Winner of Starbucks’ Coffee Cup Challenge Isn’t a Coffee Cup

Could a simple chalkboard eliminate the use of disposable coffee cups? The creators of Karma Cup think so.

Starbucks Coffee Cup Challenge Karma Cup


If you could earn free lattes by helping save the environment, why wouldn’t you? That’s the philosophy behind Karma Cup, the winner of the Betacup Challenge announced today.

Betacup Challenge is an open design competition
sponsored by Starbucks with a mission to
reduce the waste from to-go paper
coffee cups. Having beat out over 430 entries, Karma Cup will receive

The Karma plan: A chalkboard at the coffee shop will chart
each person who uses a reusable mug. The tenth person to
order a drink with a reusable cup will receive his or her drink free. By turning a freebie program into a communal challenge, Karma Cup would create incentives for everyone to bring reusable mugs. (After all, the more people participate, the more free stuff is given away and the more likely you are to get something free.) That, in turn, would eliminate rather than simply redesign the nefarious disposable cup.

“Our paper cups really represent our icon and unfortunately
they also represent one of our greatest environmental liabilities in our
customers’ eyes,” Jim Hanna, Starbucks’s director of environmental impact, said
at the announcement. “By 2015, we want all cups to recyclable, compostable, or

Every year, 58 billion paper cups are thrown away, 20
million trees are cut down to manufacture these cups and 12 billion gallons of
water are used in the manufacturing process. We could also power 53,000
homes with the energy we consume with paper cups.


Karma Cup was among three other honorees that
received honorably mentions. The three runners-up were Band of HonorThe Betacup
& The Betacup Campaign
and the Champion Cup.

The Band of Honor plays into customers need to be recognized
for their environmental deeds by placing a band, similar to a Livestrong
bracelet, around the top of the cup. The Beta Cup & The Beta Cup Challenge proposes a biodegradable reusable cup made out of corn husks with interactive sustainability
campaign behind the product. The Champion Cup allows users to chart their use
online and see the good deeds accomplished by each use of a reusable cup.

The competition took place on the jovoto community Web site,
and community members also selected five winners, each of which received $2,000
of the overall $20,000 put forward by Starbucks. Five-thousand ratings were
made on the Web site, and members made 13,000 comments on the entries.

Starbucks partnered with, Core 77, Denuo, and Good Day
to create the Betacup Challenge, and the competition opened for
submission on April 1. Popular
online T-shirt designer Threadless also launched the Threadless Loves Coffee challenge alongside the project.

Although there are no firm plans to implement Karma Cup at coffee shops
yet, it was selected primarily on its viability and ease
of implementation. It’s a low-risk program that doesn’t require creating
new products, and Starbucks also didn’t want to change the


(We assume this is why the Cookie
didn’t make the grade. Who wouldn’t want to eat their cup after enjoying a nice cup of joe?)