Winner Of BetaCup Challenge isn't A Cup, It's The KarmaCup


a portion of the winning entry

A lot of people had doubts about the Betacup Challenge, a competition "in search of a solution to the rampant wastage of unrecyclable paper coffee cups". There are perfectly good solutions out there right now, like reusable or travel mugs. On the Betacup site's "why we don't switch to reusable page, they write that "one possible answer to this question is that it is simply not convenient." Gee, what a surprise.

But a lot of smart people are behind this, including our founder Graham Hill and Alan Chochinov ofCore77 so I tuned in to see what won.


Toby Daniels, Jim Hanna, Alan Chochinov, Shawn Abrahamson

Jim Hanna of Starbucks sounded persuasive when he talked about why he was at the table, how they are trying to get more people drinking from reusable cups, and to use less paper. Alan Chochinov called it a "juicy" design problem. He called it a "fascinating process" where everyone got to comment and vote on their favourites.

There are $ 20,000 in prizes, half of which is going to winners selected by the public vote, the balance by the judges. There were 430 submissions. Five shared the peoples choice; one was picked by the judges and gets a $ 10,000 cheque.


click image to enlarge

To my great surprise, a replacement cup didn't win the big prize, but a promotion, an idea to encourage people to use reusable cups, a way to change behaviour. The judges like both the idea and the economy of the presentation.


click image to enlarge

Essentially, every customer with a reusable cup makes an X on a blackboard and every tenth person gets a free cup of coffee. These kinds of things work; in Canada, they have a "roll up the rim" campaign at Tim Hortons that does the opposite, it encourages people who might normally use the porcelain mug to switch to paper to get a prize. It sells a lot of coffee; the Karma Cup could save a lot of paper. I also love the idea of adding washing stations so that people can rinse out their own mouldy travel mugs. It was an interesting and encouraging choice by the judges, that has a real chance of being implemented.

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