Waste | Personal | Tarin Gessert


Designers are always coming up with new ideas for trends, and often times they are asked to address the latest trends, whether they think it's a good idea or not. The coffee industry is part of a large trend right now. People love their coffee, and on any given day you can walk down the street and see people toting their to-go order in hand. These cups are made from cardboard, which is much better than Styrofoam, but still aren't recycled after their use. One of the best ways that we can eliminate waste is by reusing things.

Reusable travel coffee mugs and water bottles have been around for a while. As consumers' interests change, so do the designs of these products. The "I Am Not a Paper Cup" created by James Burgess took a unique take on a reusable product by making it look like the original, disposable one.


This cup is described as an eco-friendly alternative to disposable cups made from double-walled porcelain with a pliable silicone lid that keeps beverages hot and doesn't burn your hand that is also is dishwasher and microwave-safe. It's sold all over the place... at Target, department stores, coffee shops, etc.

Many coffee shops, like Starbucks, sell their coffee as an experience. People enjoy going into the store, purchasing their coffee, and walking out with a disposable to-go cup. Some simply enjoy the coffee, others enjoy the way they look with their coffee mug in hand. This whole experience that was created opened up a market for the products associated with the experience. Now, you have to look twice to see if someone is carrying a to-go cup, or a porcelain look-alike. Designers stepped in and created a product that coexists with this total coffee experience. Many other travel mugs exist, and have existed for a while. But, when you go into a coffee shop, the to-go cup that you are given doesn't look like the reusable mugs you have at home.

So how does this relate to waste on a personal level? Well, graphic designers are often asked to address the latest trends -- and this is a perfect example of that. In this case, it's not necessarily a bad thing! Yes, in the end, you are still creating waste. But, by marketing to those people who enjoy their coffee shop experience, you may have eliminated waste by creating a product that fits in with that experience.


Something designers need to keep in mind when creating these reusable products is their end destination. The product may last 5 years or even longer, but eventually it will be tossed out. When Nalgene (and other plastic) water bottles were found to have BPA in them, a new market was created for safer reusable bottles. Now, you can find steel ones lining shelves. These work great and have no known side effects like BPA. They come in different shapes, colors, and styles. However, they aren't easily recycled. Because they are steel, they can't be compressed with the rest of your recycling. So in order to dispose of these when you're done, you need to take them to a special metal recycling location. Designers market these bottles to all types of people--male and female, adults and children. And similar to the coffee cup example, this trend that is occurring is great, because in the end we are saving resources by reusing these products.

In this case, I would hope that designers would enjoy working on a project involving these products. On a personal level, the trend that they are asked to address is a good one!

Porcelain Cup
A short description of the cup.

The official site for I Am Not a Paper Cup.

Buy at Target

Recycling a metal water bottle
Read about this issue here


The "I am not a paper cup" is pretty funny. I think it's a clever idea, although I'd never buy it. I think it makes more of a statement than a wanting to buy it, if that makes any sense. I think people expect more durable items to not only last longer, but also look better. That way, they can justify the higher prices with something further than just feeling good about it.

You also made a good point about considering waste even for longer-lasting products, like the Nalgene bottles. I was never aware of the recycling problems involved with steel water bottles either! That was interesting to learn about.

What I kept thinking when I was reading your post was that the best thing companies can do to gain and KEEP loyal customers is to find out WHAT THEY NEED and then make them want it, instead of finding out what they want and making them believe that they need it. Does that make sense? Because there are a lot of things that people want, then get it, then find out they don't need it - and it ends up discarded. And from the sellers point of view, that's bad. Because why would a customer come back if the last thing they bought from you ended up junked?

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This page contains a single entry by gess0029 published on October 21, 2010 4:13 PM.

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