First, they took our mugs.

Now, just when we’ve finally come to know and love the 16-ounce disposable cup, they’ve robbed us of a precious four ounces, leaving the new cups at a measly 12 ounces.

What’s next? Will they strip us of our chairs, tables, plates, and silverware, forcing us to sit on the ground and eat with our hands like barbarians? A moment of silence for Commons’ impending regression into the Stone Age.

But now, an actual moment of silence for the $33,000 we squander each year because of liquid waste. Maybe switching to a smaller cup isn’t such a bad idea.

“But I forgot about it, and it got cold,” my roommate says in reference to his fourth cup of hot chocolate that lies untouched on his desk. While most people at Bates probably don’t waste four cups of hot chocolate in a day, it’s certainly easy to get complacent about wasting a half-cup because your beverage got cold or because you simply forgot about it. We need to remember that this waste adds up collectively as a school and over the course of a school year.

The problem really lies in the size of the cup. When Commons workers examine the cups that come in through the conveyor belt, they consistently find that more liquid is left in the larger paper cups than in the smaller plastic cups. This presents another problem. While Commons workers know to drain the liquid left in the cup before disposing of the cup, the busy Bates student tends to struggle with this concept.

Properly disposing the cup and the liquid within that cup is an equally pressing issue in addition to the liquid waste problem. More often than not, liquid remnants end up in trashcans and recycling bins rather than in sinks and drains. If you leave liquid in the cup before recycling it, the liquid contaminates the whole bin and deems all of the cups in that bin unusable for recycling. When energy is expended in order to recycle a larger cup, that’s one issue. When even more energy is expended in order to create those larger cups from scratch because of recycling bin contamination from liquid remnants in that large cup itself, the issue of the larger cup becomes even more pertinent.

The other consideration is that liquid in trash and recycling bins makes an unpleasant job that much worse for the staff who have to deal with it. At an individual level, the best way to solve this problem is to take the amount that you will actually drink, finish your drink (and if you cannot, drain it), and then recycle it. At a school-wide level, the solution to this problem lies in the smaller cup and the Bates Mug Program.

While numerous solutions to this problem have been proposed to Commons, such as incorporating multiple cup sizes, ceramic mugs that stay in Commons, and an even larger transparent plastic cup, the most economically feasible and environmentally conscious solution is the switch to a 12 ounce cup and greater individual participation in the Bates Mug Program.

By switching to a smaller cup, each person is forced to take less liquid, inevitably leading to less liquid waste, fewer cases of liquid contamination in trash and recycling, and less energy and resources needed to produce the cups. Of course, if you miss those four ounces or are seriously turned off by the aesthetics of the new 12-ounce cup, you can join the Bates Mug Program.

In the Bates Mug Program, we either give you a Bates mug (the same ones from last year) with a barcode on it, or we print out a barcode for you to put on any of your reusable liquid containers. Every time you come to Commons and scan your mug (you use the barcode on the mug to sign into Commons in place of your ID), you receive points that add up and allow you to get free meals for guests or for yourself over breaks.

While the new 12-ounce cup and participation in the Mug Program may take some adjustment and effort on your part, I encourage you all to graciously adopt these trends in order to appease the Commons gods. With our combined efforts, perhaps the gods will decide to hold off on bringing Commons back to the Stone Age.