Change for change: Cap bar prices increase

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Photo by Peter Burleigh

Coffee. It’s an essential part of a student’s life, as is the saved penny.

What happens when these two needs are in conflict?

Students at the University of Dallas face their growing financial crises as they now have to pay for paper, not only at the library but also at the Cap Bar.

The Cap Bar made the decision to switch from plastic foam cups to paper cups after members of the Environmental Conservation Organization (ECO) approached Aramark with the idea last semester. At the very beginning of the current academic year, the Cap Bar used the remainder of the plastic foam cups from last year and the old menu prices. A few weeks later, the old menu came down and prices went up. The hot drink prices each went up by 25 cents to cover the cost of the paper cups.

According to Zach Reyman, the Senior Student Manager at the Cap Bar, part of the reason why the Cap Bar implemented the change at the beginning of the semester was strategic.

“We wanted to do it at the beginning of the year so it wouldn’t be a drastic change in the middle of the semester,” Reyman said.

But is this a drastic change regardless of when it occurs for the first time?

An extra 25 cents for one drink may not seem like a lot (especially to a nonstudent), but the compounded difference over the semester is significant. 

The typical Aramark-supporting student has $200 in declining balance to spend at the Cap Bar. Over the course of the semester, one such student hypothetically buys as many espressos as possible. Last year, the student would have purchased each shot of espresso for 75 cents, making the total number of espressos purchased 266. This semester, the student will only be able to buy 200 espressos with $200. 

That’s a difference of 66 shots of espresso! 

The thought of losing so much caffeine is enough to make students want to let off some steam.

Even with the 10 cent discount for bringing in a personal mug, students will still be paying an extra 15 cents for a paper cup they aren’t buying.

Listing these facts isn’t exactly what might be called “spilling the beans” since many students and other Cap Bar patrons have been experiencing these financial implications. However, how much do people know about the environmental statistics concerning foam versus paper cups? 

After all, we were told that the Cap Bar officially made an environmentally friendly move by going from plastic foam cups to paper cups.

A couple of issues back in The University News, ECO member Maria Zambrana welcomed the change from the non-biodegradable to the biodegradable cups.

In a 2014 article published in the The Boston Globe, Elizabeth Gehrman shows that maybe “Paper Cups Just Aren’t Greener.”

Gehrman quotes Tim Greiner, the Managing Director of Pure Strategies and Sustainability Consultancy in Gloucester at the time, stating: “There are trade-offs…[foam] is better on climate change and water and [paper] is better on toxicity…neither is great on recyclability.”

The biggest advantage of paper cups is that they’re biodegradable, meaning that they decompose quickly, whereas plastic foam can take 500  years to decompose.

However, plastic foam is better for the environment in some ways, which Gehrman lists in her article.

Plastic foam is made of polystyrene, which is derived from petroleum and natural gas whereas 20 million trees are cut down annually to make paper cups. The manufacturing of 10,000 foam cups requires 4,748 gallons of water whereas in the manufacturing of the same number of paper cups requires 8,095 gallons of water. The manufacturing of 10,000 foam cups requires 450 pounds of coal while 10,000 paper cups require 542 pounds of coal.

The root of the matter is that there are advantages and disadvantages of both plastic foam and paper cups.

Unfortunately, UD students now see one of the disadvantages of paper cups in their wallets.

The Cap Bar made the decision to raise the prices. 

Now it’s time for UD students to raise an inner battle, carefully weighing their quarters between the library and the Cap bar. Maybe they will find ample opportunity in these crucial moments to ponder their telos, realizing what will be a better means to their academic ending. 

Or, they’ll grab that cup of Joe, knowing that they should choose the means to the all-important secondary end, which, of course, is that of staying awake in Lit Trad.

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