If You Go Green, It Should Show

It seems people prefer flaunting their greenness to hiding it. If that's true, then companies should make their eco-friendly products distinguishable from their conventional (earth destroying) ones.

In their book Nudge, authors Thaler and Sunstein point out that part of the reason for the Toyota Prius' success over other hybrids is that the model is exclusively a hybrid. "People who want to signal their green credentials are much happier in a Prius than a hybrid Camry because no one will know the Camry is a hybrid." Ditto for Ford Escape or the Honda Civic, which also both come in hybrids and their more conventional mediocre-mileage forms. (And, while the Prius might be the most successful hybrid, let us not forget that the success of hybrids as a whole is driven by gas prices more than anything else.)

So when I saw this coffee mug for sale in a shop a few days ago, I was impressed with the novelty but puzzled at the concept. The mug is called "I am not a paper cup..." and yet it is designed to look exactly like one:


In the case of eco-friendly conspicuous consumption, how green do you want your conspicuous to seem?

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I don't believe that the coffee cup is intended to be purchased as a 'green' product; rather, its primary purpose is as an art object. There are similar ceramic ramen noodle cups for sale in some online boutiques. They aren't advertised primarily as 'less wasteful', but 'more interesting'. The same is true of the coffee cup.

By G.E. Wilker (not verified) on 21 Aug 2009 #permalink

And if you already own numerous travel mugs (as I admittedly do) then are you really reducing consumption by buying yet another one?

I thought the purpose of this cup being identical to a paper one was so its standardized to the disposable cup they use in all coffee places so that you can purchase the same size coffee in your re-usable cup.

One of the reasons, in my opinion, that hybrids failed when gas prices were cheap was they looked so UGLY. You could tell that a car was a hybrid, or an electric, or a "high MPG car" because they were just huge eyesores. Now that gas prices have skyrocketed to be uglier than the cars themselves, people who buy the ugly cars are doing it as a badge of honor.

Remarkably, Saturn was the more noticeable forerunners of the "make a hybrid or electric look normal" type of car with the EV-1. It looked exactly like the saturn sedan, except for the Shiny EV-1 chrome plate on the side and rear of the car. If you weren't paying attention, you'd easily miss that this car was fully electric.

To re-iterate... I wish more cars that were hybrid, electric, or just really good mileage looked NORMAL. To me, bragging that you're saving money AND the planet is just too hipster.

By genewitch (not verified) on 21 Aug 2009 #permalink

And why does it need to come in a presentation box? Wouldn't it be greener if it came unwrapped?

genewitch #4...
"Looking normal" changes rather rapidly.
I'm crap at assessing the median aesthetic sense, but form-follows-function often leads to downright elegance.

As for hybrids not looking normal... I think you either a bit confused or were deeply involved with experimental vehicle tech way back in the day. Hybrids are all quite recent, and all the commercial hybrids are pretty much just standard cars (even the maligned Prius... which is a pretty typical Japanese design for the small end of the midsized sedan range.)

And finally, the EV-1 looked like a Saturn sedan? No, not even remotely. The EV-1 was a 2 seater for goodness sake. What are you smoking, and do you have enough to share?

A coffee mug that probably costs a lot more than something that is called a coffee mug. And says I am not a cup on a box that looks like it is made of paper.

And people while buy it because somebody said it is green.

I love marketing.

A coffee mug that probably costs a lot more than something that is called a coffee mug. And says I am not a paper cup on a box that looks like it is made of paper.

And people will buy it because somebody said it is green.

I love marketing.

OK. One more time. This is designed to be standardized to the universal paper cup used in all coffee stores so that you can use it to buy a cup of coffee ANYWHERE in a reusable cup. Its like a cartoon in the New Yorker people - If you don't get it, then you don't get it.

In addition:
1) Its well quirky and cool but its not just an art object - its made from two layers of porcelein to insulate your hot coffee and keep your hand cold.

2) Its needs to have a wrapper because if it did not, no one would know that it is not just a paper cup!

5) It is almost perfectly designed: fun, ironic, solves a common problem, and is very functional. NOW STOP HARASSING THE CUP!

Some people don't want to show off how green they are because they know that someone could always come by and tell them how green they aren't. Like those who don't drive cars or drink coffee or eat meat on environmental grounds.

As for the packaging, I don't see it as being outrageous; it's a bit of plastic and paper and both look recyclable. If this would save me a hassle and reduce my use of paper cups, I would consider it, but I rarely drink coffee anyways.

If you want to show it off, get some green saying printed on it or make a sticker.

By ABradford (not verified) on 25 Aug 2009 #permalink

"This is designed to be standardized to the universal paper cup used in all coffee stores so that you can use it to buy a cup of coffee ANYWHERE in a reusable cup."

Are you supposed to be able to walk up to the guy at Starbucks and ask him to pour your coffee into this cup, rather than use one of theirs (similar to the way you would bring a cloth bag to the grocery store.)

If so, why hasn't anyone ever done this with a coffee mug? Or have they?

Yes, thats right... you're getting it... I'm sure a lot of places would fill other re-usable mugs, but this one specifically encourages the consumer to do so because its look and design shouts out to you - "Use me instead of the paper cup!" As an avid coffee drinker, I will admit that there is something about the feel of the standard paper cup and lid that I am comfortable with that the plastic and stainless steel re-useable mugs just don't give me.

Reply to Marcia: Yes, I will refill a cup from any retailer at any other retailer. I have used a stryfoam (ugh) cup purchased at breakfast for several refills throughout the day at various places. Of course, I prefer to use my own refillable mug, but sometimes I forget it.

Jim's right about standards and I can add another one -- I've been looking for a cup with a cover (carpal tunnel, slipsies, too easy to spill from an uncovered mug) -- and all I've found are travel mug things too tall to fit under the danged coffee machine in the office.

I want one of these. I'll have to be patient:


"I Am Not A Paper Cup"
DUE TO A HIGH VOLUME OF REQUESTS- YOUR ORDER MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE IMMEDIATELY. WE WILL ADD YOUR NAME AND CONTACT YOU ASAP. THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE! Double walled; thermal porcelain cup with silicone top. Eco-friendly and reusable. Dishwasher safe. If you would like more information or to purchase this product- please email : info@dcigift.com.

Dimensions: 3.5" diameter; 6" tall"

Thanks. Yes, it's weird. But it's probably what I've been looking for.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 29 Aug 2009 #permalink

Form follows function. The disposable cup works the best (compared to a regular mug or the majority of the existing reusable designs) so why not make a better, reusable version?

By Everything (not verified) on 31 Aug 2009 #permalink

Ah, this cup! I love it, even though the design is ridiculously boring/ugly and the slogan or whatever is stupid and reminds me entirely too much of that elitist "I am not a plastic bag" kind of crap (even though I love sturdy fabric bags/furoshiki and find plastic bags annoying).
I never buy coffee/tea drinks (Starbucks and the like annoy me somehow), I just on top of taking this cup along with me also take a big thermos of hot water with me, as well as whichever teas or coffees I want to drink later. I love how pleasant it is to hold during a cold winter (double-walled, so it doesn't get too hot as well as keeps the drink temperature for longer) and the pleasant feel of silicone instead of plastic, and ceramic instead of heavier metal.
A friend of mine served me hot milk tea in one of these cups when we were out having a picnic in late autumn, and after a few hours of repeat use I got too fond of it and had to ask where they got it.

And why does it need to come in a presentation box? Wouldn't it be greener if it came unwrapped?
Hmm... I can think of plenty better alternatives for packaging (functional fabric would be nice), and I can think of far sturdier boxes to keep it safe in during any longer transport in e.g. luggage, but I've been using the packaging as the latter and so far it's worked fine for that, even though something sturdier would be definitely superior.

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