SMUG — a new approach to your morning coffee

By - May 23rd, 2011 04:00 am

The growing presence of eco-friendly technology in the United States is undeniable. With companies following the trend of recyclable material with both positive and negative results, the “green” mindset has become ubiquitous. The city and people of Milwaukee have taken a firm initiative to ensure that our city becomes a name associated with the term eco-friendly, with businesses and individuals alike utilizing sustainable approaches to building, design and conservation.

Local resident Chris Hallberg is one of those innovators as the inventor of SMUG Coffee.

Hallberg, 23, a 2009 Marquette alum, created SMUG Coffee in the hopes of not only providing a more convenient coffee experience, but an environmentally healthy one. The SMUG is a travel mug that comes with a built-in computer chip which allows the user to store funds electronically, and when swiped past a receiver on the register, quickly and easily pays for your coffee.

“[SMUG] started when I was at Marquette,” says Hallberg.“I wanted to apply technology in innovative ways to help the environment.”

The way Hallberg saw it, the improvement of the environmentally inept paper coffee cup was an essential first step in creating awareness of its potentially harmful consequences.

In the manufacturing process of the average paper coffee cup, each is lined with polyethylene, a plastic resin. Though the resin is meant to keep your coffee warm and your cup leak-proof, it becomes an environmental disaster since it can’t be properly recycled, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. The EDF also states that though resin decomposes, it inevitably releases methane, which is “23 times worse than carbon dioxide.”

With national usage of paper coffee cups reaching nearly 16 billion in 2006, it was a simple conclusion for Hallberg: create a cost-effective and environmentally stable means for people to get their coffee, while encouraging local coffee shops to do the same.

SMUG is being featured at various coffee shops throughout Milwaukee. One is Cedarburg Coffee Roastery, which has locations in Cedarburg and Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Public Market. Sherri Musa, who runs the Milwaukee location, believes SMUG is a tremendous idea, “Not only is SMUG innovative, but it also provides local support.”

Musa believes  SMUG will really begin to catch on in the upcoming months, as customers begin to spread the news from word-of-mouth. Though entirely impressed with SMUG’s originality and its environmental mission, she finds one drawback for customers: “If you buy a [SMUG] at the Milwaukee Public Market, it can’t be used at other Cedarburg Coffee Roastery locations.”

Hallberg realizes the potential of SMUG Coffee. With increasing local support, this local entrepreneur has his eyes set on the bigger picture. He hopes to spread environmental consciousness of coffee cups to the masses.

“For me, I’m really hoping to… spread [SMUG] to a large coffee chain,” said Hallberg, “to continue to raise awareness of the dangers of disposable cups.”

Categories: Business, Environment

0 thoughts on “SMUG — a new approach to your morning coffee”

  1. Anonymous says:

    What’s the average cost?

  2. Anonymous says:

    We suggest coffee shops retail them for $15-20 with a few dollars of free coffee to get customers started.


  3. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Chris! I like the idea of sustainability being forefront to to design. What are the materials and process used in making this reusable cup?

  4. Anonymous says:

    @Tom – I don’t know how they are making these cups but they could make them out of bio-degradable corn/beet plastic. I sell that sort of thing to eco-friendly companies all the time.

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