Ah, the paper coffee cup. The simple drinking vessel has become a staple in our everyday lives. And while we all know that paper comes from trees, what if that same paper could become a tree in the afterlife? Sure, it might sound super meta. But for Alex Henige, founder of Reduce Reuse Grow, that concept was far from mythical. Henige, a Landscape Architecture graduate of California Polytechnic State University, has been turning heads with his invention of the plantable coffee cup. Inspired by trash speckled across Highway 101 of California, Henige’s creation is exactly what it sounds like. Each cup contains seeds and can be planted in the ground after use. The components of the cup biodegrade in less than 180 days, leaving a medley of seeds behind. Instructions are also included on the bottom of each cup, ensuring that coffee drinkers without green thumbs can do no wrong.

It’s a pretty good tradeoff considering North Americans use about 50 million trees each year for paper cups alone. Not one, two, or three million… but fifty. And while trendy travel mugs have become more popular, it’s safe to say that we have a long way to go. This doesn’t even take into account all of the ink and labor that goes into producing a paper cup that we use for about 30 minutes.   

Henige is on a mission to switch things up, though. With every purchase of a plantable paper cup, Reduce Reuse Grow plants a tree. And while the company currently serves San Luis Obispo, they are working on expanding to other cities like Denver and Seattle. Here’s to hoping we’ll see more of his clever invention in other parts of the country. Finally, one man’s trash can be the Earth’s treasure.