Funny Business with Jane Wells

Starbucks' $10,000 Offer to Change Your Coffee Cup

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I drink a lot of coffee. I drink it in paper cups. I throw them away. I am not alone.

A group called The Beta Cup claimsthat 65 percent of North Americans drink coffee, or nearly two out of three of us. If we drink five cups a week on the go, that's about 58 billion cups thrown into landfills every year. The group claims this is the equivalent of 20 million trees and 12 billion gallons of water used to make the cups.

I don't know if those figures are true. But we do throw away a lot of cups. Travel coffee mugs could cut down on that, but I only use mine about ten percent of the time. The Beta Cup co-founder Toby Daniels says travel mugs are bulky. "They're difficult to clean and inconvenient to carry around."

His organization is launching a contest to come up with a solution, some type of recyclable/reusable portable coffee cup which is convenient.

Starbucks has signed on as official sponsor. The first prize will receive $10,000. The next five winners will split another $10,000. Pre-register here. You can actually be as young as 13 to enter as long as you have permission from your parents or guardian. The contest runs April 1 through June 1. I read through the rules, which, if printed out, would kill several million more trees, as the lawyers wanted to make sure they've protected The Beta Cup from any conceivable liability.

Entrants will be judged on how much their ideas reduce waste, use fewer resources, whether they use new or existing technologies, and whether the ideas help or hurt the "whole experience" of drinking coffee.

Other organizations are signing up to sponsor the event, like Core77, Denuo, and Jovoto (I've never heard of them either), but it's Starbucks putting up the cash.

According to Fast Company, Starbucks wants to serve all coffee in reusable or recyclable cups by 2015. Kinda funny, isn't it? There are so many people who want to save the earth walking around holding half-caf/nonfat/two-pump/extra hot mochas. People like me. I could truly go green (and make some green) solving a problem I'm holding right in the palm of my hand.

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