Espresso UP makes environmentally friendly changes

By Fiona O'Brien | September 30, 2019 9:05pm

A student attending Espresso UP stirs her iced drink with a paper straw.

Media Credit: Annika Gordon / The Beacon

This semester, the new director of Espresso UP, Lauren Kerr, has made efforts to make the popular Wednesday night event more environmentally conscious. 

Espresso UP is a student-run pop-up coffee shop in St. Mary’s every Wednesday night from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Kerr, a senior economics major, switched from plastic to paper straws, bought ceramic mugs and started a punch card incentive for students to bring their own mugs. 

Students have already taken to the bring-your-own-mug trend Espresso UP is setting.

by Annika Gordon / The Beacon

The rest of the campus switched to paper straws last year, which are more environmentally friendly than plastic.

Senior Larissa Tashchuk is one of the student baristas at Espresso UP. Tashchuk and Kerr took an upper-division Innovation class last year. In the class, Kerr and Tashchuk — and two other students — were assigned to create a new product or find something in the school and make it better.  

When Kerr became director, she wanted the event to be more eco-friendly so Tashchuk and Kerr’s group came up with a new punch card incentive. Now, when you go to Espresso UP with your own mug, they make a little mark on the punch card. After five “punches,” students win prizes like bottle openers, t-shirts and mugs. 

Espresso UP's punch card is new this year.

by Annika Gordon / The Beacon

“Being in charge of something like this, where I have to buy all of these containers of milk, almond milk and cups — it’s so much packaging that it doesn't feel very good, but I don’t really have a choice,”  Kerr said. “So, it’s just to find those places where you can make a change and encourage them.”

This year, after seeing all of the excess packaging from Espresso UP, Kerr decided to buy paper straws instead of plastic straws. Along with the paper straws, Kerr also got new ceramic mugs for students who choose to stay in St. Mary’s while they enjoy their coffee or Italian soda. 

“It seems pointless to have a paper cup, and then sit at St. Mary’s the whole time and then throw the cup away,” Tashchuk said. “This is a place where we thought we could make a change. The first time, it felt like less than 10% of the people brought their own mug, and then the second time it was almost a quarter.”

Junior Megan Lacy frequently goes to Espresso UP. Lacy brought her own mug before the punch card system, but she is enthusiastic about the new policy. 

“It’s really awesome,” Lacy said. “I think when people are encouraged to bring their own mugs, this encourages sustainability on campus in other aspects.”

Students are using their water bottles for the Italian sodas served at Espresso UP as well.

by Annika Gordon / The Beacon

Kerr and Tashchuk have also gone to other coffee shops around Portland to see how they are going green and looking for ways to implement these practices at Espresso UP. Kerr admires Nossa Familia Coffee roasters, which was founded by UP alum Augusto Carneiro. In their coffee shops, they charge for to-go cups and provide sugar in a glass shaker, rather than packets.

For Kerr and Tashchuk, their main goal is to bring awareness to the green movement.

“I think it’s important if people bring in their cups into Espresso UP,” Kerr said. “But we want it to be a way for people to think about other opportunities where they can be more green.”

Fiona O'Brien is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at