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the betacup challenge: how are we doing?

Posted by Toby Daniels on Monday, 12 April 2010

Originally posted on Mutopo.com

How are we doing after 1 week?

+ 65 ideas

+ over 300 comments

+ almost 30,000 views of ideas

+ almost 1,000 registrations to submit ideas

In addition, the contest has good press and is the subject of steady twitter conversation all of which is helping to move the numbers above.

But how good are the ideas?

Here are some good examples:

+ new cups – some are created from existing waste materials, some while you wait and others are designed to disappear when not in use (while also checking into foursquare)

+ new recycling or reuse options – cups can be used to distribute seed or if we had more ways to collect used reusable mugs, perhaps more people could use them.

+ new behavior – these ideas explore ways to encourage behavior to reduce or eliminate the use of paper cups.

I personally believe this last category is where the best solutions will be found (I’m not a juror, but I will be voting with everyone else for the community prizes).

One of the big changes in recycling is the cost of tracking. For example barcode scanners are ubiquitous, so barcodes can be used to track and reward reuse. In fact the cup (or the lid) can become the more valuable kind of plastic (the kind you buy stuff with).

Going one step further, loyalty card programs result in interesting data for segmenting customers for selling more stuff, but they can also be used to cause better behavior.

Beyond the ideas, we’re excited to see how the process unfolds

Because submissions are public some interesting things are happening.

+ comments – feedback is already resulting in iterations, so we think some of the submitters are benefitting and enjoying the feedback

+ teaming up – it has happend once already and there seem to be some discussions already (this is how the netflix prize was won, so this is interesting, for sure).

+ juror expert feedback – we have already seen some of the jurors weigh in with their particular expertise, so we’re looking forward to seeing how this helps submitters to identify and address prospective issues with their submissions.

We’ve just started, so why not submit an idea or encourage other people to check out the betacup challenge.

Posted in: contest | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments


the betacup: The start of a movement

Posted by Toby Daniels on Thursday, 7 May 2009

In early 2009, I was chatting with a close friend about my frustration with paper coffee cups, in particular how many I threw away due to my spiraling coffee drinking habit.  Not only was my caffeine addiction a concern (I’m a ‘three-a-day’ sorta guy), but I was also troubled by the environmental impact this might be having, especially since the cups could not be recycled.

My friend was quick to point out that a reusable cup or flask was probably a better alternative.  A fair point, I thought, but I had tried this approach before and while bringing my own cup to Starbucks (or where ever I purchase my coffee) was obvious, it wasn’t convenient.

Like a lot of people I spend my going from one meeting to the next, grabbing the occasional coffee on the go.  The likelihood therefore, of me carrying a bulky flask or coffee mug on my daily outings was slim to none.

With a kernel of an idea and fire in my belly, I began researching coffee consumption and the impact that paper coffee cups are having on the environment.

As I picked my way through mountains of research and data I was struck by some fairly alarming facts:

  • 58 billion paper cups are thrown away (not recycled) every year
  • 20 million trees are cut down in the process of manufacturing paper cups
  • The amount of water used in the process is approximately 12 billion gallons

What amazed me about this data, was what it represented in terms total energy used.  According to the Environmental Defense Organization, we could power 53,000 homes with the energy we consume through our paper cup consumption.

Another alarming fact that I uncovered was the amount of water used in the process of creating one single cup of latte, which according to the World Wildlife Fund is more than 200 liters (52 Gallons).

Watch this video from the WWF for a full explanation:

So, the facts (problems) as I understood them when I began this process were threefold:

1. Paper cups create massive amounts of solid waste and consume vital natural resources in the manufacturing process

2. Drinking coffee uses large qualities of water from harvesting to distribution

3. Reusable cups do not represent a convenient solution and are not being widely adopted by consumers

In a chance meeting with Shaun Abrahamson and Marcel Botha from Mutopo I threw out an idea of launching an initiative that aimed to reduce the impact paper cups were having on the environment. They were equally astonished by the data, and being hardened coffee drinkers, felt compelled to help me figure out a better and more convenient solution.

Mutopo are an incredibly interesting company.  In the past few years they have been working on a strategy that applies crowdsourcing methodologies to large scale business and design problems.  They suggested applying their methodologies to the problems that I had identified with a view of crowdsourcing the solution.

And so the betacup project was born.

At this stage our mission is simple: To reduce the environmental impact of coffee drinking by creating better and more sustainable solutions through crowdsourced design and community activism.

We are very much at the beginning of what we hope will become a movement and active community of like minded and socially and environmentally conscious activists.

As we start out of this journey we are inviting participation and all levels and feedback from anyone who has an idea for how we can achieve our goal.

To learn more about the project and to understand how we intend on tackling the problems we’ve identified, check out the About section within this site.

Also, follow us on Twitter and connect with us on Facebook.  Help us drink sustainably!

Posted in: Inspiration | Tagged: , , , , , , | No Comments


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