Sam's Club Pretends Its Polystyrene Cup Is Green

Gregg saw this cheerful environmentally-friendly message on the side of his Sam’s Club soda cup. Wait, what? We guess it saves Sam’s Club fuel costs to ship the cups, but that sounds more like a profit-friendly quality. Gregg notes another benefit of the cup: “[it] may never biodegrade but at least it’s easy on my drinkin’ elbow.”


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  1. smirky says:


  2. Nyses says:

    Samsclub = Walmart, enough said!

  3. Average_Joe says:

    All “green” products are not green in some way. Right now the “green” label is basically 50% false and 50% relative. It’s at most a half true earned by just comparing the product to the worst item it could possibly replace. It used to be innovative to come up with a product alteration that saved money and resources, and not it’s called green.

  4. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    What, the “Green Revolution” is not making everyone honest, kind, and successful? Say it ain’t so.

  5. Sockatume says:

    This is rather like trying to impress customers with your low-fat food by remarking that the double cheeseburger has a significantly better photoelectron spectrum than the fish sandwich.

  6. joemono says:

    This reminds me of the Fiji (bottled water) “green” ads that I’ve seen at the movie theater. The ad explains that Fiji is working on being more “green.” What the ad doesn’t mention, though, is that if Fiji were really serious about helping the planet, they’d stop putting water into plastic bottles.

  7. rdm24 says:

    Ya know, even if we were to consider the fuel costs, how many (presumably low-density, high-volume) cups can fit in a truck?

    After all, shipping 1 cup uses less fuel than 1000, but the gas per cup ratio sucks.

    But what am I saying? The whole thing is ridiculous!!!!

  8. Bladefist says:

    There is not one single company going green for any other reason then marketing and profit. If a company did, the stock holders would bail.

  9. LonePhantom says:

    I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who saw this and wondered if we were experiencing a huge “our landfills weigh too much” problem…

  10. Darklighter says:

    @Bladefist: So? That doesn’t make Sam’s Club’s claim that this Styrofoam cup is environmentally friendly any less preposterous.

  11. Bladefist says:

    @Darklighter: I agree. This is a perfectly legit story. ‘Going Green’ is a marketing probe. It’s an investment.

    It’s saying, we are going to spend this much more to go green, hoping we make more money, and we win. Sams Club is skipping the investment part, and just lying. I have no problem w/ this story.

    My comment was directed to anyone who thinks companies are going green for the environment.

  12. evan says:

    60% less weight means 60% less fuel to ship.

    There’s no making environmentalists happy- if it was paper they’d whine about cutting down a tree.

  13. pixiegirl1 says:

    @Bladefist: ITA that is the only reason in my eyes why everyone is “going green”. People are falling for it and think “all my old stuff isn’t green I better go out and buy new stuff” and why do they do with their old stuff? I guess it ends up in landfills.

  14. I’ve read in a few places it does use less resources to produce the foam cups over paper ones. Even the local “we air bake instead of fry” fast food joints with veggie stuff uses them as well. It’s a debate that hasn’t ended.

  15. RodAox says:

    @rdm24: On per cup basis it does not. # cups / fuel cost…

    Look, this argument is hard, there are so many factors to consider so you cannot say that a paper cup is more environmentally friendly than a plastic cup. Or vice-versa.

    When the cup is plastic less fuel is being used to transport, in addition less fuel is used to take it back to the garbage dumps. Also to make the paper cup you have to cut trees, if you are talking about recycling then that within itself is another manufacturing process… It just goes and goes and goes…

    No one can definitively say that one is more environmentally friendly…

  16. readams says:

    Though, to be fair, I feel I should note that paper basically never biodegrades in the anaerobic environment of a landfill either.

    Also, paper cups are lined with plastic to make them waterproof.

  17. jcromartie says:

    @evan: By that logic, having two people in my car uses twice as much fuel as just myself. EVERYBODY STOP CARPOOLING!

  18. teh says:

    @joemono: Or stop shipping it halfway across the world.

  19. katylostherart says:

    @rainmkr: yeah, better alternative? glass is infinitely recyclable and wears down to sand. also a couple shattered glass plates can make an awesome mosaic or decoration.

  20. SkokieGuy says:

    The term already in use is “Greenwashing”.


  21. jjeefff says:

    I see no basis for the assumption this is a “green” or “environmentaly-friendly” selling point on the cup. It is simply a fact concerning the shipping weight of the cup. No claim is made that it is better or worse for the earth than a paper cup. Sams club sells things in bulk and customers may be interested in how much things weigh for a variety of reasons.
    Could someone clarify this fundamental assumption underlying this article?

  22. The_Gas_Man says:

    This really illustrates the absurdity of “green” anything, whether it be marketing, packaging, etc. We’ve now gotten to the point that doing a little bit is viewed as worse than doing nothing at all. Take what you can get, guys. And lighten up.

    That’s asinine; they’re doing what little they can, but somehow it’s still not good enough for you. Self-righteously suggesting that a company close itself down for the good of the environment is crazy.

    If there is any blame to be leveled regarding the environment, it should be toward the consumer for not recycling and for not demanding other types of products from companies.

    Demand isn’t high enough yet for these companies to afford to change their products. If the demand keeps growing, eventually the supply side will reach it. But we’re not there yet.

  23. Anonymously says:

    @jjeefff: I agree. The font is green though, so maybe it’s just suggestive of being green.

  24. SkokieGuy says:

    @jjeefff: You disagree with the assumption about the purpose of the claim.

    You indicated customers may be interested in weights. This is published on the outside of the package.

    So any other thoughts on why Sam’s has this information printed on each cup – in green text?

    I think an implied ‘green’ message is a pretty reasonable assumption.

  25. djanes1 says:

    A paper cup in a landfill won’t biodegrade either.

  26. Claystil says:

    it also leaches chemicals when heated(!!!PANIC EVERYONE PANIC!!!) and is made ENTIRELY FROM OIL.

  27. Shawna says:

    I thought this was a hilarious cup when I saw it at my sam’s club as well. Like the miniscule weight of the cup makes a difference when you’re filling it up 800 ounces of pop/soda. Maybe they could say it’s better for the environment because it uses less fuel to ship. Of course, it will never biodegrade, but at least it’ll be light in our landfills!

  28. midwestkel says:

    Damn, I goto Sams Club all the time to get lunch and I saw this and was telling my friend we should send it to Consumerist!

  29. Actually I can honestly say that my company is doing a lot of things that are costing them money to “go green”. Some of it makes sense and some of it doesn’t, but I am happy my (solid well established well funded successful) company is doing what it can to cut it’s carbon footprint, or whatever you want to call it.

  30. Also to comment on the content of the article:

    This is indeed a case of “greenwashing” it’s highly unlikely that the ability to ship more cups in a smaller amount of space saves anyone by Same/Wallyworld money. and probably results in little benefit to the environment.

  31. Same=Sam’s

    spelling R hard

  32. temporaryerror says:

    I’ve noticed that just about every time I’ve gotten a drink at Sams and always found it to be a bit ironic…Glad to know that it’s not just me.

  33. SuffolkHouse says:


    That’s a myth. Support that claim.

  34. SpitfireM1 says:

    I did a study on this in college.

    The polystyrene cups are definitely more environmentally-friendly than paper. Paper is coated with products to make it waterproof. These products also make it so the cup can not be recycled, while foam cups are easily recycled.

    The fuel savings on polystyrene vs. paper on a per-cup basis are real as well. Polystyrene uses less fuel and raw materials to produce as well as less fuel to ship.

    Here’s an article on the subject:


  35. Triborough says:

    No doubt Wal-mart is lying again.

  36. cruz4u says:

    Don’t styrofoam cups weigh about 60% less than paper cups in general?????

  37. Claystil says:

    @SpitfireM1: polystyrene is in fact very difficult to recycle and that is why it is almost never recycled. it’s just not cost effective to do so. it typically ends up in land fills where it will biodegrade in 800 – 1000 years if it doesn’t first find its way to water. look for the little polystyrene bubbles any time you go to a coast and it won’t take you long to find some.

    paper might be bad, but so is polystyrene, and when they’re both so much worse than a reusable cup, what’s the point in arguing which, paper or polystyrene, is worse?

  38. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @Bladefist: Actually my company is (mostly green) because the owner is crazy. We’re a furnishing company and she actually wanted to stop selling leather because it was cruel.

    But then you have the Al Gores of the world who preach conservation but lives in a house that uses the amount of energy in one month that the average home uses in a year. And that’s just his house!


    Reports say that it’s gone up 10% since that article. Sadly, it seems as though Al Gore is burning the midnight oil, very inconvienent.

  39. Canino says:

    @jjeefff: I agree with jjeefff. And the green color of the text is the same green color that has been used in the Sam’s Club logo for a long time, as you can see on the front of the cup. It doesn’t imply greenness or anything else.

  40. lajoan says:

    Forget about paper vs whatever this light cup is made of. The real problem is shopping at Sam’s Club, where prices are cheap and ethics are cheaper.

  41. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @Bladefist: I should also mention that I’m very anti-green. This is going to be harsh but here it is:

    1. As George Carlin (RIP) once said. “The planet isnt going anywhere…we are” So I’m not saving the planet.

    2. Once the oceans rise and the major cities are flooded a couple of things will happen. a. the major disasters told will effect the poorest first and foremost, there are many economic advantages to getting rid of the poor. b. a sudden world population drop will do wonders for the job market; analyst today CFO tomorrow.

    3. I always thought the snow on Kilmajaro (sp?) was cheesy

    4. I loved that scene in The Day After Tomorrow where the Mexicans closed there boarders to Americans.

    5. I dont own an SUV but I love the irony of SUV owners having a distinct advantage when the streets are all flooded.

    6. I’ve never been to Venice and although I’d love to go, its like 25th on the list of places I want to go so it may not happen. Better yet would be taking a Gondala down Canal street in lower manhattan.

    I could go on, but I’d risk being called a troll

    /too late

  42. Claystil says:

    @Canino: are you crazy? why else would anyone print a box on a cup advertising light weight? let’s here it.

  43. axiomatic says:

    As long as you only get one cup from Sam’s Club EVER and keep bringing the cup back with you for refills.

    You could even go “super green” and have your dead cremated remains placed in the Sam’s cup for eternity.

  44. Claystil says:

    @Wormfather is Wormfather: to your 2nd assertion, ummmmm, no. taking out the poor would actually cause the entire economy to fail. this is why most fiscal conservatives (think Allan Greenspan), unlike their neo-con brothers, support open door immigration.

  45. AD8BC says:

    I don’t know what all the arguing is about here.

    The cup is not green. I can see that. Sam’s Club are idiots… how can this cup be green?

    It’s BLUE!!!!!

    Go back to kidnergarten and learn your colors!

  46. Canino says:

    @Claystil: are you crazy?

    Guess so.

    why else would anyone print a box on a cup advertising light weight? let’s here[sic] it.

    I was referring to the green color used, not the reason for the printing. Someone above had inferred that the green color indicates greenness. I simply pointed out that it’s one of the company’s logo colors and that the green in itself doesn’t indicate anything.

  47. zarex42 says:


    Absolutely correct. There’s nothing wrong with the assertion that a lighter cup is more “green”, if you assume that energy use is more harmful than dumping. Which it almost certainly is. No news, here.

  48. Claystil says:

    @Canino: jeff also said “I see no basis for the assumption this is a “green” or “environmentaly-friendly” selling point on the cup.”

    and you simply said you were agreeing with him “And” that the green color was the same as the logo.

  49. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @Claystil: Define failure. Yes, the economic system we live in would change but producers would still produce and consumers would still consume.

    Now might be a good time to mention that that post was 99.9% sarcasm, if nothing else, I live in a costal town and my house is on a river.

  50. Quilt says:

    Hey ladies, my buddy’s penis is 50% smaller then most mens. That means he’ll be using 50% LESS condom.


  51. TVarmy says:

    @joemono: Yeah. Their big pitch is that they carbon offset shipping plain ol’ water halfway around the world 120%. Excuse me, but I’ll just use tap water and a filter and use the money I save to lead a greener life so I pollute less in the first place.

  52. stacye says:

    Consumerist needs a greenwashing tag.

  53. Bladefist says:
  54. TVarmy says:

    So, what would happen if companies started charging $.10 more for a cup, but lowered the price of the actual drink by a nickel? I mean, isn’t the cup the most expensive part of the deal? The rest in most drinks is some cheap syrup (About 7 cents for a 32 oz drink), some municipal water, and carbonating (also cheap). Seems to me they’d save a bunch, get an excuse to charge people more, and encourage people to use their own cups, earning them (both the company and customers) green credentials. I guess they would lose the free advertising, but if they sold the reusable cups (including the small sizes, not just the massive ones) at a cheap enough price, you’d have customers still using cups with your logo.

  55. Claystil says:

    @Wormfather is Wormfather: sorry, i guess i just thought the joke was a little to off color. most of the producers you speak of are, after all, poor. anyway, hope you have a boat!

  56. Brazell says:

    Does anybody actually know whether or not Sam’s Club has been taking efforts to “Greenify” their cups, or are we just assuming that because there’s a random fact on the side of the cup that *could* make it more green but might not, that they’re trying to melt the sun and club baby seals?

  57. TVarmy says:

    I’d also kill for Pepsi and Coke to design a container that you could refill at a fountain at the supermarket which would keep its fizz. The reason I’m off soda, aside from health bennies, is because I don’t like you have to buy it in a bottle or can, when I have 99% of the constitutes of soda sitting in a pipe right next to me. I guess they could have it work like you put a capless bottle under a hose, it fills it with flat soda (syrup and water, mixed inside the machine), and then pumps in CO2 and slaps on a cap like they do at the factory. Technology is probably at the point we could make a bottling plant the size of a CoinStar machine. It could even slap a cute little label on the side of the bottle.

    Plus, it’d help keep around sodas with cult followings, like Surge, since it wouldn’t steal shelf space from more popular brands. It’d be nice to have natural offerings, too, like Kosher/Mexican Coke and Pepsi RAW (a British version made with cane syrup and no artificial flavors).

  58. TVarmy says:

    @MichaelBrazell: Knowing WalMart, a design jockey probably suggested it, and they figured they may throw in a pseudo-green fact for near-free. Probably done in the same vein as, “Oh, you do one stop shopping at WalMart, so that way it’s green! Also, we’re apparently the only store that carries concentrated soap!”

    These ideas are technically green, but not intentionally. Since WalMart doesn’t seem to embrace local produce like some supermarkets in my area, or offer farmers’ market days, I kinda doubt they save a net of more fuel. However, they do save the end user gas, so I guess that does mean it’s cheaper if not greener.

  59. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @Quilt: Is your buddy’s name quilt by any chance? I know, I know, you can cry, let it out.

    Sorry, couldnt resist.

  60. cockeyed says:

    Sam’s is betting that their customers are this stupid.

  61. TACP says:

    FWIW, Walmart does not have foam or paper cups in its break rooms anymore. The “associates” have to bring their reusable cups from home.

  62. maevro says:

    He who gets the last laugh wins……

    Look at the free publicity they are getting over this.

  63. MyPetFly says:


    I remember seeing once at Henry’s (“natural” food store) a display of bottled water… fronm FINLAND! How and why is water from Finland worth the high cost of shipping it? I never got a satisfactory answer from them. I’ve got the picture around somewhere…

  64. Atsumi says:

    How am I supposed to work out my arms if my soda cups weigh 60% less?

  65. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    Supposedly Procter & Gamble spent several hundred million dollars on a secret project to create a carbonated drink that would have been a powder sprayed into a cup at the factory & then you would just add water to it. Sort of like the old Fizzies tablets from the early 60s. They apparently gave up when they went out & bought the Orange Crush Co. The rumor was that since everyone’s water is different, they couldn’t get it to taste the same everywhere.

  66. danno5-0 says:

    I like my coffee hot and to remain hot during my drive into work! Polystyrene does a much better job of that–paper cups suck!

  67. brent_r says:

    @evan: Nonesense.
    Look at a paper cup and a styrofoam cup of the same capacity.

    The styrofoam cup is thicker, and takes up more space, you cannot
    fit as many in a stack. Meaning that more stacks are required, meaning
    that more cups are required.

  68. ChuckECheese says:

    I love these cups. I pour my bottled beer into them, and it reduces the strain of drinking. And ladies, there’s nothing more unsightly than rippling beer biceps, so maybe you want to pick up a gross of these amazing featherweight cups.

  69. Carbonic says:

    the difference is what, 3 grams? yay for the earth!


  70. Ajh says:

    Meh, it’s walmart. I shop there cause there’s no where else open after midnight. During the day I shop anywhere else.

    If I get a foam cup from somewhere like that I’ll be refilling it with water or tea (which is what it originally contained in my case.) all day.

    @jcromartie: Actually…I’m fairly certain your gas mileage IS affected by how much weight is in your car.

  71. narq says:

    I remember when I first bought one of those cups about a month ago. I thought it was weird it wasn’t paper, then I looked at it and saw the message. Thanks Walmart, I’m killing penguins because you think my body can’t fully support the weight of a paper cup filled with liquid. I’m glad you care about my well being so much, but I think I can manage to hold a few ounces more if it keeps our environment alive.

  72. Hongfiately says:

    @Bladefist: You’re so right. “Green” is the next Atkins-friendly, chipotle, ciabatta. Dunno why I instantly remember all of the food-related ones (breakfast time, maybe?). For most companies, green is disco; it’s primarily a fad. Not saying some sensible environmentally-friendly things won’t come out of it, but you’ll get a lot of crap like this Sams cup, which is the Disco Duck of green.

  73. Hongfiately says:

    Man, it just hit me. The cup is only claiming to weigh less. But they used a green font. Pretty sneaky, sis.

  74. Cupajo says:

    “As George Carlin (RIP) once said. “The planet isnt going anywhere…we are” So I’m not saving the planet.”

    I think ‘SAVE THE PLANET’ is a poor choice of phrases. This is really about self preservation. We’re not going to destroy the Earth, but we may just destroy our descendant’s ability to survive on it.

    Ultimately, all “green” decisions made by businesses are PR decisions. And there really isn’t anything wrong with that. It all comes down to money. That’s just how business decisions are made.

    But we really shouldn’t depend on big business to save us from “destroying the planet” (quotes for irony). Big business will be happy to sell us all the hybrid cars and CFL lightbulbs and biodegradable diapers we can afford, but for real change we will have to rethink they way we live. More people will need to live closer to where they work and shop (like within biking or walking distance). The days are rapidly drawing to an end where we can afford to have everyone driving 30 miles a day to get to and from work and then go the Target store and then Blockbuster and then the megamarket and then the toy store and then to the dry cleaner and so forth and so on. We need a return to neighborhoods like the ones we had before WWII, instead of our current paradigm which allows for 100 square acres of “Pleasant Valley Sunday” ‘burbs twenty miloes away from 500 square acres of shopping bliss with 2 Wal-marts in every shopping mega-complex.

    /rant over

  75. boxjockey68 says:

    @Nyses: Right on, I get so sick of these companies “greenwashing” themselves……and then people actually believe it. And seriously, how could anything associated with walmart (and China) be good for the environment? Seriously??

  76. Claystil says:

    @Hongfiately: my favorite greenwashing campaign was Barneys “Green”. Selling “green” clothing to the most virulent of consumers. It’s all just PR bull. No wBarnys gets to brag about being green to the housewives of NYC, making them feel less bad about their conspicuous consumption and waste.

  77. TVarmy says:

    @Greasy Thumb Guzik: Then how do soda fountains work? I mean, if you have real soda syrup and real CO2 in the machine and you put a cap on it, don’t you have the same product as what you get at Burger King, just in a bottle with a longer shelf life?

  78. oyanobaka says:

    @Claystil: Here in Japan, where there isn’t as much room for landfill as in the US, expanded polystyrene is recycled quite a bit.
    How EPS is recycled

  79. atypicalxian says:

    @cockeye: They’re not the only ones. Think of all the gullible people (especially celebrities) selling carbon offsets! Talk about the scam of the decade.

  80. atypicalxian says:

    oops, I meant BUYING carbon offsets!

  81. Naval Patel says:

    I don’t see this as Walmart jumping into the whole “Green Craze”, but rather an incident of an overzealous blog being bitchy.

    No where on the cup does Walmart give any indication as to the environmental benefits associated to said cup. It is merely stating that the cups that they are using weigh 60% less than comparable paper cups.

  82. on the subject of bottled water (since everyone has beaten this sams club cup to death already)…. drinking bottled water is no different then drinking bottled soda, bottled tea or anything else bottled. you’re getting a beverage. it came from somewhere. It took resources to process it, resources to ship/truck/railroad it to it’s final destination. It doesn’t matter what’s in it. So buying a bottled water is as ecologically friendly (or ecologically unfriendly) as buying a coke or pepsi or snapple.

    the only time it is an un-ecofriendly choice is when you buy bottled water and there’s a ready supply of tap water available for convenient use. i.e. using one at home or at the office. when you’re anywhere else odds are there isn’t a spigot available that a) works, b) you can take with you c) is cold and f) is a clean source (i.e. isn’t all nasty and filth covered, like some that I’ve seen in public parks)

    So if I’m gonna have to hear it because I bought a bottled water at 7-11 so I can have a beverage while driving I guess I’ll lambast folks who buy a coke for the drive home. There’s no water dispenser in my car and there’s a coke dispenser either. So either they’re both ok or they’re both not ok.

  83. D14BL0 says:

    I’m sorry, but how is this Sam’s Club selling something off as “green”? I don’t see “green” mentioned anywhere, only that it weighs less. It looks more like somebody is just jumping to a lot of conclusions, there, because it only says that it weighs less.

  84. TDubb says:

    @painfullyblunt: doesn’t snapple come in glass bottles?

  85. mormonunderpants says:

    While reusable cups are the only true green way to go, styrofoam is more ecologically friendly than paper or plastic cups. Although Styrofoam takes a long time to degrade (approximately 20,000 years), the waste that is produced in the process of making cups is much less, the cost of production is less expensive, and Styrofoam does not release toxic substances into the environment, unlike paper and plastic cups.

  86. Claystil says:

    @mormonunderpants: not to be a troll, but seriously, expanded polystyrene takes between 8,000 and 9,000 years to degrade, it’s made from oil which itself, even before it is formed into polystyrene, has a huge negative impact on the environment, and expanded polystyrene while not tremendously toxic IS the single most present marine pollutant.

  87. Phanatic says:

    Who cares how long it takes to degrade? Bury it in a landfill; it’s not like there’s a shortage of landfill space. It takes far less energy and *fresh water* to produce styrofoam cups than paper ones, and *far* less energy to actually transport them, given the weight savings.

    Yeah, great, paper cups biodegrade, if you just throw them out your window and leave them laying by the roadside. They also take more volume in landfills, and don’t biodegrade there, either.

    What do you think we have more of to spare? Fresh water, or places to put landfills?

  88. Claystil says:

    @Phanatic: they’re both terrible for the environment. Such minor distinctions seem too often hyperbolic (i.e. “*far*”) and irrelevant when a simple choice to use niehter option is a pretty damn easy one to make.

  89. tdelet says:

    Why not: No pandas or Siberian tigers were killed in making this cup.