2020 was a big year for reusable cup company Narcis’sips and its founder, Cathal O’Reilly. The Irish company, which pioneered the affordable reusable, appeared in GQ magazine and on national TV.
As I sit down virtually with the young accountant on a Friday afternoon, he explains that Narcis’sips began as a side project, while studying for his accounting exams in 2018.
“Being a typical accountant, I was counting up how much money I was wasting on plastic,” he tells me.
“I went out to buy a reusable bottle and found they cost between €40 and €60. I remember ranting to my friends – how can anyone afford to buy a reusable, and why would anyone want to at that price?”
Cathal believed that he should have been motivated and enabled to choose the healthy and sustainable option. From that thought, Narcis’sips was born.
When he reached out to manufacturers, Cathal discovered that the cost of producing a reusable bottle was far less than he imagined.
“The profits being made by some of the bigger companies are absolutely ridiculous,” he tells me.
Cathal began by ordering a few dozen reusable bottles. When they arrived, he realised their quality was equal to that of the expensive, mainstream brands.
“I thought the first batch would last me a year, but within six weeks they were gone. I certainly didn’t anticipate it lasting two or three years.”
Having received a scholarship to study for his master’s degree, Cathal was eager to give something back, donating €1 of each sale to Clean Water and other educational charities in Africa.
“I knew from doing charity work in college that in developing nations, €25 a month could put several kids through school, or provide access to clean water for many months, but most of us spend €25 a month on coffee.”
Limiting carbon footprint is a core goal for Narcis’sips, with every stage of production and distribution considered. A notable element is delivery methods, as orders within Dublin City are usually delivered by bike.
“We save the customer money by eliminating postage and couriers, while also reducing our carbon footprint.”
Narcis’sips products contain no plastic and are packaged in plain, recyclable cardboard.
“The bottles are all stainless steel and the boxes are cardboard. When you get a wedding ring, you don’t look at the box, you look at the ring!”, Cathal says with a laugh.
For Cathal, reducing his carbon footprint is about doing the basics.
“Most plastics are made from a variety of waste plastics, which can only be recycled once or twice before going to landfill. Avoid plastic bottles and coffee cups, whatever else you can do after that is a bonus.”
I ask Cathal how he feels about coffee shops refusing reusables as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It’s a disaster”, he sighs. “I can understand why they are saying no, but at the same time, where there’s a will there’s a way”.
“I’ve seen a few coffee shops using a tool that looks like a chopping board. You sit your reusable on it, and the barista carries it over to the machine, so it’s contactless.
“Last September, the World Health Organisation said that using reusable coffee cups is safe, as long as extra measures are taken for sanitation, so I think coffee shops should make the effort.”
Cathal believes the hard work of the reusable movement has been undone in recent times.
“I go on walks and I see masks and coffee cups everywhere. When I meet my mates for coffee, I always bring my own. I’d love to support coffee shops, but I have my values.”
Looking forward, the entrepreneur would like to see affordable reusables become a big trend.
“When I started Narcis’sips, I wasn’t aware of any other Irish business doing the same thing. In the past year alone, I’ve seen companies popping up left, right and centre.
“I think people want to be seen as someone who is thinking, who is a bit more conscious. Trends come and go, but I hope this is something that really sticks.”
Cathal expects influential organisations to get behind the sustainable ideology as the trend grows. He admits that it doesn’t matter if the movement is supported for the right reasons or fashion.
“It’s not important how we get to the end goal, as long as we get there.”
And what does the future hold for Narcis’sips and its sustainable hero?
“Ultimately, everyone will have a reusable and I’ll be able to hang it up!”, he smiles.
“It shouldn’t be a repeat business model. If your reusable has a few scratches or scrapes, who cares? Even the bottles have carbon footprints, and you need to be re-using them dozens of times to offset those emissions.”
Get your own reusable cup or bottle at www.narcissips.com.