Customers ordering coffee at Spoken Cafe, 1812 W. Montrose Ave., will get a reusable metal Forever Ware cup that is part of a "lending library." Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago

RAVENSWOOD — Recycling-minded Ravenswood neighbors can get their morning cup of coffee from Spoken Cafe in a reusable metal cup. 

Customers at Spoken, 1812 W. Montrose Ave., are given a reusable metal cup from Forever Ware for their 8-, 12- and 16-ounce coffees, said Spoken co-owner William Goodwin.

The cups are part of a national “lending library” where customers pay a $5 deposit for Forever Ware’s metal cup that will be refunded once it’s returned to one of 19 participating businesses, Goodwin said.

Chicago cafes in the lending library include Spoken, Beans & Bagels, 2601 W. Leland Ave.; Rewired Pizza Cafe & Bar, 1100 W. Thorndale Ave.; Ellipsis Coffeehouse, 1259 W. Devon Ave.; and a few Dollop Coffee locations. 

“It had been on my and [Beans & Bagels owner] Adam Snow’s mind for a long time: How are we going to exit using disposable cups?” Goodwin said. “That’s the one thing that seems to stand out when you do the math and everything for things going into landfills — the trash generated in our coffee-consuming society these days.” 

Customers ordering coffee at Spoken Cafe, 1812 W. Montrose Ave., will get a reusable metal Forever Ware cup that is part of a “lending library.” Credit: Alex V. Hernandez/Block Club Chicago

That desire to move away from single-use coffee cups intensified amid supply chain disruptions in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused a shortage in compostable takeaway containers, Goodwin said.

Before the pandemic, Goodwin would take about five minutes to order a month’s worth of coffee cups and lids from a single vendor. But during the worst of the supply chain shortages, he was scrambling among vendors to get lids and cups, which led to him researching Forever Ware, he said. 

Each metal cup costs Goodwin $5, and a customer who signs up to the lending library program pays $5, which covers this cost of the cup, he said.

“It was a small fee to set everything up, and a minimal amount of gear,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin introduced the lending library to his business in May and has recorded about 1,100 metal cups circulating in the wild, he said. 

“It’s a little bit of a ray of sunshine that people are still trying their best to do the right thing when it when it comes to this issue of waste and sustainability,” Goodwin said.

The program has also translated into considerable savings because Goodwin isn’t spending upwards of $1,500 on single-use compostable cups per month, he said. 

“And I feel like we’ve actually got a lot of new customers because of the program itself. A lot of people are really enthused about it,” Goodwin said. “I know customers who before this program had their own travel mug and always brought it in. Since we started this, they’ve stopped bringing in their travel mug because they wanted one of these.” 

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