Trampling tumblers: The effects of Stanley cups

Stanley Quencher tumblers are becoming collector’s items causing them to be limited for shoppers. Graphic by Reece Butler.


Making their way into the rink — you’ve heard them — you’ve most definitely seen them, you might love them, and they’re the current reusable champion on campus — Stanley cups

The Stanley brand originated in 1913 and has been around ever since. The brand’s products were often used for laborers to keep their drinks warm and to keep from spilling during the long days they worked. They were reliable and often helped people consume drinks and food safely. 

While their concept has stayed the same in keeping hot drinks hot for most of the day, their design has changed from a thermos cap to having a handle sticking out of a steel boulder. Although this isn’t necessarily wrong, their designs seem unnecessary and impractical, which is the opposite of what the brand was wanting to do from the beginning. 

During the past few years, we have seen different kinds of water bottles come and go — Nalgene, Yeti, Camelbak, Hydroflask and now Stanley. Many of them offer bold new colors and different sipping holes when they’re in season, but what is it about Stanley cups that drives people to commit petty crimes? Are they actually addictive? How are they different from any other water bottle with the same functions? 

One might think that Stanley cups are solely becoming popular due to their rise on social media platforms and in pop culture, but surprisingly there is another factor of influence that helped these popular cups spread like wildfires. 

Kaelyn Hart, a first-year criminology and psychology double major, is a Stanley owner and shared an unexpected influence that got her hooked on the popular cups so much. 

“My sister told me about it, and I ended up buying one,” Hart said. “[Also], I feel like [my family] kind of support our trends in a way because they buy things for us, I probably would not have gotten [a Stanley cup] if I wasn’t aware of it.” 

This is not only the case with families of college students, but also with parents of grade school students. Because of social media, children have access to current information and trends, meaning that they are actively trying to keep up with what is going on around them. This often means that parents are also aware of new trends, or even see them on social media themselves, and want to help their children not feel left out or behind. 

While it may not seem like a big problem, young children are learning early on to follow trends and desire materialistic things when they do not need to. Not only is social media influencing them, but parents are allowing their children to be influenced and encouraging a pattern of unnecessary consumption. 

“[Stanley] knows who they’re targeting, and it’s working,” Hart said. “At the end of the day, it’s a water bottle. If it encourages kids to drink more water, it’s a good thing. Water is healthy, and if it means that having a reusable water bottle will help your kids drink more water, then get that Stanley cup. Kids are also growing up in a society where capitalism is so big, but it is not okay to get consumed by it at such a young age.” 

As a society, we have become mesmerized by the idea that we need to keep up with trends. Many of us like to stay in style, but as soon as the trend dies we quickly move on. 

Moving on becomes a problem since it means that something that was once owned by almost everyone will end up in landfills, thrift stores or forgotten in someone’s attic. This means that hundreds of thousands of not only cups but other products will build up and cause more of the environmental damage they were supposed to prevent. 

Ben Karlgaard, a sophomore environmental studies and data science double major, voiced his worries about the direction our culture is steering towards, as well as the harm it’s doing to our planet. 

“Because of global warming and the climate crisis that is becoming increasingly prevalent, we [as a society] are going to have to have a culture shift in a couple decades,” Karlgaard said. “That is going to include a shift away from materialism, convenience and doing everything because it is the cheapest — and moving towards more mindful habits in buying, consuming electricity or even just consuming in general.” 

Yes — Stanley makes various models of reusable steel water bottles, but they are not doing the harm themselves, nor have any past water bottles that come into fashion. The problem comes with consumers choosing to be ignorant of the bigger picture and their actual purpose. 

“Trends can be good things,” Karlgaard said. “They can drive valuable goals. When it moves past their original goals and it becomes a status symbol of owning an item, it becomes harmful.” 

When people ignore the issue at hand, in this case, the climate crisis, the planet suffers. Not only are people buying Stanley cups in excess, but they are reducing something intended to be sustainable into an accessory that will be easily thrown away when their popularity dies. 

Elizabeth Huselton, administrative specialist for the department of history, anthropology and classics, shared her frustration with the craze of Stanley’s recent collaboration with Starbucks

“I always found those trends ridiculous, that it was at the cost of people’s safety,” Huselton said. “And we’ve seen it a couple years before — adults were fighting over a possession that is not going to be meaningful in a couple years.” 

The cups are not only a unique accessory, but a status symbol. Having more than one or two water bottles means you’re healthier, trendier or even more privileged. Each time a new one comes out, the same pattern happens once again. 

It’s an intoxicating, continuous cycle that will unfortunately become worse as the decades continue. As consumers, we have to learn to be aware of what companies are doing, or even what they want us to buy into. We have to recognize when we become obsessed with an object or company, and when to stop supporting it if it is doing us harm as a society. 

This issue will not be fixed instantaneously. It will take years for us to rectify what has been done to our society and planet. It’s time for us to recognize when trends are affecting us and to help future generations recognize this, as well as to not dig ourselves a deeper hole that we may never be able to get out of.


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