Nature’s Cup awarded Honourable Mention in Starbucks NextGen Cup Challenge

CRÈME / Jun Aizaki Architecture & Design is proud to receive honorable mention in the Starbucks NextGen Cup Challenge for their submission of Nature’s Cup. A completely organic and biodegradable vessel carved from a gourd, these vessels were designed to replace the single-use plastic cup. The NextGen Cup Challenge is the first initiative by the NextGen Consortium, a multi-year partnership of food-service industry leaders, to address single-use food packaging waste globally. In this first phase, The NextGen Consortium aimed to advance recoverable solutions for the fiber, hot and cold, to-go cup system.

“Our goal is to replace single-use plastic cups as they are not biodegradable and cause a mass amount of waste, ” says Jun Aizaki, owner and principal of CRÈME. “Most of the ‘biodegradable’ cups that are on the market, are lined with a chemical to ensure that they do not leak, this chemical is not compostable, therefore making the cups not fully biodegradable.”

In 2006, Starbucks reported having used 2.6 billion cups at their stores. While the manufacturing of each paper-based cup produces 0.24lbs of CO2 emission, only 0.25 per cent are estimated to be recycled after disposal. CRÈME realised an urgent need to shift our current cradle-to-grave paradigm. What if, aside from being a material resource, nature could also take part in the process? Along the exploration that this thought initiated, CRÈME identified gourds as a fast growing plant that bears robust fruits each season, developing a strong outer skin, and fibrous inner flesh. Once dried, gourds have traditionally been used by ancestors as receptacles such as cups. CRÈME explored this centuries-old craft using 3D molds to grow gourds into functional shapes, such as cups and flasks, to create sustainable, renewable, and compostable products without waste. CRÈME created the 3D molds in-house and planted the seeds on a gourd farm.

The NextGen Cup Challenge, in partnership with OpenIDEO, received 480 idea submissions from 53 countries and territories. After review and selection by the Consortium Partners, only 29 submissions made the shortlist. Following CRÈME’s shortlist award, Nature’s Cup earned an honourable mention, among 12 overall winners.

Through years of designing top hospitality projects, Jun’s expertise in the food and beverage industry led him discover a problem that he could not ignore. Coupled with his knowledge of historical Chinese usage of gourds to hold alcohol, Jun and his team came up with a viable solution to the single-use cup problem.

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