What does it take to change a culture?

I was looking at the betacup competition yesterday, and I thought to contribute.

First I looked at changing the form of the paper cup. Gave up after 30mins.

Then I thought of the user experience. The whole purpose of the paper cup was to allow users to dispose of the container after they are done with the drinks.

Why are we trying to change the sole purpose of the paper cup?

If we were to reduce the amount of wastage, shouldn’t we just try to re-educate the users to change their lifestyles? Eg, to bring their own tumblers. It will definitely a titanic effort to carry out such a change ( same situation with EVs and IC engine vehicles) because we are too comfortable with our current lifestyles and will never want to leap over the edge to see whats beyond until the climate pushes us over.

So, just like many problems that have surfaced because of our nonchalance, what can we do as a minority to invoke a change before it is too late?

Boy, I agree with the sentiment here, but this just makes the libertarian hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Maybe think of it like this. What was the minority of people who conditioned people to use disposable cups when they never had them before?.. there wasn’t one. The “solution” of disposable cups appealed to people’s nature, and THEY adopted it and made it the norm.

So my conclusion is that to be successful we must develop something (in conjunction with business, law/government, and advertising) that appeals to people as a better solution so that hopefully they adopt it on the basis of free will… not coercion. That would be my ideal.

But, more to the root of your question, I think it is more an advertising problem than a design one. A similar case might be the decades long decline in smoking in the United States… people love cigarets, and heck, they’re pretty cool, but they tend to hate lung cancer more than cigarettes. Great advertising campaigns like the “Truth” ads helped drive that home.

I agree with you Michael, I think it takes a collective effort to implement such changes.

Though I must say it is very difficult to make “us” feel a need to step out of our comfort zones, into the green.

I believe that just having a good marketing campaign isn’t enough, timing is also crucial. I think there must have been times when the best advertisements fail because the audience were just not ready to listen.

definitely, it is all timing. That is kind of what I am getting at… it is not really for us to dictate on a design level. The best we can do is to make the options available… or more realistically even, make the solutions available and make the case to manufacturers, brands, and retail that there will be a market for it, so that the product option is available to the consumer who is ahead of the curve…

the best thing you can do as an individual is practice what you preach and affect those around you by example. 10 years ago I never thought I would become a soy milk drinking uber recycler who google non profits to donate my old printers to… but I kind of married into it, if you know what I mean, and now I do those things, so my partner influenced me to make a lifestyle change.

On a somewhat related note, I think the old adage goes “sex sells”. I could never understand why the first hybrid cars were eco boxes. Cars don’t have to have chrome vents on the sides, but Aston Martins have had them for years, thus even the Ford Focus has an option were you can have one (albeit a fake one). If the first eco ride was the Tesla, we might be further along instead of touting hybrid SUVs that still barely get above 20mpgs! My wife had a Geo Metro 3 cylinder that got 50mpg in 1991… 1991!

I am not sure how prevalent it is in the States, or the rest of the world for that matter, but here in Vancouver the culture to bringing your own travel mug, or sitting and using a reusable mug while you’re sitting in the coffee shop is growing signficantly. I think it is like mos things where the pendulum just needs to swing more back towards center.

I would be curious to see if a coffee shop could be successful where they they don’t use disposable cups at all. I would imagine if Starbucks would do something like that, they could design a very inexpensive cup (e.g. $0.25) that you buy with each purchase if you “forget” the mug. But you can always bring it back to the store and return it to get the $0.25 back. Kind of like shopping carts.

Comes down to what I would call a system design. Superstore I think is a great example. They had green bins from the beginning providing the customer an option to never need a bag. As well the shopping carts were designed to accommodate the use of the bins. They got rid of bag boys and now charge for the use of bags. Saves on labour and material costs. In turn can offer very cheap pricing. Starbucks can easily follow suite. They are powerful enough in the market to simply cut out the cups and start charging. I never forget my bags when I go shopping now. If I do I simply pay a small fee. Returning the bag to get my money back would be a greater idea. As said before with returning the cup. Don’t redesign the cup redesign the system!

I don’t think it’s that simple. If I go to the grocery store, and forget my canvas bags, I can’t get pissed and leave without purchasing anything because I need groceries. If I get to the coffee shop and they try to charge me for a coffee cup, I can totally get pissed and not need coffee that day. A real solution would have to do a better job of influencing behaviour than just trying to charge for mis-steps in the system because coffee is a luxury item, while groceries are not.

Another way to think of it is that at the grocery store you might be charged 25 cents for one bag, but the food to fill the bag is probably 30-40 dollars? At least 20 at a minimum. So you have a tiny increase as far as percentage. However, charging 25 cents on a 3 dollar cup of coffee seems a little less effective because the percentage is much higher.

People do, however, love discounts and the 10-25 cents off your coffee price, which would have the cost build in anyway, would probably be more successful because of the way people make purchasing decisions.

Yo’s original reply is very thought provoking. While I think I agree, it raises a number of question that will more than likely go off topic, so I won’t get any further… But it did remind of this which I recently saw, Australia are banning the packaging/design of cigarette packs.

This also may be a little off topic, but hopefully it might inspire you some how. A bunch of well-known cafe’s that are known for their focus on quality coffee in my area in East London recently launched a Disloyalty card. It’s simple, if you drink at the 8 DIFFERENT coffee shops you’ll be rewarded with a free drink.

Not ground breaking, but quite a nice contrast to the their large competitors and more traditional marketing models.

The first thing that comes to my mind is the Mate tea and accompanying ritual. During my stint in Barcelona I got to meet a lot of Argentinians and they would often bring a thermos of Mate tea and share it. Often we would drink right out of the thermos, hence no cups needed. It a truely social phenomenon and might possibly offer up some cultural gems to be applied to the paper coffee cup problem.

Of course, thermos flasks in general might make a good solution. Go by Starbucks, have them fill it up and enjoy their coffee through-out the day (instead of the slop they serve at your office). Would be helped along by special thermos prices or discounts for not needing a cup. Or maybe Starbucks could ‘hire’ out the thermos, so you just return the dirty one when you go in again and you get a fresh new one filled with your favorite brew.

I bought 2 of these last year http://www.keepcup.com.au/ because they were the only sort at the time designed to fit under a commercial coffe machine spout. My only gripe is that the sipper hole and the fake sipper hole are exactly the same- they need to be for the plug, but I end up drinking out of the fake hole and nothings comes out. A subtle indication that ‘mouth goes here’ would be great. That said, the main use is for my daughters to drink Milo from, because you can shake it like a cocktail maker.

The culture question is a good one. Somehow make it fashionable and desirable to not carry around a coffee- going by the motivation video on core
The surprising truth about what motivates us (video) - Core77 you need to make a compulsive immersive computer game about disposable coffee cups: World of Baristacraft, Grande Latte Auto, etc.

Just looking back at all the incredibly silly things people have adopted makes me excited, because that tells me that any thought out/smarter/better solution, is viable.

Consumers have been convinced to carry around Sigg and other aluminum water bottles, even though water is the easiest fluid to get a hold of in the western world.

I’m sure it would be possible to somehow get people to bring their own coffecup, even if they aren’t in a car all day.
I just got a picture of the double walled Bodum glasses, but in aluminium instead, something like this.

Edit: Insane amounts of coffe last few months, got a bit carried away and went off topic. Sorry

Consumers have been convinced to carry around Sigg and other aluminum water bottles, even though water is the easiest fluid to get a hold of in the western world.

I think the use of Sigg bottles is more to do with the fact that it’s an alternative to disposable plastic bottles. And I’m not so sure I agree with user being convinced of carrying water, what with water being a basic need.

What I find really interesting is our cultures addiction to coffee, to the point that people carry their own specialised bottles for the stuff, ship in beans from all over the world and consume coffee like it was liquid gold.

Hoodzy, I agree with you. I think starbucks has the ability to change and should take the effort to change, just like how apple is always the one defining the way of life.

Papercup lovers/wasters will definitely complain, but during revolutions as such, good always triumphs and the opposing would just follow suit.

I was thinking about a suggesting to rent cups. Perhaps, like the milk delivery system,

  1. we will simply rent a “starbucks thermos”.
  2. Order
  3. Have the delivery man pick up the thermos that we are done with
  4. Used thermos are cleaned at starbucks
  5. thermos reused during the next order

of course users might get a chance to customize their thermos to ensure there are no mix ups. The design part comes in for equipment, lifespan of the thermos and the whole communication synergy thingi.


This is similar to what I was thinking for beta cup.

Its not so much about the cup, it’s about how we use the cup, or in this case reuse the cup. Unfotunetly even cups designed to be recycled get tossed in the trash. We already have resuable cups but if you’re like me you forget(or don’t want to) clean the cup everyday. So why not have a reusable ceramic tumbler that you buy one time from Starbucks. Everyday you can turn in your dirty cup and get a new(resued) but clean cup. Its not different from ordering a drink at a restaurant except you take it with you and bring it back.

How about a paper coffee cup that gradually changes into toilet paper so it can be re-used around 3 o’clock? :laughing:

Why would this not be possible? Drop all the cups into the top of the machine. Grind it all up. Disinfect it. Repurpose it into toilet paper.

I have no clue how big this machine would have to be, but, why not?

Oh, man… where to go with the jokes on this one…

Because you would clog all the pipes in North America and everyone would smell like french roast.

1 out of 2 ain’t bad :smiley:

I can just imagine the office memo:

To all employees,

In an effort to save money and the environment, Charmin brand coffee cups have been provided in the break room.