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Inside KeepCup's ‘Reuse Revolution' + Impressively Sustainable Melbourne HQ

Creative People

Melbourne-owned business KeepCup were pioneers of the ‘reuse revolution’ when they launched in 2009. It’s almost hard to remember a time before reusable coffee cups and water bottles, but back then single-use plastic was the norm. Luckily, we’ve come a long way since, and so has KeepCup!

From their new ‘sustainable global operations heaven’ in Clifton Hill, the B-Corp certified business’ designs a wide range of reusable cups and bottles, now sold in more than 75 countries around the world.

In celebration of KeepCup’s latest Helix range – featuring a screw-fit, cup-to-bottle system – co-founder and managing director Abigail Forsyth gave us an inside look into the brand’s innovative new HQ, complete with solar power, native gardens and beehives!

5th September, 2022

Co-founder and managing director of KeepCup, Abigail Forsyth discusses new ‘Helix’ cup designs with the team. Photo – Amelia Stanwix for The Design Files

The business’ latest product launch is a new twist-fit KeepCup ‘Helix’ range, featuring a twist-top cup that you can transform into a bottle! Photo – Amelia Stanwix

Co-founder and managing director of KeepCup, Abigail Forsyth. Photo – Amelia Stanwix

KeepCup’s new Australian office and warehouse in Clifton Hill has been designed with sustainability in mind, with 2000 square metres of insulation lining the building to keep the building energy efficient. The internal courtyard is a favourite feature! Photo – Amelia Stanwix

All of KeepCup’s retail and mailer packaging is made from entirely FSC certified cardboard, and the cartons are made from 100% recycled board. Photo – Amelia Stanwix

KeepCup’s impressive line up of products is continuing to grow! Photo – Amelia Stanwix

Abigail says she can usually spot vintage KeepCup by the colour! The current collection features pops of pink, blue, lilac and green, along with classic black. Photo – Amelia Stanwix

The KeepCup Thermal in Calenture. Photo – Amelia Stanwix

The business’ warehouse is on-site too. Photo – Amelia Stanwix

‘It’s always been important to me to connect the making with the marketing and selling,’ says Abigail. Photo – Amelia Stanwix

The KeepCups! Photo – Amelia Stanwix

As well as 76KW of solar on the roof that pushes excess power back to the grid, the sustainably-minded office also has bee hives and a flourishing courtyard garden by SBLA Studio! Photo – Amelia Stanwix

The building has been fitted out with re-used and recycled furniture. Photo – Amelia Stanwix

Christina Karras
Monday 5th September 2022

‘It’s always been important to me to connect the “making” with the marketing and selling’ – Abigail Forsyth

After looking for a sustainable alternative to the ‘alarming’ mountains of disposable cups they were throwing away as cafe owners, KeepCup founders Abigail and Jamie Forsyth took matters into their own hands.

They designed and produced the world’s first ‘barista standard reusable cup’, selling the very first KeepCups to coffee-loving Melbournians at an independent market in 2009! More than a decade later, KeepCup’s innovative products are just as relevant today.

‘I still get a thrill when I see someone using one of our products, particularly when I spot a well loved one,’ Abigail says. ‘I can usually tell the “vintage” by the colour and subtle design changes over the years!’

‘But it’s also a bittersweet feeling in that the cultural change we drove has been so very slow to be backed by legislative change to eradicate single-use packaging. It’s really a question of when, not whether this happens.’

The company and their customers divert millions of single-use cups from landfill every year, leading the charge against ‘convenience culture’. Abigail says the pandemic also posed a new set of challenges, as hygiene concerns ‘derailing’ KeepCup’s reuse revolution – with some cafes temporarily banning reusable cups in 2020.

This pushed KeepCup to grow their range of iconic coffee cups, launching bottles, and its brand-new Helix range! This design features screw-top coffee cups that can be cleverly converted into a fully sealed bottle, thanks to a range of screw-fit accessories. It took Abigail and her team 24 months to develop and commercialise the unique 2-in-1 design, in hopes of making it easier than ever for people to opt out from single-use plastic.

And 13 years in, Abigail says KeepCup is still experiencing strong growth. New employees and new products led to the need for a bigger Australian headquarters, built with the ‘same principles that galvanised the brand since day dot’.

‘It’s always been important to me to connect that “making” with the marketing and selling, as well as being in a beautiful space that reflects our values and is just a great place to be in,’ she adds.

They enlisted Six Degrees Architects, Sam Cox Landscape and SBLA Studio to create a dual office and warehouse from an existing red-brick building in Clifton Hill, with an impressive set of environmental credentials. It holds 76KW of solar power while 20,000 litres of rainwater tanks fuel the building’s daily operations. And at its heart lies a lush ‘interior garden’ by Simone Bliss from SBLA, while the guerrilla gardening along the train line near the office was imagined and brought to life by Sam Cox! There’s more than 180 sprawling native plants, beehives and a shaded outdoor meeting area that Abigail says ‘keeps them connected with nature.’

In a time of greenwashing and corporate sustainability slogans, KeepCup genuinely walks the talk, and is still driven by the same ethos that kick-started the business all those years ago – enabling everyday changes to lighten our impact on the planet, big or small!

Shop the new KeepCup Helix range online here, and visit their website here.

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The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net