Community Strategies

In UPSTREAM's Throw-Away-Free Communities, we create and cultivate the business and policy conditions for reusable to-go businesses to start, thrive and scale.

Right now, we are building networks with our innovation, zero waste and environmental justice partners in our three pilot cities to build Throw-Away-Free Communities.

Boston Tea Party

Our goal: eliminate throw-away and move to real and reusable, wherever and whenever possible, to create throw-away-free models for communities throughout the country.

Why move from throw-away to reusable?

Take the disposable coffee cup for example. Americans use 120 billion of them each year. Placed end to end, these could circle the equator 333 times. This one throw-away, highly-polluting habit generates 2.2 billion pounds of waste, uses 35 billion gallons of water, generates 4 billion pounds of CO2 emissions, and cuts down 11 million trees each year. By simply replacing a throw-away cup for a reusable mug every day for a year, a single coffee drinker can save one tree, 23 pounds of carbon emissions, and 281 gallons of water.*

Play that out millions of times a day.

Imagine something so logical that every time you sat down in a coffee shop to have a cup of coffee, you were given a ceramic mug instead of a throw-away cup...even at Starbucks. Think McDonald’s can’t serve you on real plates and with real mugs? They already Europe. They serve on plates and in ceramic mugs at McCafes throughout Europe.

Imagine if an entire city used reusable to-go coffee cups on deposit that you could return to any coffee shop within the city. Seriously. Imagine it. You get your coffee to go. You get your deposit back. Costs you nothing. Win-win. Its already happening in cities like Berlin and within coffee chains in the UK.

Now go big. Imagine the environmental impact if New York City, a city of 8.6 million did this. The Bay Area. Boston. Imagine the waste reduced, the water saved, the greenhouse gas emissions prevented, the trees still standing. Guess what? Developing reusable businesses and systems throughout cities also creates new businesses and jobs and saves the coffee shops money. Truly, what is not to like?

* Fact Sheet from Clean Water Action -