Illustration for article titled A skeptic reconsiders Colorado’em/ems “bike-share but for coffee mugs”em/em
Photo: fiorigianluigi (iStock)

My knee-jerk reaction when I read this Fast Company article about Boulder, Colorado’s new “bike-share-but-for-coffee-mugs” program wasn’t nuanced. “This is dumb,” I thought, shaking my head at those GORP-eating Keen-wearers in the Rockies. “Who needs a program to rent travel mugs?” I thought, until my much smarter coworkers pointed out that, probably, lots of people do.


For background, here’s how the Vessel Works program operates: Customers can use an app to “rent” insulated travel mugs from coffeeshops; the service is free, but users must return the mugs to participating shop within five days to avoid being charged a replacement fee. The company bills it service as environmentally responsible; it also saves people the effort of washing their travel mugs or keeping one always stashed in their car.

As my coffeeshop-frequenting colleague Allison Shoemaker pointed out, she makes a regular rotation of the same few coffeeshops, so returning a loaner mug to one of them wouldn’t be too much of a hassle. She also pointed out that stainless steel insulated mugs keep your drink warmer than paper cups, a bonus if you’re a person that sips their coffee over the course of a few hours. All excellent points, Allison.


I was beginning to come around. Maybe I was wrong to so swiftly judge this travel-mug-rental program. But I’m left with a final hang-up: If you have trouble remembering to bring your own travel mug to the coffeeshop, won’t you also have trouble remembering to bring the loaner travel mug to return?

Kate Bernot is managing editor at The Takeout and a certified beer judge.

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