OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

#BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup)

A social media campaign to educate people about paper cup waste and spread awareness of the benefits of using reusable cups.

Photo of Cindy Lam
2 1

Written by

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

NYU Tandon School of Engineering


A social media campaign to educate people about paper cup waste and spread awareness of the benefits of using reusable cups. 


We plan to start a campaign on social media and we plan to gain support from Influencers to go viral! Influencers that are active on social media can spread information quickly. Functionalities like hashtags and challenges initiated by internet celebrities can motivate people to absorb information and to act accordingly. Influencers should direct people to the right source of information about current challenges facing sustainability. 

Some example influencers we are thinking of includes bloggers (lifestyle, health, fitness, etc.), celebrities who are environmentalists (Natalie Portman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Emma Watson), young influencers on Instagram with 200K+ followers that have shown interest in sustainability (Diana Silvers), and popular TV shows (Portlandia, Saturday Night Live). 

Collaboration with brands that are sharing similar philosophies (Everlane, Glossier, Warby Parker) are also viable.

In short we want the key information, that paper cups are not recyclable and ways to be more sustainable, to spread as widely as possible.


With this campaign, paper cup users are quickly exposed to the problems of their choices and lifestyles. They get directed to ways of becoming more sustainable. This helps people who are concerned with the environment to get involved properly. This also has a good chance of converting people who are indifferent about waste through the power of their favorite influencers.  


Spreading awareness is the most important step in creating a sustainable ecosystem. According to a specialist from Sunset Park's Sims Municipal Recycling facility, 15% of “recyclables” that they receive are electronics, fire extinguishers, and clothes. Another 30% are organic plants, all of which do not belong there. Not a lot of people know that paper cups do not belong in recycling bins. There are alternatives like compostable products but the US does not have the proper facilities to deal with them. It's unfortunate, but the eco-friendly shops, that use compostable products, may not even know that those products may not be recycled properly. 

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Other

How have you incorporated additional sustainability attributes (beyond recoverability) into your solution?

Through this campaign, people learn that paper cups are not recyclable. We want to decrease the amount of paper cups produced and used by changing people's behavior. Additional sustainability solutions include spreading awareness of eco-friendly products that are readily available in the marketplace such as using mugs, collapsible cups, easy-to-carry-around tumblers, and recyclable cups. We favor companies that use ethically sourced materials and good manufacturing practices.

What regions do you plan to address with your solution (and how will you accomplish this)?

We want to address urban areas, since they have more users on social media when compared to suburban and rural areas.

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

Our target market are young professionals in urban areas on social media. These young professionals browse through content on various social media platforms on a regular basis. They can be someone who cares about bloggers (lifestyle, health, fitness, etc.), celebrities who are environmentalists, young influencers that have shown interest in sustainability, or someone who watches trendy TV shows. They can also be teenagers, who are attracted by the “cool” factors of eco-friendly actions advocated by these campaigns and influencers. In turn, these people might even try to spread awareness and influence their friends and families.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Research & Early Testing

What are the biggest challenges you are facing today? What are existing gaps in your solution?

The biggest challenge we face is creating a viral campaign and accessing influencers.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Business Model Development
  • Sustainability and Recoverability
  • Branding / Marketing and Storytelling

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

We are a group of students from NYU Tandon School of Engineering. With backgrounds in business, film, physics, graphic design, and transportation, we were able to contribute to this challenge from a diverse point of views.

In what city are you located?


In what country are you located?

United States

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

Key Steps: 1) Put together the key information that we want people to know about and start acting upon. 2) Come up with an attractive campaign that is both simple to act upon and contains all information needed. 3) Attract the interest of key influencers and find the right collaborators. 4) Work with experts to flesh out a viral campaign. Our goal is to change people's behavior by educating them to recycle properly, thus minimizing non-reusable cup waste.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Someone in my network (word of mouth)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Daniel Grosso

Nice one Cindy Lam ! Here in Australia we had a show called "The War on Waste" that clearly explained why most disposable cups aren't recycled in Australia. There was a wave of realisation (which has since died off somewhat) that we need to be doing something different. But the reason I bring it up is because they kicked off that series with the physical act of filling up a Melbourne tram with disposable coffee cups and travelled around the city with a megaphone telling people this was the quantity of disposable coffee cups going to landfill every hour in Melbourne. Have you thought about incorporating a similar act to kickstart your campaign? This is also a great way to get conventional media involved in your campaign too!

Photo of Cindy Lam

Thank you for your suggestion and that's such a good idea! I had to google how the tram looks like filled with disposable cups! I guess people are more visual so it hits them more when they see the actual cups filling up the tram. Also, it's always the case with people going back to their old ways/habits after a while but a campaign is still worth a try since there's not much on it here in the US.

I've been spreading awareness in small ways by talking to my coworkers and trying to get them to use reusable cups. So far, they've attempted but preferred the convenience of a disposable cup. :(