Live EventCoffee TV
23 - 26 September 2021 / The Truman Brewery
09 September 2021
An Interview with KeepCup Co-Founder Abigail Forsyth
Since 2009, KeepCup have led the reuse revolution with their barista standard reusable coffee cups, designed for drinking pleasure on the go.
 
By bringing your own reusable cup to this year’s London Coffee Festival, you’ll not only help reduce waste but have the chance to sample Sustainable Coffees and enter in to an incredible prize draw through our Sustainable Coffee Flight.
 
Ten years after KeepCup first hit London’s independent coffee scene, we caught up with KeepCup co-founder Abigail Forsyth.

Abigail: Well, I hope they will be bringing the real deal, genuine KeepCups for refill! We will have some special gifts for any OG KeepCups we see at LCF so be sure to stop by and say hello to the team.

How exciting! KeepCup is now used as the name for the whole reusable cup category, how do you feel about that?

Well, it’s better KeepCup than another brand, and it's a great acknowledgement of our role in creating the reuse category. There's a saying that I love from the Glaswegian philosopher Tomas Carlyle, that ‘the merit of originality is not novelty, it is sincerity’. And what I take from this is the value of  integrity and purpose , the design consideration, and the partnerships with coffee. These are the things that are important.

The Sustainable Coffee Flight is a call to action to both the coffee industry and individuals to reduce their impact through reuse. How did KeepCup influence reuse in these communities?

It’s really important to emphasise, now more than ever, how far we have come in the last decade, and that most importantly KeepCup is a bottom up, consumer-led movement. Ten years ago, we literally had to explain that disposable cups weren’t recyclable, and that disposable cups were having an adverse impact on the environment. We couldn’t use the term single-use because nobody knew what it meant. By 2018 it was The Guardian’s word of the year.

The support of baristas, who witness first-hand the waste of convenience culture and the independent coffee community has been instrumental to our success.

It’s all about design. When we started the business in Melbourne in 2009, my brother Jamie Forsyth and I would argue whether it was all about sustainability or sexy design. It’s the design, and the colour and materials that draw you in, but it’s the impact, the integrity of the business and the drinking pleasure that keep you engaged. Barista standard is our shortcut for the considered design that makes KeepCup not just a pleasure to drink from, but a pleasure to make coffee in, which has led to millions of people adopting reuse as a daily habit.
 
What other factors do you think have influenced the growth of the reuse movement?
 
Climate change and biodiversity collapse. Convenience packaging is part of the fossil fuel industry and there are many grass roots campaigns around the world who have worked incredibly hard to create awareness of this. Plastic Free July started at the same time we did and has now grown to 300 million participants. Documentaries like Hugh Fearnly Wittingsall’s War on Waste and  David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 helped drive the message to a broader audience. Getting a coffee in a disposable cup on your way to work was normal for so many of us for so long – it is now a symbol of problematic and unnecessary waste.

Sustainability has never been higher up the agenda for the coffee industry, but many businesses are still recovering from the pandemic. What would your advice be on balancing survival with sustainability?

Becoming single-use free is inevitable, and the quality of our lives and our children's lives depends on the speed of this transition. For many people, using a KeepCup has been the first step on a journey to change habits and consider impact as part of leading a purposeful life. I guess that is why we always come back to drinking pleasure – it's not just the right thing to do, it is more fun, and it tastes better. We say ‘don’t waste today’, and we don’t just mean it literally, we mean seize the moment to take pleasure in a cup of coffee that someone has worked hard from bean to cup to make for your enjoyment.
 
My heart goes out to the cafés that have made it through this pandemic, it has been incredibly stressful. But I also take heart from the new innovation, how businesses adapted to make things work, and we now need to double down on this to address climate change – and that means reducing and removing single-use. When we launched KeepCup at a market in 2009, a lot of people said, ‘this was my idea’, rely on the zeitgeist from our experience, your customers will reward you for taking the lead.  
 
Where do you think the focus of the reuse movement should be for the future? And what changes should we be looking to make at an individual level?
 
Let’s take full advantage of all the platforms available to us to advocate for the world we want to see. Begin with where your money is and who is using it, where your energy comes from and then trying to waste as little as possible – by buying less, avoiding single-use and, oh the irony – sticking close to home! Be curious, questioning, and excited by the solutions.
 
The Sustainable Coffee Flight is a wonderful opportunity for change makers at the festival to continue the conversation around these urgent issues and inspire others by demonstrating the phenomenal difference many small acts can make.

For more information on how to take part in the Sustainable Coffee Flight, please see here

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