Sustainability is sexy shirtIt’s about cups. Sexy, sexy cups. Well, actually it’s about getting college students thinking about the planet and about changing their personal habits. But the “sexy” sure doesn’t hurt.

The University of Washington’s Young Democrats club launched a Sustainability is Sexy campaign this month to encourage students to bring their own cups to the campus’s coffee shops. And their sexy slogan is popping up all over campus on shirts, buttons, stickers, and posters — where organizers hope it will remind students that thinking about your environmental impact is totally hott.

The posters feature a red-lipsticked mouth preparing to gulp some steamy coffee. The shirts are the well-tailored, hip American-Apparel type, with those luscious lips marking a coffee cup.

“You think of sustainability and you don’t think of sexy right away,” said Elliot Helmbrecht, UW Young Dems executive for legislative and political affairs. “So this catches your eye.”

Sex (well, at least the idea of it) has never really hurt a campaign. And that double consonant sound helps, too.

Sustainability is sexy Nicko“They’re bright; they’re green and yellow; it says ‘sexy’ on them. People look at them,” said Nicholas Fusso, UW student and chief financial officer for the Young Dems. “And we’re talking about a bunch of college kids here. We’re talking about a very specific demographic, and something with the word ‘sexy’ on it catches attention.”

They took on the coffee cup issue because it’s something students (and professors, and all of Seattle) deal with every day. On the UW campus alone, people toss 5,000 empty coffee cups a day — cups often made from bleached and wax-covered virgin paper that can’t be recycled.

“Seattle is a coffee city. A lot of people drink coffee, and it’s something relatively easy that everybody can do,” said Fusso. “It’s not expensive — to buy your own cup can cost as little as $5. We’re not asking [people] to drink less coffee or drink a specific kind of coffee, or do anything except just bring your own cup. And that’s a really easy thing to do.”

And it will actually save students money. If you bring your own cup, on-campus coffee shops offer any size drip coffee for $1.00, or $0.10 off espresso drinks. Off-campus businesses often offer similar discounts.

“They don’t have to pay for as many cups. They don’t have to pay for the garbage removal,” said Fusso. “They’re making more money than they would if they had to pass that cup out.”

Sustainability is sexy cup

The students started the project on a budget of just $50, which they used to print the buttons, stickers, and shirts. Now they’ve sold out of the first 70 shirts and are taking orders for the next batch from as far away as Thailand. They’re giving away the buttons and selling the shirts at cost — so they’re really not getting anything out of this except the glee of a successful campaign.

“It really takes away that stigma that you have to be this real radical, fringe-of-society kind of person to be an environmentalist,” said Fusso. “In fact, it should be all of us. It should be on our minds at least, and we should be doing something about it all of the time.”