Coffee Cup Exchange Program Creates A Waste-Free Sharing Economy

Coffee Cup Exchange Program Creates A Waste-Free Sharing Economy

New Yorkers share everything, so why not their coffee cups?

Rachel Pincus
  • 28 april 2014

Despite New York’s penchant for being ahead of the curve, one thing hasn’t changed at least since the advent of Starbucks: the paper coffee cup as both handwarmer and membership card for the haute too-busy-to-sit-down club. If you want to avoid using the paper cups, you either have to go to a sit-down restaurant or carry a bulky mug around with you (one that will inevitably start to smell funny after a while). And this is a problem, not only for the environment but for doing efficient business. Even municipal authorities, with their obligation to take out the trash, suffer. As Fast Company points out, “If you zoom out to take a look at the giant churning ant farm that is the city, those plastic-lined paper cups turn into a millions-strong waste stream, most of which gets trucked into landfill in other states.

What if the problem could remedied in a way that increases brand loyalty as well? Enter the DO School‘s ‘Good To Go’ coffee cup-sharing program with the Brooklyn Roasting Company in DUMBO. The 10-week international social good program collaborated with the local business to produce 500 ceramic mugs (reminiscent of the blue used by another ‘share’ program, Citibike). Those who bring the mugs back get a 25-cent discount on their morning joe. However, even though the mugs are thoroughly sterilized after being returned and are comparable to the plates and cutlery in restaurants, customers still expressed concerns about hygiene. “We’re very used to sharing plates and cups in restaurants, but not so much for our to go items,” DO School CEO Katherin Kirschenmann told FastCo. “On the positive end, one of the major lessons that surprised us is how aware people are of the problem, and how open they were to participate in it. We got a lot of thank yous.”


The problem is mostly psychological, and as the reusable takeout containers known as BizeeBoxes demonstrate, many other companies are equally eager to address it. Another option for those who don’t want to share: disposable terra cotta cups known as kulhar have been a traditional vessel for hot beverages in India for thousands of years. At any rate, drinking out of a ceramic container is always a more formidable experience than paper. As the Brooklyn Roasting Company continues to explore the pilot program with different cup sizes and the DO School seeks to woo private sponsors, urbanites may soon have a new warm companion in their hands.

DO School // Brooklyn Roasting Company
[h/t] Fast Company

+Customer retention
+Environmental / Green

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