KeepCup Founder Abigail Forsyth shares the story behind the world’s first barista-standard reusable cup.

Very few industries in the world illustrate the sustainability loop as the coffee industry. At trade events, a grower might have a stand beside the paper cup company. If you are a multinational chain talking about climate change and poverty at origin and yet disposable cups account for 98 percent of sales, you are creating the problem you are trying to solve. It is the task of Sisyphus, no one wins.

Due to the altitude required to grow coffee, the second-largest traded commodity in the world, it is one of the crops most adversely affected by climate change.

The world over, sustainability is moving from being a department in an organisation with no budget, to a bottom line performance evaluation for the whole business. Within the next ten years sustainability will no longer be a marketing platform, it will be a precondition of commercial viability. The industry can only continue to grow if it looks after the environments it affects.

We designed and manufactured KeepCup, the world’s first barista-standard reusable cup, with a mission to reduce the widespread use of disposable cups. Every minute around the world one million disposable cups are discarded to landfill. That’s over 500 billion disposable cups a year. So whilst on a global scale it’s a small problem, in terms of gain versus cost, it’s catastrophic.

In just under five years, our mighty KeepCups, manufactured in Australia, have had an amazing journey from a design market in Melbourne to coffee shops in Reykjavik and design stores in Valparaiso. It is a fantastic example of a business model that has had great commercial outcomes maintaining sustainability and reuse as its core purpose.

Eighty percent of the environmental outcomes of any product are determined in the design phase. Care in product design; choice of materials, shipping, longevity and end of life, take you a long way to deliver sustainable outcomes. But while product design is critical, we give equal weight to creating the right circumstances to tip the behaviour change from discard to reuse.

Here are some of the lessons we have learned:

  • Strike a positive note, for most of us, the word ‘should’ is immediately disengaging. We all need to do better, and we can, it’s about giving ourselves and others the space to take positive action.
  • Find the enablers within your industry and engage them. I’ve been to many of the cafes with my KeepCup and the barista has said ‘good on you’ or ‘nice KeepCup’. It’s a wonderful feeling to have your efforts acknowledged and assists to embed the positive behaviour. Take a bow, baristas of the world!
  • Provide an accessible entry point to the sustainability journey. For many of our customers, it has been the beginning of a journey to reduce the consequences of convenience behaviour.

Ultimately, what sustainability is about is creating sustainable livelihoods for everyone, so we donate a portion of our profits to Coffee Kids. It is a charity that supports families in coffee growing regions to develop viable sources of income outside the growing season. This year we are supporting a microcredit scheme for women in Honduras.
I read once that every time you take a woman out of poverty she brings eight people with her. Now that’s a sustainable outcome.

Re-users, we salute you!

Visit to learn more and to buy your very own KeepCup.

Browse through The Specialty Coffee Book NSW and The Specialty Coffee Book VIC book now in the bookshop.

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