Tag archives: coffee

The betacup LOVES Collaboration

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.

Completely on their own dime and by their own making, Threadless, Denuo, Good Day Monsters and Waveplant Studios have each created a stunning selection of companion pieces to compliment and support our campaign to reduce paper cup waste.

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.

Threadless Loves Coffee – T-Shirt Design Contest

Created by Threadless

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.

Your challenge is to design an amazing tee inspired by COFFEE!

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!

60 Seconds To Save The World

Created by Good Day Monsters in partnership with Denuo, and Waveplant Studios

Every second there is more waste as a result of the non-recyclable paper coffee cup problem. And every second there are more resources misused in their creation. But take heart, because every second is also an opportunity for change. An opportunity to solve the problem and save the world. Please share this video (created for the betacup by Good Day Monsters in partnership with Denuo, and Waveplant Studios). Together we can find a solution, it can’t wait another second.

The Worldsaver

Created by Good Day Monsters & Denuo

Screen shot 2010-06-01 at 2.32.22 PM

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 in: contest, Inspiration | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Coffee consumption survey: Initial findings

Posted by Brynn Evans on Sunday, 30 August 2009

By Brynn Evans

A few weeks back we ran a survey asking about people’s coffee drinking habits. The point of the survey was to get a broad perspective on why, where, and how people drink their beverage of choice.

We received over 250 replies from urban and suburban people, US and non-US citizens, coffee and tea consumers, and both the make-it-at-home and always-purchase-out crowds. Thanks to everyone who contributed! In the coming weeks, we’ll review selected findings from our preliminary analysis of this data set. It should be noted that this survey represents the preliminary stage in a much larger research process.

Our goal, instead of relying on the survey as an exclusive source of data, is to use our results to inform future in-store observations and interviews with coffee consumers. Many critical insights will only come from directly observing consumer interactions in coffee shops, with cashiers, baristas, and other patrons. We welcome your reflection on our findings and your perspective for our future directions!

To begin with a broad overview, our data clarified some things that we has assumed were true of coffee drinkers. For example, everyone has a routine. Some people regularly have a pick-me-up beverage at home in the mornings; others wait until they arrive at work. Many also have a cup at lunch time or in the afternoons, different from their morning drink, but nevertheless part of a fairly regular routine. We also learned that the most common drink size is medium; taste and temperature are hugely important for a pleasurable experience; people develop personal attachments to their reusable mugs; and customer loyalty cards are often spurned because they’re inconvenient and difficult to remember.

Check back here in the coming weeks as we address each of these issues with more depth and clarity. In the meantime, you can find the raw data from the survey here, in case you fancied digging around.

Thank you for reading and drink sustainably!

Posted in: Research findings | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments

Do you drink coffee? Take our survey!

Posted by Toby Daniels on Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Following the exciting brainstorming around the betacup at Overlap last weekend, our team has created a survey to better understand the practices of coffee drinking. If you’re a coffee (or tea!) drinker and have a moment to complete it, please do! (This has also been cross-posted on Mechanical Turk to get a wider diversity of responses, so ignore any confirmation code you see at the end.)

Thank you in advance!

Take the survey!

Posted in: Coffee survey | Tagged: , , , | No Comments

the betacup: Demonstrating the value of user-centered design thinking

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):

walking exercise arrows

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.

paper prototyping our user surveyThird, 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.

    Posted in: Coffee survey, Inspiration | Tagged: , , , | No 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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