Reducing coffee cups from adding to landfills in huge quantities (one thing we’re hoping to do by making our cup holder recyclable), surprisingly, requires just a chalkboard and some chalk. And the idea is so simple and so easy to execute that Starbucks can do it easily too. At least, that is what MacGyver, if he were the winner of the Betacup Challenge, would think.
The Betacup Challenge was a competition co-sponsored by Starbucks, where contestants were asked to offer innovative solutions to help tremendously reduce paper coffee cup waste. More than 430 groups entered the Betacup Challenge in an effort to get their hands on the $10,000 prize. But it was the super-simple, Karma Cup idea that took home the prize money.
The Karma Cup plan of action is extremely simple. Each Starbucks outlet will feature a chalkboard with a chart drawn on it. It will mark an X on the chart for every person entering the shop carrying their own reusable coffee mug. The 10th person to walk in with a reusable mug gets his or her drink free!
The simple idea will get everyone excited about being part of a good cause and getting rewarded for it by winning a free coffee, or many free coffees over time. They have nothing to lose by carrying a mug, and a free coffee to gain if they win which should fit nicely in their recyclable drink holder. But the real winner is the environment, as the idea will hugely reduce paper cup waste.
The environment pays a huge price for our use of paper cups. Twenty million trees and 12 billion gallons of water are used to make paper cups every year; 58 billion of those cups are then thrown away, not recycled, mind you. The energy utilized could power 53,000 homes. In contrast, the financial cost of implementing Karma Cup is just a fraction of what the earth pays. One chalkboard costs Starbucks the price of five tall mocha lattes.
Betacup Challenge had other ideas which are worthy of a mention here. The runners-up were Band of Honor, whose idea involved rewarding mug users with bands placed around their mugs. Another idea was using a biodegradable, reusable cup made out of corn husks, presented by Beta Cup. The Champion Cup involved giving mug users an online tool to track their mug usage and see what good they were doing to the environment.
Starbucks has maintained a strange silence about implementing the winning proposal. And it has pledged to make 100 percent of its coffee cups reusable or recyclable by 2015. The world will just have to wait till Starbucks breaks its silence.