Make an Impact in LIFE - The Coffee Story

Studying in Estonia provides opportunities for students to participate in projects that have a positive impact in the society and give them the opportunity to acquire new skills and obtain unique experiences. I will share my experience with one such project! - Katerina 

LIFE project logo

Official TLU LIFE logo. Photo: TLU

Tallinn University offers for its students the opportunity to participate in a new type of subject called LIFE (Project-Learning in Interdisciplinary Focused Environment), where students from different study fields carry out a collaborative project on a topic of their interest. All the Bachelor and Master level students at Tallinn University are invited to participate in the LIFE course and they can even suggest a project idea they would like to work on. 

The main objective of LIFE is to support the development of teamwork skills and encourage resolving interdisciplinary problems by bringing together students and academics that set a common goal and plan activities together to reach it.  

Student working on a project

Student working on a project. Photo:

During the autumn semester 2020/2021 the time came for me also to participate in the LIFE project. I participated in the "Topsivaba TLU II" project (which is Estonian for "Tallinn University free from single use coffee cups II") led by Mihkel Kangur and Liisa Puusepp. This course was very inspiring for me, as I am passionate about sustainability and I wanted to learn more about it as well as taking action to make a positive impact within the University. In addition, the main language of the project was Estonian, so it was a great way for me to improve my language skills. However, there was flexibility to communicate in English as well whenever there was a need for it. Another great thing about LIFE projects is that they are held in 2 languages: Estonian and English, so no student will be excluded from the course due to language barriers. The same applies to the seminars that LIFE coordinators organize for the participants throughout the semester regarding time management, project management etc. 

"Topsivaba TLU" project started during the spring semester 2019/2020 and the team focused on the attitudes towards disposable cups within the university. Surprisingly, 93.7% of the participants believed that the use of single-use coffee cups would be completely abandoned in the university campus. One of the best practices for achieving this was to create a cup-circulation system operating in cooperation with the university management and cafés. Due to the special situation declared in March 2020, it was not possible to develop a cup-circulation system during the spring semester, nor to communicate the importance of the project sufficiently to the members of the university. Based on this, the project continued in the autumn semester of 2020 in a new composition under the name "Topsivaba TLU II". The goal of our project was to eliminate the use of disposable coffee cups by finding solutions to replace them with reusable ones. Coffee is strongly associated with university life and eliminating the excessive use of disposable coffee cups is the first step in making Tallinn University greener and a pioneer in sustainability among Estonian higher education institutions. Did you know that In Estonia, about 200,000 disposable cups are thrown away every day? (Source in Estonian)

Coffee cup

Reusable coffee cup. Photo: Pixabay 

Our team consisted of 18 wonderful people from different disciplines that shared the same passion for sustainability. We worked hard to find applicable solutions and we focused on our stakeholders' needs by listening carefully to the cafes, researching the existing solutions for reusable cups and systems from different providers from all the Baltic countries, discussing the importance of our project with the TLU Rectorate and launching awareness campaigns for the university students and the staff on the topic.  

Finally, we decided to make our own cups with the Tallinn University logo and offer them for a limited time in the campus cafeterias. For the first week of December, for every take-away order for hot beverages, a free reusable cup was offered, so that everyone can carry and use these cups instead of disposable ones. In addition to the beautiful design, every beverage bought later on with a reusable cup comes with a better price :) Isn’t this a great incentive to be responsible for the environment and your pocket too? 

No more plastic cups

Promotional poster for reusable cup campaign at TLU. Photo: Topsivaba TLU II 2020/2021 LIFE project

Within 5 days, 500 reusable cups were given away and it is a great satisfaction for all the project participants to see university students and staff in the university and carrying their reusable cups! The LIFE project was a great experience that brought our ideas and visions into reality and the feeling that we achieved something wonderful not only for ourselves but also for the community. I had the pleasure of working in a team that cared for us and our development as personalities too. For that reason, each of us, set a personal goal regarding sustainability in daily life, to keep us motivated and on track with ourselves.

TLU reusable coffee cup

TLU reusable coffee cup. Photo: Topsivaba TLU II 2020/2021 LIFE project

Universities are taking the sustainability topic seriously and I am very optimistic that a reusable cup will wait for you when you join Estonia for your studies to enjoy your favorite beverages responsibly and sustainably!

Sustainability affects every aspect of our lives and we need to be mindful with our consumption habits. I am looking forward to the university’s bright green future. Get ready for the Tallinn University’s Green Month in April! Stay tuned... :)


Life finds a way. Photo: Pixabay 

Text: Katerina