New students please come by our office to claim your free EcoEssential item!
In 2009, Western Michigan University (WMU) created a novel, and as far as we know unprecedented, waste reduction initiative. During the first few weeks of school, each incoming WMU student are given a choice between a free, high-quality, ISO-certified, 18 oz. stainless steel water bottle, a set of bamboo utensils and a canvas tote bag.
This program—which has a variety of incentives associated with it—is designed to do much more than counteract disposable waste on campus. It’s an innovative model for introducing students to our campus’ sustainability commitments and for stimulating long-term, meaningful behavior change. In the past, students have been given EcoMugs, stainless steel coffee tumblers. The Office for Sustainability has added two items to give to new students based on a student poll released in 2018.
All students who pay the Student Sustainability Fee (SSF) are eligible to receive either one free EcoJug, a set of bamboo utensils or a canvas tote bag. WMU students, faculty, staff and members of the public can purchase an EcoJug or a set of bamboo utensils for $5 and a canvas tote for $4 at the Office for Sustainability during business hours. There is a limited supply left of the older version of EcoMugs. While supplies last, students who pay the SSF may buy EcoMugs for $10 and community members may purchase them for $14.
The EcoMug concept was hatched in 2002 in ENVS 4100: Campus as a Living Learning Laboratory course. Students began by selling the mugs and working with local businesses to offer discounts, but the program did not achieve widespread adoption. After a few iterations the idea caught the attention of the Western Student Association (WSA), who funded the project until 2007. In 2009, WSA passed a resolution that all incoming students should be given EcoMugs which was supported by President Dunn, the Office of Business and Finance, the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of Academic Affairs, the Office of Community Outreach and the WMU Bookstore. During the same school year, new student researchers in the ENVS 4100 class conducted extensive quality control testing of over 60 types of reusable beverage containers. Ultimately 6,000 mugs were purchased and distribution began.
Since 2009, over 20,000 EcoMug have been distributed to students, faculty and staff. Major distributions occur at events during fall welcome week. Day to day distribution happens at the Office for Sustainability.
In 2011 WMU began installing filtered, chilled water bottle filling stations in campus buildings. Office for Sustainability and Facilities Management have collaborated to install hydration stations in most major campus buildings. Paid for with the Sustainability Fee, the project is intended to offer students, faculty and staff even more incentive to "lug your jug."
The EcoJug, a 17 oz stainless steel reusable canteen for cold beverages, was released in 2014 and distributed alongside the EcoMug for students to choose from.
In 2018, a poll was given to students to vote on other products that they would use to reduce the amount of single-use items. The final results showed that students were interested in tote bags, reusable silverware and food containers with a knife and fork were most requested. Reusable silverware and canvas tote bags were purchased and have become available for students to receive starting in 2019, alongside the remaining EcoMugs/ EcoJugs.