Getting to Know KeepCup's Abigail Forsyth

We are halfway through VUWSA Sustainability Week and you, our wonderful customers, have jumped on board to support us in our Single Use Cup-free drive!

Together, you have already helped us save hundreds of cups from being sent to the landfill - thank you! We thought we'd talk to one of the pioneers of the SUC-free movement, KeepCup's Abigail Forsyth, to find out more about how resuable cups are saving the planet. 

So pull up a chair at one of our cafes - stay for a while, borrow or bring your own cup for your daily brew - and catch up on this special Sustainability Week interview. 

 

 

What is your day job? 

I am Managing Director and Co-Founder of KeepCup!

What is your connection to Vic Books?

I met the lovely Jess Godfrey at Caffe L’affare many years ago, and we have met in many corners of the world, at many coffee shows and symposiums since then.  Our brilliant reusable cups are at Vic Books.

“KeepCup” has become synonymous with reusable coffee cups – how did you decide upon the name?

We were working with South Southwest on the design and workshopping names, we hadn’t landed on anything that stuck.  Andy Sargent came to the meeting and said I’ve got it – KeepCup!  And he did – sounds good, and the product does what it says!

Today, KeepCup has grown to define a product category – a blessing and a curse – and we continue on our mission for a world that no longer needs, wants or uses single-use cups.

 

You founded the company with your brother Jamie, how did that come about and what different strengths did you both bring to KeepCup? 

We are similar in our design sensibilities, problem solving nature and sense of humour!  Jamie is more future focused and granular in his approach, whereas I am more about ideas and behaviour change.

 

KeepCup was founded in 2009 when the only existing option for takeaway coffee was a bulky thermos, now there are heaps of imitators, what do you think continues to give you the edge?

I have a favourite saying of a fellow Glaswegian Thomas Carlyle: “the merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity.” 

It’s not just the design consideration, attention to detail and quality of KeepCup, it is the hundreds of ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ that support the usefulness and usability of our products.

It’s a really well considered and designed product, from user experience right through our supply chain.  This consideration underscores the integrity of our mission and helps us engage with individuals, cafes and roasters all around the world.

Our independence, creativity and sound commercial thinking have always held us in good stead.

 

Your company is BCorp certified, what does that mean and why is it important to you? 

We believe that all businesses have a responsibility to our planet and must consider the sustainability of their operations as a priority to ensure we secure an equitable, biodiverse planet for future generations.

In 2014 KeepCup became one of Australia’s founding B Corporations and we are committed to an economy that is purpose driven, focussing on making a positive difference to stakeholders, current and future generations and the natural world. We sign a Declaration of Interdependence recognising this, calling out that corporate practices and policies have real world impact and can (and should) be used for good.

B Corps measure and help businesses improve performance beyond profit, with a focus on transparency, environmental impact, community and employee wellbeing. These metrics help to refine our business focus and identify areas that need improvement.
 

If you had one big hairy audacious goal, what would it be?

To rehabilitate some land to wilderness.

 

It’s Sustainability Week at Victoria University of Wellington from 10-15 May and Vic Books is going entirely SUC-free for that week at both of our cafes. What do you think remains the biggest hurdle for anyone who still uses takeaway cups?

Who will wash my cup?  Convenience has been marketed to us so comprehensively it has become something of an entitlement.

We’ve just started stocking your new Thermal range of cups, which are beautiful by the way. What are the benefits that they add to your range?

Thank you. Well, we try to meet people with a solution at every occasion where people would turn to a single-use cup.  Thermal – which is double walled vacuum insulated stainless steel reusable cup is a response to cold climate and those who like to drink slowly.

We worked with consultants Edge Environment to assess the environmental footprint of our product – a Lifecycle Analysis. After 60 uses KeepCup Thermal has lower carbon emissions than a single-use cup, so it’s a useful product for the regular coffee drinker.

Some quick fire book recommendations please!

Climate Aotearoa edtied by Helen Clark

Drawdown by Paul Hawken

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Living with the Climate Crisis by Tom Doig

 

What are you reading at the moment? What do you like about it?

I just finished Haruki Murakami’s First Person Singular, after rereading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I love the way he combines the mysterious and the banal and that he leaves things unexplained – like life!
 

Which literary character do you most identify with?

Gosh I’m not sure – probably Captain Haddock :)

 

Hardback or paperback? 

If it's a keeper – hardback.
 

Favourite coffee?

Flat white – oat milk.