A reusable coffee cup? There’s an app for that!
They say if you want to help future generations, model good behavior. And if you have passion, put it to work. Entrepreneurs and Edina residents Michelle Horan and Melissa Seeley are doing both with their new company Good to Go Cups, a business focused on sustainability that puts their love of coffee front and center, with a focus on grinding things up in the single-use cup economy.
The two began their journey together when they volunteered to help launch the organics recycling program for Edina Public Schools. Fast forward more than a decade, and Horan and Seeley are both still passionate about recycling and sustainability.
In 2021, they took an online course from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. For both women, the class was a lightbulb moment. “We [had] spent all these years advocating for recycling and composting/organics. … The Ellen MacArthur Foundation advocates for the circular economy,” says Seeley, who shifted her focus to reduction and reuse rather than just end-of-life waste management. “The foundation helped us realize we can’t recycle our way out of a waste problem.”
That same year, Hennepin County offered a waste reduction grant. The two women applied and received the funding. And that’s how Good to Go Cups got its start. “We focused on reuse by designing a ‘to-go’ coffee cup that can be used up to 50 times [and] is recyclable and compostable,” Seeley says.
Good to Go Cups are made of an innovative polymer, which is high-heat tolerant and compostable. Horan says they were very intentional about their material selection, seeking to find a way to keep materials in use. When a cup reaches the end of its life cycle, it’s sent back to the manufacturer, where a majority of the old material will get ground up and turned into new cups. Any residual material that can’t be reused can be composted. Each cup’s life cycle is monitored in the Good to Go Cups app, where customers can sign up, see where the cup is and track their number of uses.
In contrast, traditional, single-use cup production uses a “take-make-waste” model; taking natural materials to make a product that ends up in a landfill. Each single-use coffee cup is used for an average of 13 minutes; it’s estimated that at least 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups are thrown out each year. This waste problem was the topic of Seeley’s 2022 TEDxEdina talk.
Once the app and final product were developed, the two “eco-preneurs” set out to build a market. “We needed to get cups in shops and put the ownership on customers rather than the businesses themselves,” Seeley says, noting they wanted to make sure it was as easy as possible for the coffee shop employees. “We give the cups to the shops for free to make it low-risk and encourage reuse.”
Customers can either enjoy their coffee in the shop and leave the cup there, or take it with them and exchange the used cup for a clean one next time they visit a participating shop. Most participating coffee shops offer a discount for people who use Good to Go cups.
Customers can access Good to Go cups in coffee shops from Maple Grove to Minneapolis—and even at a few shops in Arizona. At Jones Coffee in Linden Hills, owner Anthony Jones says staff and guests are welcoming the program.
About her new business, Horan says, “My new mantra: Don’t let perfection get in the way of action. We just need to start somewhere.”