Be Smart About Art

What does a coffee cup mean to you?

written by: Susan Mumford March 5, 2017 Sunday blog - The art world in bite-sized stories 1226 views

What does a coffee cup mean to you?

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here

In a recent trip to my alma mater in the Southern USA, I had a welcome surprise imeeting the students who currently sit on the Environmental Concerns Committee. This was significant as I was one of the ECC’s Co-Founders back in the mid-90s. It was my first experience of being in a partnership, from a leadership perspective, as well as learning to delegate to a committee. Our results included a recycling programme which spread across the campus and a ‘Green Team’ welcome committee that recycled copious amounts of cardboard at the beginning of each school year. It turns out that the ECC is still going strong today, approximately twenty years after its genesis.

It was delightful to talk about the “3 Rs” with folks who understand the concept inside and out. And for your own reference, the 3 Rs, often shown in the form of green arrows going around in a triangular pattern, are in order of priority: Reduce – Reuse – Recycle.

The result of the work we did meant that environmental responsibility became core to our beings. So when I took my first job as a retail manager in London, I immediately jumped on board as Environmental Coordinator for the shop. A few years later, when an artist friend received ERDF funding (European Regional Developmental Fund, which will not be available in the UK post-Brexit) for doing eco-audits of small businesses, my art consultancy was fully assessed, advised and given official status as an environmentally sound enterprise.

And so, during the recent trip to the USA, a travel companion stands out: a black and blue reusable coffee cup. The make is a Keep Cup, and readers who have either met with me on a one-to-one basis or seen me on stage might very well have spotted it. The thing is that it goes almost everywhere with me, from airplanes to studios, and from coffee shops to lecture halls. As great as the Keep Cup is at being pleasant to use, keeping coffee or tea warm and preventing liquid from spilling (noting its effective lid), it equally reminds others of environmental mindfulness. People see my example of taking around a reusable cup that looks nice, works well and saves trees (the latter being the first ‘r’, reduce), and realise that this is something they could do, too.

What does the Keep Cup have to do with business? It represents a core value. If my business has an ‘environmental policy’ (which it does), it’s important that the founder is being true to it, when working and playing. Moreover, it’s a great way to demonstrate the kind of values upheld. This sort of behaviour stands out to others, which can help people connect with you, have increased interest and even trust in your work and, you never know, might even inspire others to do the same.

What core values can you demonstrate in your day to day life? While it might not be something that you’ve noticed others doing, it might be something that you can do to be true to yourself, show what you value and stand out from the crowd. 

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