Keeping it Reusable - KeepCup CoFounder Abigail Forsyth15 Jun 2017
Abigail is the co-founder and Managing Director of KeepCup. A company born in Fitzroy, Melbourne, with a focus on reducing single use coffee cups with stylish, clever and colourful designs. KeepCup now has offices and warehouses in London and Los Angeles and is serving over 65 countries globally. It diverts more than 3.5 billion disposable coffee cups from landfill!
After a career as a solicitor, Abigail started a chain of cafes across Melbourne with her brother Jamie. It was here she witnessed the alarming volume of disposable packaging being wasted and as they say: the rest is history.
Here is our chat.
Paul - Where did the idea for Keepcups come from?
My brother and I used to run our own chain of cafes, Bluebag, in Melbourne’s CBD. Over the years we got a real insight into the amount of waste being produced by our industry. We hated that we were part of the problem, so we started looking for solutions.
At the time, the reusable cups on the market didn’t really work in the Australian context. They were huge and designed for the American style of drinking filter coffee, for keeping it hot to sip on throughout the day. In Australia, we drink smaller coffees and consume them much more quickly.
Not only that, but disposable cups had changed the way we served coffee – baristas wanted to be able to work quickly and customers wanted to be served quickly. These available reusable mugs were clunky and didn’t fit under the group heads of the coffee machine. This meant that we had to make the coffee in a glass and then pour it into the reusable mug - as any coffee connoisseur knows, that makes for a terrible coffee!
The tipping point for me was when I had my daughter. I’d give her milk in a sippy cup and then grab a latte for myself in a disposable cup. I remember thinking, ‘It would never cross my mind to give my daughter milk in a disposable cup, so why is it acceptable for me?’
With no suitable reusable cups on the market, I decided to design my own.
Fair Food Forager Keepcups avaliable at chosen cafes and our website.
Paul - Have you always been interested in the environment?
Yes, it’s always been something I’ve been interested in. Also I’m very much an outdoors person, so I’ve always had a healthy respect for the environment. But it was only when I ran Bluebag that I really became aware of the extent of global waste as an environmental crisis - and the role we each play as individuals in this.
In Australia, we throw away around 1 billion disposable cups each year. These are single-use items that take just minutes in our hands, but years to deteriorate in landfill. I think it’s difficult to hear a statistic like that and not question what more we could be doing to prevent it.
Paul - Did the Keepcup brand take off right away? Any major ups and downs you could share?
I think Melbourne was a perfect place for us to start out, with its coffee culture, emphasis on style and environmental consciousness, but we’ve planned for steady and sustainable growth. We now have offices in London and LA to help us meet the needs of our customers in more than 63 countries around the world, but our HQ is still based in Fitzroy, Melbourne.
In terms of ups and downs, we’ve had our fair share. Our most recent ‘up’ happened very recently. We’ve been working with Disney to produce a range of Star Wars KeepCups which have gone down really well among KeepCup converts and Star Wars fans alike. It’s been our first foray into licensed products, so it was a huge thrill when Disney awarded us with a Mousecar, the Disney equivalent of an Oscar, for Best Local Manufacturer.
R2D2 - Everyone loves KeepCup and everyone loves Starwars.
Paul - If you had one message for people, what would that be?
"Choose to reuse".
Paul - Where to now for Keepcups and how else can we help reduce waste?
I think an important thing for us as a business is to continue to learn about sustainability and the ways emerging technologies can help us to improve our processes and reduce our footprint. It’s fascinating to work in the sustainability space because it touches all aspects of the business from design, supply chain, team engagement and marketing – it’s a critical touchstone for how we operate.
" My ultimate goal is to do myself out of a job! When there are no more disposable cups being used, I’ll be happy".
Abigail being interviewed in Taiwan 2011. Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) announces that establishments selling beverages will officially be required to give customers a discount when they bring in their own reusable cups.
Paul - What is something about you that people might be surprised to hear?
KeepCup’s HQ is in Fitzroy, a suburb north of Melbourne CBD, but it’s also where I live with my family. It’s an area of Melbourne I’ve always loved – there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and parks, and it’s such an easy walk or cycle into the city.
Paul - Music, Art, Travel or Sport, what keeps you happy?
All of the above. And I love cooking, when I have time – chocolate cheesecake is my signature dish! And of course, spending time with my family. One of our favourite weekend activities is heading out to the Wye River area for a walk.
Abigail Forsyth - KeepCup Managing Director and co founder
Do you know of a cafe selling KeepCups or encouraging their use? Suggest them to #fairfoodforager
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