the chalkboard and could make you one of the lucky caffeine fiends who takes home a free drink.
The Cup Club program has been around for a little less than a month, but already it seems to be catching on with Somerville’s coffee drinkers. Ralich says he’s seen the board fill up and be wiped entirely clean a few times already, meaning that at least a few hundred disposable cups have been saved from their fate as landfill fodder. In fact, as Ralich waited in line during one of his recent coffee runs to Union Square Donuts, he noticed that a row on the sign already had nine checks on it and thought for sure that his would be free—until a woman in front of him sniped the on-the-house beverage with her own reusable mug.
“It’s cool though!” he laughs. “The whole thing is designed so that it’s not confusing, it’s just that every 10th cup is free.”