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For more information on Vessel Works, go to vesselwrks.com

Coffee and tea drinkers in Boulder can help make the planet green by signing up for a free insulated stainless steel cup that will give them the convenience of getting their beverage on the go.

Vessel Works, which is launching the program today, aims to cut down the use of paper and plastic cups by loaning reusable cups to consumers.

"Ideally, we want people to continue using the insulated cup," said Dagny Tucker, co-founder and CEO of Boulder-based Vessel Works.

Plastic liners inside paper cups make them hard to recycle, Tucker said. Annually, an estimated 58 billions cups end up in landfills.

The program kicks off at 8 a.m. today at Boxcar Coffee Roasters and at 9:30 a.m. at Trident Booksellers & Cafe,both on Pearl Street.

"We're extremely excited to be a part of the program," said Peter Jones, general manager of Trident. "We're on the west end and Boxcar is on the east end and together we're going to anchor the downtown district where majority of cafes are."

Vessel Works "grab, go, drop" model is aimed at disrupting a wasteful habit.

"Seemingly innocuous choices have a far-reaching impact," said Tucker, who has researched global conflicts as part of her Ph.D. Most violent conflicts are resource-driven, she said.

"If we are going to progress, we need a behavior change." And, for that there needs to be better options available, she said.


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Tucker, who taught life-cycle assessment design at Parsons School of Design in New York, from 2015 to 2017, did an eight-month long pilot test for the free vessel-loaning service in 2016 in New York. "Ideally, you would've wanted to launch in New York to dispel the notion of hippy environmentalists," she said.

The pilot helped her to make changes to the program, which in New York relied on a key-chain technology. It now works with a web-based app, Tucker said.

The program works like a library for to-go cups: Users get a free cup, which they can use at several cafes around town, and once they think they no longer would use it, they can return it. They have five days.

"It's reasonable," Tucker said.

People who forget to return the cup on time will get gentle reminders, and if they still don't respond they might be asked to buy the cup. "We want to have inventory for other users," Tucker said.

Vessel Works markets, tracks, delivers and picks up the cups with no risks to coffee shops. Cafe owners pay a per cup fee that is less than the cost of buying single-use paper cups. For some coffee shop owners, paper cup costs can go beyond $100,000 a year, Tucker said.

A coffee shop on Pearl Street in a year uses 250,000 paper cups of one size, Tucker said.

If the program takes off, it will save us money and help the city of Boulder move towards zero waste, said Jones of Trident. The program needs a certain number of participants, who are vested in it, to make it successful long term, he said, adding he's hopeful both coffee stores and coffee drinkers will support it. The program provides incentives for both.

Vessel Works plan to provide quantifiable data to both store owners and consumers about their environmental impact to reducing waste, Tucker said. "It's about making a positive change for the future."

Pratik Joshi: 303-684-5310, pjoshi@dailycamera.com