An open source, locally crafted, 100% organic coffee cup to undermine the Starbucks scourge of unrecyclable coffee cups? Yes! I am really excited to announce a new innovation that I am working on.  It tackles one of my biggest frustrations in the whole wide world: single use, disposable, plasticized, coffee cups.

The Insanity

We all know it’s a ridiculously massive problem: those Starbucks and Tim Hortons cups that are manufactured way over in China, shipped to your country and then dumped into a landfill after 15 minutes of usage. A recent report in the Guardian found that in the UK alone 2 Billion coffee cups are despised of every year: “Coffee-addicted Britain is leaving a mountain of toxic waste for the next generation as scientists warn it could take decades for paper cups from Starbucks, Pret a Manger and other chains to decompose.”

A mixture of polyethylene plastic and high quality virgin paper means are completely unrecyclable and UN-compostable. It not only takes an estimated 30 years to degrade, but once degraded methane and micro plastics result.  And to make the cups the Gurdian estimates Britaim alone downs 100,000 trees.  It’s quite literally civilization all insanity.

Attempts to Make a Better Cup

People have been working a better coffee cup for decades. Starbucks has been trying to up the recycled content of the cup from 5 to 30% (still no success). Other companies try to manufacture the cups from all organic materials– a step forward to be sure, but they are unable to compete with the massive economies of scale of the entrenched plastic cup manufacturers. So to this day, there is no change and no progress. Go to Starbucks, McDonalds or any other coffee shop and it’s virtually the same cup as in 2007.

The Problem is the Paradigm

The coffee cup is a great example of how you cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that generated it. All this time, innovators and companies are working in the same capital-industrial paradigm of manufacturing and global distribution and petroleum power. No wonder the innovations are more of the same.
A whole new way of doing things is necessary! It’s taken me ten years to realize this myself. Back in 2007 I was super critical of the cups. In 2014 I worked in a recycling plant and saw all the cups being dumped. Only now, after observing the success of Ecobricks, and distilling the underlying principles, do I have an inkling how it can be done.

Enter the EarthCup!

So, I’ve been working on this new cup idea for the last few months.  Literally made from Earth, the idea is for an open source concept that anyone anywhere can cheaply copy using local craft-people power.  There’s no company or manufacturer or profit behind it. Just an idea, ethic and core design that can be replicated any where.

The concept is inspired from my time in Nepal where I bought local yogurt and was surprised to find that it came in a clay pot.  The pottery was locally made, 100% organic and you could keep it or… Chuck it!  I was so impressed.


The EarthCup is designed to be made using the same super cheap pottery in the shape and volume of your standard takeaway cup.  It will include a simple clay top to keep your beverage warm and protected.  A company’s logo can be stamped into the cup while the clay is still damp.

We’re at the early prototype stage. We used EarthCups last week as the drinking cups for an Ultimate frisbee tournament.  Success!  No need for plastic glasses.

The Vision

An open source design that any one can access online, download, print the specs and photos, and take to their local potter.  The design will include Vector files for theme icons that can be stamped onto the cup.  From there, anyone can get their own cups locally made for their own coffee store, or to supply coffee cups for stores in their community.  The dessimination will be mandalic– I will start using the cups myself, then with my circle of friends, then enable the next social circles to tap our innovation, and contribute back their own revisions and insights to the central design core.

More to follow on the EarthCup project as the next prototypes come in and I get the official design resource page up online.