Telegraph Green: The Next Least Generation

Project Lead: Maggie Hardy, Katie Latimer, Jennifer McDougall

Sponsor: UC Berkeley Real Estate Services

TGIF Grant: $10,990

Project Theme: Waste Reduction

Project Location: 

2015 Application Submission

Status: In Progress

Project Description: The Telegraph Green project is focused on reducing food-service waste from quick serve restaurants on and near campus, building increased awareness of the scope of the quick serve waste problem, and possible solutions.

Goals: Track one: to understand how the commercial district that most directly serves UC Berkeley undergraduate students could become truly zero waste, eliminating waste from food service for quick serve foods;
Track two: expanding educational events and social media organizing within the district and among students, building awareness to reduce food-related waste from quick serve businesses.


Expected or Actual Completion Date

Finalize hiring decisions for student interns

Aug 7 2015

Develop social media strategy to reflect project’s goals and values

Aug 14 2015

First advisory board meeting

Aug 20 2015

Implement useLESSgiveMORE, with token tins in participating businesses

Aug 21 2015

First Popup event

Aug 28 2015

useLESSgiveMORE one-month evaluation

End of Sept

Plan for/implement “Waste Week” programming

Goal: Week before Thanksgiving Break (Nov 16-20)

Fall Popup outreach campaign complete - assess effectiveness and plan for Spring

Before Winter Break 2015

Identify two “Truly Zero Waste” options for detailed study

Dec 2015

Second advisory board meeting

Jan or Feb 2016

Spring outreach campaign complete

Apr 2016

Complete feasibility study of two options May 2016

May 2016

Final report complete

May 2016

  • Interviewed for and filled three new student intern positions 
  • In the spirit of our mission to be as inclusive and relevant as possible to the many different populations in the Berkeley community, we wanted to make sure our team this year comprised a broad range of expertise and perspectives. We hired a chemical engineering major who transferred here this year from UC Davis with a strong background in composting programs, a returning student in CED who has been involved in developing Zero Waste publicity campaigns, and an economy major who is the sustainability chair on the Cal Interfraternity Council. Our lead outreach intern is returning after doing volunteer work for Telegraph Green last year (from GETH), and is studying physics and chemistry.
  • Partnered with Telegraph District businesses to execute two successful Popup Precycling events
  • This central component of our outreach campaign for the year has so far been met with great enthusiasm from both students and business owners. at our kickoff Popup event in August, we partnered with ShareTea to distribute over 100 reusable mason jars as well as an accompanying “BYO” incentive stampcard, which offers a discount for all those who bring their reusable item to ShareTea ten times over the course of the semester. At both locations, Telegraph Green interns engaged participants to inform them about the project and encourage them to continue to use their reusable item. Names and emails of participants were also collected.
  • Conducted follow-up survey to gauge impact of first Popup event
  • Caffe Strada, our partner for the month of September, chose not to participate in the stampcard initiative, but did donate 100 customized stainless steel thermoses for us to give away. Telegraph Green subsidized a free coffee for approximately 150 people who agreed to bring their mug back at a later date.
  • Began preparations for campus-wide Waste Week
  • Waste Week is on its way to becoming a bonafide campus event, scheduled for the week before Thanksgiving break (November 16-20). We are currently in the process of gauging interest from various relevant campus groups and planning a tentative schedule of events, to include a demonstration waste audit, “Trash Talkers” on Sproul, a “BYOReusable” party, and a “Green Friday” thrift sale.
  • Popup Precycling Events: Hundreds of students were directly engaged through the Telegraph Green Popup Precycling campaign. The Popup Precycling campaign promoted replacing disposable single-use cups and containers with reusable containers and partnered with local businesses to provide incentives to students in the form of discounts and free items for bringing their own reusables. Students were also engage in the Pre-cycling project through social media and direct outreach at the Popup events.
    • ShareTea: the first Popup event of the semester, gave away 100 free 24 ounce reusable mason jars and discount card for customers returning with a reusable container. This franchise location is owned by a Cal alum who generally operates the business in a very friendly manner towards Cal-related activities.
    • Caffe Strada gave away 150 reusable Strada mugs and 200 coupons for a free coffee for customers who bring their own mug/thermos. 20% of participants brought their mug and coupon back for a refill.
    • Golden Bear in partnership with Cal Dining. Gave away nearly 200 reusable snack packs made from recycled plastic bottles as part of Zero Waste Week to promote the new Cal Dining snack bulk bins. 
    • Dumpling Express gave away 20 Preserve containers made of recycled #5 plastic. Dumpling Express is offering a discount if customer brings their own container for dumplings
  • Zero Waste Week November 16-20th
    • Saturday (Nov 14): Game Day Recycling Challenge: “Trash Talking” at Memorial Stadium during Cal football game.
    • Monday: Waste audit with Campus Recycling and Refuse Services
    • Tuesday: Tweet @ Telegraph in Collaboration with Greening the Greeks / Trash Talking on Sproul Plaza
    • Wednesday: SOGA compost education event
    • Thursday: Cal Dining bulk bins Popup Precycling (Greenbear snack packs)
    • Friday: ReUSE Store Reader Giveaway / Green Friday promotion with Moe’s Books and University Press Books
  • Engagement on Social Media
    • Facebook page use to promote events and connect with collaborators. 68% of survey   respondents said they heard about our events on Facebook
    • Surveys to participants.
  • Conferences
    • CHESC 2015 - Eliminating Plastics from Food Service and Understanding Where Our Plastics Go (Telegraph Green Business and Zero Waste Research Center)
    • AASHE 2015 - Fast Food Waste Streams and Zero Waste Goals: Opportunities at the Interface of Town and Gown (Telegraph Green)
  • Project is excited to be working on policy angles related to reducing use of disposables and non-compostable materials in the south campus area; project has reviewed current best practices in other municipalities and looked for partnerships for this work.  Our current proposal is to develop a white paper that could be the basis for further work in the business district and with the city political leadership.  Per lead Jacob Gill: I’m envisioning a report that would summarize the existing policies and solutions around waste and reusables in Berkeley, highlight some best practices from other jurisdictions, take into account telegraph district Businessowner inputs (which would require me organizing some meetings), and finally to provide concrete policy recommendations for Berkeley City Council.  Some of the recommendations could also include nongovernmental efforts such as reusable loyalty programs, which we have our own data to support. 
  • Assessing long-term impact
  • One of the project's concerns is whether a significant percentage of people who attend the Popup Precycling events really use the item they receive after the initial excitement dies down. Originally, project planned on launching a “useLESSgiveMORE” campaign, which would incentivize reusables use by donating a small amount to local charities each time someone brought their own container/utensils/cup/etc to a participating restaurant. Project also intended this as a way to quantify reusables use in the Telegraph District, although it wouldn’t necessarily be specific to the impact of Popup events. Although several managers project spoke to said they would be willing to participate, most of them didn’t think it would really make an impact on consumer behavior, so project leaders decided to reevaluate project strategy.
  • To provide further incentive for Popup participants to bring back their reusable items, we are pairing each event with a discount or promotion on a food or beverage at the partnering establishment for that month. Project hopes to use the collected coupons/stampcards to gather data on how many people return with their reusable.
  • Getting people to use their reusable items once the excitement of “free stuff” wore off. The incentive punchcards/coupons were the project's main way of addressing this issue, although they are not a foolproof strategy and have been somewhat difficult to track after the events.
  • The Dumpling Express Giveaway presented a couple of unique challenges, most significantly that of inclement weather. Besides that factor, which was largely out of project's control, project found that passersbys were skeptical that project wasn't trying to sell them something or recruit them in some way. 
  • During Zero Waste Week, the biggest issue was generating sufficient and effective publicity for all of the events. Another unforseen challenge of Zero Waste Week was that it took place during the Big Game week, which was a significant competitor for student attention, especially on Sproul Plaza. Project also had some trouble with collaborators and volunteers failing to carry through on commitments to helping out with individual initiatives. Project leaders believe that creating a designated group solely dedicated to the purpose of Zero Waste Week would help to mitigate this issue.
  • The project's challenges for spring 2016 semester will be different than the challenges in fall 2015 semester, as the project shifts from giveaway events towards events to encourage people to use the reusables they already have. Project hopes that the pull of “free food” will be just as enticing as “free things.” Project also plans to have more direct engagement with businesses and community partners, which will bring its own set of complications.
Timeline Progress:
  • No longer pursuing useLESSgiveMORE campaign
  • Waste Week set for November 16-20; see “Waste Week Calendar” document in Project Updates folder for specific events and details
  • Added second and third Popup Precycling events
  • Target for skeleton outline of white paper before Waste Week.
  • Third Popup event at Dumpling Express
    • Originally scheduled for late November, but due to shipping complications and other ongoing events, was moved to early December.
  • Create deliverable based on TGIF update
    • To be presented to CoB Zero Waste Working Group and/or other relevant external parties or student orgs
  • Policy work
    • Policy work has been ongoing but not “on the front burner” this semester, primarily due to allocation of human resources in organizing Zero Waste Week. This semester we want to make it more of a direct focus, especially in light of the preceding item.
Qualitative and/or Quantitative Metrics: 
  • Project believes these are important to provide to partnering businesses as well as for our grant accountability.  Our measures will come from collecting loyalty card feedback and the number of free coffee coupons collected at Strada.  Meanwhile we have given away more than 100 reusable mason jars and 135 reusable insulated thermoses (contributed by Strada).
  • Business and campus partnerships
    • Telegraph Green Project has facilitated partnerships across business and campus communities to boost awareness and knowledge of reusables.  Qualitative benefits arising from these partnerships include increased word-of-mouth about city and campus zero waste goals, direct and indirect education about solutions, and the adoption of new strategies.
  • Survey responses
    • Telegraph Green Project received 27 responses from popup precycling event participants in post-event surveys.  The large majority of respondents heard about Telegraph Green Project through Social Media.  Nearly every respondent reported frequent use of their reusable items.  These results suggest support for the qualitative benefits of a strategy that boosts visibility and circulation of reusable products.  Respondents tend to appreciate the utility of such items even after the initial event.
  • Open letter to south campus businesses
    • During Zero Waste Week, Telegraph Green Project collected signatures on an open letter to south campus businesses declaring support for efforts to increase and encourage the use of reusable containers and other efforts to achieve zero waste by 2020.
  • Social media
    • Telegraph Green Project has 231 likes on Facebook, and TG-sponsored events have achieved 776 engagements in total.  Additionally, Telegraph Green Project has 148 email list subscribers.
  • Business partnerships
    • The first Telegraph Green business partnership of the 2015-2016 academic year was the Popup Precycling Event at ShareTea on August 27th.  The event consisted of a free mason jar giveaway to help educate customers about the benefits of using reusable containers at ShareTea and other vendors.  Customers also received a loyalty card entailing a $2 discount for the 10th drink, a total cost of $200. ShareTea also agreed to a $.10 discount for every reusable container use, a cost balanced by savings from nonreusable plastic tea containers.
  • The potential impact of such an incentive greatly outweighs the cost.  For any group of customers that participate, the benefit to cost ratio is $18:1 without accounting for the social benefits of reduced plastic pollution of roughly 4lbs per customer.  Sharetea provided us that they had given discounts for 284 purchases with reusable jars, implying a total of 3.4kg of plastic waste saved at ShareTea alone.
  • The second Popup Precycling event took on a different character.  Caffe Strada opted out of a loyalty program, which makes it difficult to assess the value added to the business.  Giving out 150 free thermoses and 200 free coffee coupons, preliminary analysis showed that the net benefits increase with the assumed average additional purchases of Strada beverages from customers who received a coupon and/or a thermos. Calculating a cost-benefit ratio is problematic for this type of partnership, but the qualitative benefits include increased circulation of reusable thermoses and increased presence for the Caffe Strada brand as well as association with Telegraph Green sustainability efforts.  Caffe Strada provided us that an estimated 30-40 coffee cards were returned, implying underutilization of the provided incentives and a minimum of 470g of plastic and paper waste saved.  The nature of this type of partnership suggests greater benefits but makes precise measurement difficult.
  • Implications
    • An incentive for reusable containers at telegraph food vendors can provide benefits which greatly outweigh the costs, before even considering additional social benefits from reduced waste.  Including a loyalty program allows us to more tangibly measure these benefits, and stronger data collection on behalf of business partners would allow us to gain a clearer picture of customer behavior.
Education and Outreach: 
  • Social Media
  • We have been very active in promoting Telegraph Green on social media, predominantly Facebook and Instagram. Since the beginning of the semester, we have posted 17 status updates and obtained an additional 77 likes on our page (compare to 147 obtained for the page over the entirety of last year). We are including a few photographs with this report in the Project Updates folder.
  • Part of our big push has been to keep a consistent project “brand,” which includes both visual and voice and tone aspects. See “Brand Sheet” provided in Project Updates folder.
  • We have also been taking advantage of the “Events” feature on Facebook to advertise Popup Precycling days, which has been quite successful - over 300 people RSVP’d for the Strada event, and many of them cited FB as the way they found out about our giveaways.
  • Direct Engagement
    • Telegraph Green also strives to engage with people face-to-face, not just online! We have attended various meetings and gatherings to reach out personally to other environmental groups, for example at the SERC Sustainability Expo at Anna Head in September. At Popup events, interns make an effort to approach participants in a friendly and accessible manner to tell them about the project mission and explain the advantages of “going reusable.”  For example, one of our speaking points at the Strada event was that reusing the  thermos could save up to 23 pounds of waste in a year.
  • Publicity
    • Telegraph Green’s Popup event at ShareTea was featured in the Telegraph Berkeley District Newsletter for the month of September:
    • Telegraph Green working with local take out businesses
    • UC Berkeley interns spearheaded the first "Pop Up Precycling" event during the first week of classes, partnering with Share Tea (on Bancroft) to offer discounts for use of reusable mason jars or reusable straws, with a goal of reducing waste in the district. More than 100 students lined up on Friday, August 28 to receive free mason jars and reusable loyalty cards.  The project, sponsored by UC Berkeley's The Green Initiative Fund, is looking for other partners in the district!  Write to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Consumer empowerment
    • Project's focus for the Fall 2015 semester was “downstream” education and outreach. During this time period we introduced and offered alternative beverage/food containers to restaurant consumers. We staged 3 giveaways that were advertised via Facebook events (see “Accomplishments” for details).
  • Consumer education
    • A key facet of our Fall 2015 Semester education and outreach efforts was the 2015 Cal Zero Waste Week initiative. Each day we created a theme that would hopefully encourage the students of Berkeley to become more knowledgeable about waste and ways to reduce it on campus. Students generally are oblivious or don’t have time to care about these issues that lead to the accumulation of landfill waste. This year, we undertook this Zero Waste Week event as a means of opening a line of thought or planting a seed of inception of consciousness of these issues. Our means of advertising our events were done on social media, namely: Facebook events, distributing flyers (printed on recycled paper) and hanging signs (also printed on recycled paper) around university high traffic areas.
Collaborations Fall/Winter 2015:
  • Environmental Coalition (ECO)
  • Green the Greeks
  • Interfraternity Council (IFC)
  • Campus Refuse and Recycling Services (CRRS)
  • ReUSE Store
  • Student Organic Gardening Association (SOGA)
  • Cal Dining
  • Telegraph Business Improvement District (TBID)
  • Local Merchants - Share Tea/Caffe Strada/Dumpling Express

Mission Statement

The Green Initiative Fund (TGIF) provides funding for projects that reduce UC Berkeley's negative impact on the environment and make UC Berkeley more sustainable. TGIF will allocate funds to projects that promote sustainable modes of transportation, increase energy and water efficiency, restore habitat, promote environmental and food justice, and reduce the amount of waste created by UC Berkeley. Portions of the fund also support education and behavior change initiatives, student aid (via return to aid), and internships. TGIF is supported by student fees and administered through a student-majority committee and a program coordinator.