By Iciar Fernandez
Passionate about sustainability and climate action, Melanie Chanona is part of the team behind Mugshare, a student-led initiative that works on a circular sharing model, where mugs can be washed and reused by different people. The concept is easy, you pay a $2 deposit and you get your coffee to go in a travel mug instead of a single-use cup. Once you are done refueling your caffeine levels, you return the cup to any participating business and get your two dollars back.
More than two million single-use cups go to waste every single week in Vancouver alone. Mugshare was born as a simple idea, and it is now actively bringing this number down by the minute. We met with Melanie to learn more about how is it even possible to run such an incredible project with no prior business experience, and while being a student. She had some pretty awesome insights to share.
I’m a PhD student here at UBC. I study Arctic Oceanography. I am also really passionate about sustainability, and climate action, so that was actually where I sort of got involved with Mugshare, by joining Common Energy, the student-run club on campus, and they just create this really great community of sustainability-centered individuals, and I have gotten involved with tons of cool projects doing that.
Mugshare works on a deposit-drink-return system. So, instead of buying your own reusable mug or having to remember it, you can use one of our reusable mugs at any of our participating cafes. It provides a really easy alternative to single use disposable coffee cups. You don’t have to worry about washing it or remembering it, just pay a $2 deposit and you get it back when you return the mug to any participating location. Mugshare is currently at 10 locations on campus, but we are also off campus with 22 locations in total. Some of the ones that people are most excited about are Blue Chip, in the Nest, which were one of our first pilot cafes; Loafe; JJBean, which has their UBC location as well as two other locations on campus. We are looking to sign other 2 partners in Vancouver, and UBC Okanagan just started this month as well!
This idea of UBC as a living lab is really cool! There are so many opportunities that we got, eHub being one of them, that exist because we are student-run and we are in this environment. There is no way we could have started this out in like, a basement in East Van or something. It just wouldn’t have happened.
We participated in the RBC Get Seeded event, co-run by eHub. The financial was a great appeal, but we were also looking for networking exposure, and to get practice speaking about our product and sharing it with other people in the community was a no-brainer for us. Sometimes you just need to get that first hook, to say ‘this is something that the public wants, this is a valuable idea and we want to make it be a reality’. I would say that is probably one of the biggest benefits of using a service like eHub. They helped me getting my foot in the door and having something to share with other people.
I’m going to recycle a piece of advice that I got from an amazing entrepreneur I saw at a conference, Michelle Romanov. She said that you should talk to other entrepreneurs, because they are the ones that will encourage you to try these ideas out, and to believe that they are really possible. Whereas other people that are less entrepreneurial-minded may tell you all the reasons why all your ideas may fail. So if you surround yourself with these people who encourage you and make you believe that these things can happen. I think this has most definitely been one of our greatest pieces of success, just really believing that we can do it and that we should be doing it’’Back to stories