OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Vessel: Revel in the Future of Reusables

Vessel is an action-oriented product service system that redesigns the status quo of disposability.

Photo of Dagny Tucker
16 24

Written by

Idea Title

Idea Summary

Vessel’s action-oriented product service system redesigns the status quo of disposability; – free for users – business and cities save money with our library style service of reusable “Vessels."

Company / Organization Name (if applicable)

Vessel Works Nonprofit & Vessel Revolution Inc.

Website (if applicable)

Please include a visual (can be either 2D or 3D) representation/prototype of your concept. (required)

Vessel is an intervention at the consumer level that makes reusability a reality. Our fiscally-beneficial, closed-loop product service system (PSS) activates the circular economy to rewrite the operating book on to-go products. Vessel’s health department certified reusable to-go cup service replaces single-use cups to provide a free and convenient alternative. We supply, wash, and distribute stainless steel cups (“Vessels”) for users to check-out through our web-based app from participating food service facilities. Users enjoy their beverage anywhere and have 5 days to return the Vessel to one of our conveniently located kiosks. Our Vessels are tech-enabled allowing: 1. For real-time inventory tracking and distribution and  2. For users to gain personal quantified environmental impact metrics that inspire positive behavior change and continued use of our service. Our system is designed as a contagious model that catalyzes impact; our service is adaptable, transferable, and scalable.

This solution addresses which of the following:

  • Hot / Cold Fiber Cup
  • Cup Lids
  • Reusable System
  • Alternative Delivery System
  • Other

How is your concept recoverable?

Our closed-loop PSS disrupts the disposables industry and successfully eliminates all recovery infrastructure challenges of the fiber cup. The current system – focused on disposability – has significant system failures which perpetuate unsustainable consumption. Biodegradable alternatives reinforce disposability habits and frequently end up in the landfill where they produce methane gas. Highly hygienic; our 100% recyclable stainless steel Vessels stay in circulation to close the loop and activate the circular economy. Life cycle assessments show Vessels, once reused 24 times, are more sustainable than paper cups. Our research estimate Vessels along with our silicone lids can remain in circulation for approximately 400 uses. Once we remove Vessels from circulation due to wear and tear, the steel can be 100% recycled without losing any properties or value. In addition, our lids are non-toxic, antimicrobial, and can withstand extreme temperature variation.

How have you incorporated additional sustainability attributes (beyond recoverability) into your solution?

Vessel not only addresses the paper cup problem by providing a superior option – additionally our app provides personalized quantified data and education on positive impacts associated with Vessel use; enabling users to see their local and global connection to community and environmental health. Research shows this critical link inspires user behavior change and enables a more rapid transition to sustainable lifestyles.

What regions do you plan to address with your solution (and how will you accomplish this)?

Vessel was designed to be adaptable, scalable and financially sustainable. We endeavor to go wherever single-use disposables persist – while acknowledging regional specificity – our strategy and business plan support that trajectory. We piloted in NYC, are live in Boulder, Co. and currently in conversation with multi-stakeholders across regions in North America, Australia, and Asia to expand our PSS to support zero waste goals and create closed-loop systems.

Describe your target market. Who will benefit from your product?

Individual users, cafe employees and owners, business improvement districts, city waste management, investors, taxpayers, and environment benefit from our closed loop system. Users benefit from a free service that provides a superior alternative to a disposable cup, without disrupting their daily habits. Cafes reduce spending on disposables and publicly demonstrate “green” business practices. Users and cafes benefit from our embedded technology to intuitively interact with our check-out system and track positive environmental impacts. As designers, we understand how to research and work closely with multi-stakeholders to develop system-wide integration to ensure a seamless user experience.

What is the current stage of development of your idea?

  • Full-scale roll-out

What are the biggest challenges you are facing today? What are existing gaps in your solution?

As an upfront capital-intensive business with an out-of-box model, our biggest challenge has been raising capital needed to fund enough infrastructure (cup inventory and kiosk R&D) to have a seamless citywide system. We’ve overcome this hurdle along with the challenges of building a strong team to execute. Gaps we are addressing include streamlining fabrication of kiosks to be ready to scale and providing education to stakeholders addressing system norms that favor reusability by demonstrating Vessel’s convenience and cost-effectiveness. Further expansion to other cities and scaling will require additional investment in infrastructure and we foresee needing support in this arena.

Mentorship Needs (please select up to 3)

  • Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Growth and Scaling
  • Fundraising / Finance

Tell us about yourself and your team. What is your background and experience?

Vessel hit the jackpot with a talented team who share a common drive to disrupt the status quo and re-create a better everyday. We are tinkerers and thinkers; pioneers who think that ‘settling’ is a dirty word.

In what city are you located?

Boulder, Colorado

In what country are you located?

United States

What is your legal / organizational structure? (if applicable)

Vessel Works Nonprofit Corp, Vessel Revolution Inc

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea will support the growth of your concept.

As a top idea Vessel will benefit tremendously by the sheer exposure NextGen offers. Introducing Vessel to the global public via a trusted platform striving for innovation will assist significantly our efforts to educate on the new status quo of to-go. The funding received will immediately go toward scaling. As importantly, an endorsement by NextGen will provide added validation for donors and investors we’ve been courting that are simply waiting for indications from other market players.

How did you hear about the Challenge?

  • Direct email invitation


Join the conversation:

Photo of Pam Murphy

I’m opening a coffee shop next year and am
interested in featuring your product.

View all comments