Category archives: Inspiration
Posted by Toby Daniels on Tuesday, 1 June 2010
We’re very proud and privileged to be working with a number of incredibly smart and creative folks, who are helping us bring the important message behind the betacup challenge to the masses.
Each of these pieces are designed to raise awareness around the issue and drive people towards the Jovoto contest to rate and review ideas ahead of the June 15th deadline, where the winning ideas will be chosen and awarded $20,000 in prize money. Please take a few minutes to check out, absorb and share their incredible work and also take a moment to review the ideas submitted to the betacup challenge contest.
Coffee. Delicious coffee. It’s fueled the creation of many artistic works for centuries. It’s also fueling the creation of this challenge. (Pause for a sip) One might also say that coffee has fueled the creation of Threadless itself! From early mornings to long nights, it’s always there to comfort us and keep us chuggin’. It’s time to give back, my jittery friends.
Our friends at Betacup are coffee lovers, too, but they want to reduce the number of non-recyclable cups that are thrown away every year. And so in conjunction with their Drink-In Week and idea submission contest, we’re happy to add some sweetener. In addition to the awesome Threadless loot, they’ve rounded Starbucks up to provide a $1000 gift card and a sweet recycled tumbler! You better love coffee.. a LOT!
Created by Good Day Monsters in partnership with Denuo, and Waveplant Studios
At The Betacup, we think saving the world can start with something small. Like, say, your morning coffee. You know, that white paper non-recycleable thingie with the plastic lid and wasteful cardboard wrap around it. Yeah, that. Well, (together with Denuo, Good Day Monsters) we created something to help change all that. It’s a little something that will serve as both a reminder about every cup’s wastefulness every second, and an opportunity to create change. To make a better cup. All by starting small. With something like, say, your screensaver. Or as we like to call it, The Worldsaver.
About the creators:
Threadless is a community-centered online apparel store run by skinnyCorp of Chicago, Illinois, since 2000.
Denuo instigates, invents, and inspires new forms of creativity to solve the marketing challenges of modern marketplaces. They also love the betacup – their website even says so.
Good Day Monsters crushes digital projects 24 hours a day, from Chicago and Bangkok by night, to build killer websites, applications, and motion graphics.
The original music for 60 Seconds To Save The World was written and performed by Waveplant Studios. Run by Joel Corelitz, this personal brand is one of the top audio houses as picked by Motionographer.
Posted by admin on Monday, 8 March 2010
Thanks to Brynn Evans for sharing this wonderful video with us. Totally random, but we’re seriously considering this as the betacup theme tune.
Posted by Brynn Evans on Wednesday, 11 November 2009
I discovered this postcard at the Epicenter cafe today:
For starters, this is super cute!
Then I learned that it’s from the Green Cafe Network, originally started in San Francisco to green-ify coffee shops. They believe that “coffee shops have a tremendous impact on the planet and they influence a huge number of Americans each day.”
In their mission statement, the describe their approach further:
First, we work with independently owned coffeehouses to actively reduce their ecological impacts and become certified green businesses;
Second, we educate and inspire the staff and communities of these neighborhood cafes so they can transfer green business practices to their personal lives.
This aligns with what the betacup team believes, too … perhaps we’ve got a partnership in the making
Posted by Toby Daniels on Monday, 9 November 2009
Here at betacup HQ, we love design and we especially love coming across design ideas like this that address large scale environmental challenges.
We were told about Vapur via a good friend and advisor to the betacup, Ryan Fix and we absolutely love it.
According to their website Vapur is the most portable refillable water bottle on the planet. And by making tap water more portable, they hope to make bottled water obsolete.
What we like about their approach is that they have created a product that is both sexy and desirable, as well as functional and convenient.
From their website:
“Unlike rigid water bottles, Vapur is completely collapsible. This means it goes more places and fits in tighter spaces than any other bottle. Whether you are hiking the trails, passing through airport security or visiting the museum with your family, Vapur makes water infinitely portable.”
What do you think? What would the coffee carrying equivalent look like?
Hopefully when we enter into the design phase of the betacup, we’ll see ideas as innovative and exciting as Vapur.
Posted by Brynn Evans on Wednesday, 7 October 2009
It turns out that the “betacup” has an ancient history! The people in Lapland (Finland) have been using a handmade wooden drinking cup — called a “kuksa” — for thousands of years!
These wooden bowls are usually made of birch, hand carved, treated and cured, and then carried by the belt throughout the day…and throughout people’s lifetimes. They were used for drinking everything: milk, water, tea, coffee. And a well-made cup would last forever.
It’s interesting that these simple, yet unique, drinking vessels became so intimately connected to the people who created them. Perhaps a bond is created when you produce an object with your own hands? (You can make one yourself, even: how to craft a classic kuksa cup.) Perhaps the simplicity of the design and the practice of attaching the cup to your belt made them a necessary part of the everyday culture?
Either way, the betacup team can learn a lot from the kuksa. We hope to create a modern kuksa, but for city-dwellers with fast-paced lifestyles. We want coffee drinkers to feel a personal connection to their betacup; and we want the betacup to become their cup for life.
Posted by admin on Friday, 18 September 2009
In this talk artist Chris Jordan presents an arresting view of what Western culture looks like. His supersized images picture some almost unimaginable statistics — like the astonishing number of paper cups we use every single day.
For example, we use 4 million cups per day just on airlines, which of course do not get reused or recycled. We also use 40 million cups a day for just for hot beverages. Check out the first few minutes of this talk, where Chris provides even more insight:
About Chris Jordan
Chris runs the numbers on modern American life — making large-format, long-zoom artwork from the most mindblowing data about our stuff.
Photographer Chris Jordan trains his eye on American consumption. His 2003-05 series “Intolerable Beauty” examines the hypnotic allure of the sheer amount of stuff we make and consume every day: cliffs of baled scrap, small cities of shipping containers, endless grids of mass-produced goods.
His 2005 book In Katrina’s Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster is a chilling, unflinching look at the toll of the storm. And his latest series of photographs, “Running the Numbers,” gives dramatic life to statistics of US consumption. Often-heard factoids like “We use 2 million plastic bottles every 5 minutes” become a chilling sea of plastic that stretches beyond our horizon.
In April 2008, Jordan traveled around the world with National Geographic as an international eco-ambassador for Earth Day 2008.
“As you walk up close, you can see that the collective is only made up of lots and lots of individuals. There is no bad consumer over there somewhere who needs to be educated. There is no public out there who needs to change. It’s each one of us.”
Chris Jordan on Bill Moyers Journal
Posted by Toby Daniels on Wednesday, 16 September 2009
“Dear readers, if you don’t drink from a reusable cup, what’s stopping you from making the switch?”
This question was asked of Planet Green’s reader’s in this post. In the piece, they make some compelling arguments as to why consumers should consider switching to reusable coffee cups:
“Take all the people who read this magazine, then persuade them to sip their morning coffee from a travel mug for one week. Result: Enough trees to fill two football fields will be spared the ax. Can’t commit to a week? Switching to reusable cups for just one day will save as much energy as using 1,000 gallons of gasoline.”
But regardless of how compelling these arguments are, consumers are not switching, at least not in large numbers.
We’d like to pose another question. Why?
We feel that one possible answer to this question is that it is simply not convenient.
One of the problems reusable cups is that they do not fit within a consumers existing routine. If they’re commuting to work by car or public transport, or they’re rushing between meetings, a bulky mug, that requires cleaning, is not an attractive option, regardless of their desires to be eco-friendly.
While this is not excusable, it is understandable. Eco-options, must be both sustainable and convenient, otherwise they will only ever appeal to the committed few.
Posted by admin on Wednesday, 16 September 2009
At his carpet company, Ray Anderson has increased sales and doubled profits while turning the traditional “take / make / waste” industrial system on its head. In a gentle, understated way, he shares a powerful vision for sustainable commerce.
About Ray Anderson
Ray Anderson is the founder of Interface, the company that makes those adorable Flor carpet tiles (as well as lots of less whizzy but equally useful flooring and fabric). He was a serious carpet guy, focused on building his company and making great products. Then he read Paul Hawken’s book The Ecology of Commerce. Something clicked: with his company’s global reach and manufacturing footprint, he was in a position to do something very real, very important, in building a sustainable world.
Posted by Marcel Botha on Thursday, 3 September 2009
In this video we highlight the two significant problems that we are looking to address as part of the betacup initiative and also describe the mission for the project.
We of course welcome your feedback. How should we be approaching the problems identified? Who and what should we be highlighting on this site and should Toby consider a career as television presenter or perhaps even a film star? Enjoy!
Posted by Brynn Evans on Wednesday, 5 August 2009
By Brynn Evans
There is problem with disposable paper cups: they aren’t recyclable.
Now you might ask: but isn’t paper recyclable? I, too, thought paper cups were recyclable, and thinking back to my behaviors, I’m almost positive that I’ve been dropping used paper cups in the recycling bin. Unfortunately, most paper cups are made with a wax lining on the interior making them NON-RECYCLABLE! If you happen to live in an uber-eco-friendly city like San Francisco, your “paper” cups may actually be compostable — but that’s another thing.
On the first day of Overlap09, Toby Daniels presented this very basic problem: disposable paper cups carry a heavy environmental burden, from the way they’re created to the way they’re just simply thrown away. At the same time, they’re super convenient for consumers — I walk into Starbucks or my favorite local Blue Bottle Coffee and my coffee is presented in a disposable paper cup unless I bring my own travel mug (or occasionally they have ceramic mugs for dining in). Blue Bottleactually doubles up on paper cups, the outer one serving as a hot sleeve.
Is it possible to solve the paper cup problem? How can we reduce our consumption of non-recyclable, non-compostable papers cups which have so widely infiltrated American society?
I quickly joined this weekend-long project as part of a 5-6 person team with the hope of brainstorming and prototyping possible solutions. I’m sharing our experience to illustrate the value of a user-centered design process — that effective designs will work within existing user behaviors to enact shifts in practice. In fact, this was possible even though we only had 1-2 days to tackle this problem, and even though we were unable to observe coffee consumers in their normal routines. (There were plenty of coffee consumers in our crowd…all of whom were drinking from the terribly ugly, small, and poorly made non-recyclable paper cups that the Asilomar conference grounds kindly provided. See cups —>.)
One woman approached me at the end of the weekend: “That paper cup problem, that’s a hard one. When I first heard the idea presented I thought ‘good luck’ to the poor souls who take that on. That’s gonna be impossible to solve.”
And so it might be; but that very challenge was the thing that drew me to the project. It was also a physical, tangible artifact that was deeply embedded in people’s work practices and social cultures, another thing that I felt suited to study given my training in distributed cognition and ethnography.
We had a four-pronged strategic approach to this problem (which albeit emerged organically):
First, the team went on an hour-long walk outdoors, with each of us carrying a cup to immerse ourselves in the problems with both paper cups and travel mugs. But the outdoors part was key because, for us to remain as a group, we had to face each other almost in a circle, we practiced deliberate turn-taking (giving everyone a chance to chime in), and we weren’t constrained by computer screens or white boards. We literally just bounced around ideas in a semi-structured manner. We explored everything from the pros and cons of existing solutions to the practices that consumers engage in through the act of purchasing and drinking coffee. What emerged were a few threads with design principles that contributed to the majority of our final prototype.
Second, we let those ideas bounce around privately until the next day. While at first I was disappointed that our return to the retreat center meant we were launching into a new exercise, the next day I realized that having time to digest all the various ideas that were proposed let the few really promising ones percolate to the forefront of our minds. Therefore the next day, we were fresh and ready to go with the best ideas from the lot.
Third, on the second day we began constructing a user survey that we will put on Mechanical Turk to get a mass of data from coffee drinkers. The act of composing a survey, however, made us focus deeply on the issues surrounding the practice and culture of consuming coffee. We talked a lot about the context in which coffee is consumed. Are people buying coffee with their coworkers (as a social practice) or are they drinking solo? What other things do people carry when they purchase coffee? At what time of day does coffee consumption occur? Morning time might suggest it’s part of a regular routine (which would require certain product designs); afternoon might suggest that it’s part of a work-place practice (which would require alternative designs).
Finally, we used a practice called bodystorming to illustrate both the problem and our proposed solution within a coffee shop setting. Dennis Schleicher introduced us to the bodystorming practice earlier in the weekend. Our bodystorm was really a live demonstration (think: a short play), but we presented it in quite a hurry, had to improvise several scenes, and were subject to audience questioning afterwards. All of these things actually led to a better understanding of the problem and solution space! [Aside: some tips on bodystorming.]
Our solution looked something like this: reusable travel mugs already exist (I personally have several), but people are not diligent about carting them around. This is probably true in part because they’re bulky, so we can propose a collapsible, pocket-size mug. However, structural integrity aside, pocket-sized reusable mugs may still not be a sufficient solution. Users are lazy, unlikely to change their behavioral practices — yet for a real solution to take hold, it will have to change behaviors in some way. The best approach to this, in my opinion, is to fit within existing practices and provide incentive structures that encourage a certain type of behavior.
When we were thinking about what coffee consumers’ incentives might be, three issues emerged:
1. how many coffee shops give out punch cards where you can buy nine and get the tenth free;
2. to-go users are often busy, rushed, or have things in their hands, making coin (and even credit card) transactions less than convenient;
3. coffee shops often get your order wrong, especially if you’re the triple decaf caramel soy latte with whip.
Could we provide a “smart” collapsible travel mug that provided simple solutions with these three issues in mind?
Our mug (a “betacup”) will therefore have a digital chip on the underside which serves both as the punch card and the debit card, and has a mechanism for remembering your drink. It could remember several drinks (which could vary by time of day) — and you’d be able to add or delete drinks at the shop.
The solution continues: when you enter your participating coffee purveyor, there would be an “Espresso Line” for betacup users. When you arrive at the cash register, there will be a surface for placing your mug which would both read in your preferred drink order, debit your card, and you customer loyalty points, leaving you hands-free to tend to your crying baby or seal a business deal on the phone. Your only wait would be for the baristas to prepare the drink.
Of course, this is an early solution, a result of just a weekends-worth of brainstorming and prototyping. But it’s also a demonstration of how user-centered design thinking can drive solutions to “paper cup problems.” The betacup isn’t just made out of a new type of material, with a new form factor, with a personalizable exterior — although it can also be all of those things. It is a design that tries to work within existing behaviors to enact a shift in practice. Understanding users and the context of practice are hugely important parts of the design process.