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?