Molly Nix | Design and Photography Molly Nix | Design and Photography


  • Date: February 2010
  • Course: Advanced Typography IV
  • Professor: Dan Boyarski
  • Software: Illustrator, After Effects


This was a 3.5-week project designed to educate an audience about an environmental issue. I was assigned "The life cycle of a cup of coffee," and chose to focus on the paper coffee cup itself, as this is the largest change a consumer can make to his or her own habits.

The Message

Consider the small coffee you order half way through your morning commute. Coffee in a paper cup with a sleeve and a lid.

Now consider the long line you wait in to get that coffee. And how many people get the exact same thing you did. Now spread that out all morning, between classes, mid-afternoon perk-ups, and those get-me-through-the-night coffee breaks. Now consider that at University of Washington, a university with forty-two thousand students, they go through about five thousand cups per day. Carnegie Mellon is smaller, but if our students drink coffee with the same fervor as University of Washington students, we go through about one thousand, two hundred and fifty cups per day.

These cups have a plastic lining that prevents them from being able to be recycled. Thus, every paper cup that is manufactured and coated with plastic resin ends up in a landfill. In 2006, it is estimated that paper cups accounted for 252 million pounds of garbage.

The plastic lid is made of petroleum products, the sleeve is manufactured with 60 percent post-consumer fiber. After all this, a cup of coffee is something the typical person consumes then throws away in 10 minutes, which goes to a landfill. Considering the immense amount of coffee that even just Americans drink (estimated at 23 billion in a year!), this makes a huge impact on the earth.

Now is that cup of coffee really so harmless?

Consider a reusable mug.

Reusable Mug

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