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Green Cup reconfigures waste

Third Calgary entrepreneur award win in a row for MRU business studentsJava junkies across the great white north are not hard to find. The caffeinated brew is ubiquitous on campuses across the country, a near-staple at rinks indoor and outdoor alike, and is a reliable companion for thousands on their daily commutes.

Annually Canucks toss 1.6 billion coffee cups in the trash each year, with the majority destined for overcrowded landfills. Many don’t realize that, because of their composition, coffee cups will never decompose.

A collaboration between two Mount Royal University students is aiming to change the way Canadians dispose of coffee cups, and their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

@GreenCupYYC

The compostable cup is environmentally friendly but does come with the drawback of being more expensive than conventional coffee cups. In an effort to compensate consumers, Green Cup offers advertising on their cups to offset the cost.

Born out of the MRU branch of Enactus, Austin Lang and Emily Bartlett co-founded Green Cup, a company that offers compostable coffee cups. In November, Lang presented Green Cup’s business pitch in a Dragon’s Den style competition held by Calgary’s Entrepreneurs Organization, and won the local Global Student Entrepreneur Award.

The prize came with $5,000 and a trip to Vancouver in February, where Green Cup will get the opportunity to compete at EO’s national competition against other regional winners.

“The idea came from seeing waste in my community and being inspired to make change,” says Lang, who is a recent Mount Royal Bachelor of Business Administration graduate.

Environmental causes have always been close to Lang. Originally his efforts began with him grinding up cups, shredding and boiling cups while trying to figure out a way to properly recycle them. Rethinking his approach after multiple failures, Lang decided to focus on preventing waste rather than recycling it.

“I sat down and looked at the best cup on the market, and found out that compostable cups would be the best way to eliminate waste.”

Eventually Lang partnered with Bartlett and Green Cup was born.

“I've always been the type to want to make a difference,” says Bartlett, now a fourth-year marketing major who is also seeking a minor in innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Our skills and background complement each other for Green Cup in a huge way. Each milestone we hit pushes us further into our passion for this company.”

Success is starting to take shape for the Enactus-inspired company. Currently, the company has a contract to distribute their cups in 13 Calgary high schools and two post-secondary institutions. Each month Green Cup distributes between ten and 20,000 cups.

Produced in China, the compostable cup is environmentally friendly but does come with the drawback of being more expensive than conventional coffee cups. In an effort to compensate consumers, Green Cup offers advertising on their cups to offset the cost.

“The success of Green Cup is pretty cool to see,” says Bartlett. “Not only does it confirm that the advertisement portion of our business plan is extremely valuable, but it proves that people are attracted to making a difference for the environment.”

With Lang continuing to tinker with coffee cup concepts, he maintains that he doesn’t want to just be another cog in the wheel. He has opted to use his education to create a positive impact instead.

“That’s the strength of MRU. We get to have these interactions with teachers, we are able to have experiences that take us to the community, and we are given support,” says Lang. “It’s a way for students to create something great.”

“I’ve learned so much more than I thought I ever would. It’s not just about getting a job and getting experience. I have been able to build something and employ myself.”

Green Cup team

Austin Lang (left) and Emily Bartlett (right) won $5,000 at the local Global Student Entrepreneur Awards.

The duo is now the third consecutive Mount Royal- based group to take home the Calgary Entrepreneurs Organization's Global Student Entrepreneur Award. Derek Rucki (TLink) and Paul Schumlich (Deepwater Farms) were the two previous winners, demonstrating something special happening at Mount Royal as the University continues to churn out successful entrepreneurs.

The director of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Mount Royal Ray DePaul sees Green Cup’s work as a perfect example of the future of business. He feels that companies of the future must establish businesses that are both economically and socially beneficial.

"Everyone involved in our program has the singular goal to support our students and graduate the most entrepreneurial minds in Canada,” says DePaul. “It's rewarding to watch our students consistently succeed on such a big stage."

DePaul, a respected member of the Calgary entrepreneur and startup community, has seen his fair share of successes (and failures) and knows a viable venture when he sees it.

"Green Cup has done an amazing job of leveraging their innovation and entrepreneurship skills to not only achieve a social mission, but also create well-paying jobs for themselves. They are controlling their own future."

Dec. 19, 2016 ― Jonathan Anderson