Raise Your Cup to Social Impact

Raise Your Cup to Social Impact

May 7, 2020 • by Jackie Brennan


Raise Your Cup to Social Impact

Raise Your Cup to Social Impact 1920 1080 Jackie Brennan

Nothing says clean water, healthy environment, and strong communities like … drinkware? This cup company runneth over with values, and customers are invited to actively participate in their favorite cause.

Maybe you’re one of the more than 150 million American adults who consume coffee every day. Or perhaps you’re one of the more than 200 million who consume beer, wine, or liquor. If not, at minimum, you, like the rest of Earth’s 75 million tons of biomass, consume water with some degree of regularity.

MiiR, a Seattle-based drinkware brand, believes that no matter what liquid you put into their containers, a whole lot of good should come out of every purchase. In fact, with the help of more than 41,000 customers, the company has granted some $1.3 million to carefully vetted impact projects in 26 countries.

Founded in 2010 by Bryan Papé in the years following a nearly fatal ski accident, MiiR started out making durable, functional water bottles. The brand had a social impact focus from the get-go, although the scope was fairly limited.

“In the beginning, it was about making small grants with a focus on water because, you know, everyone loves a good clean-water story,” said Charlie Clark, director of impact at MiiR. “At the time, we made water bottles, so it made a lot of sense.”

As the company and the sheer variety of products grew, the impact work evolved. Three hand-dug wells in Liberia, a sanitation project in Nepal, an employment program for formerly incarcerated women in Idaho, a farm incubator in Washington’s Skagit Valley — dozens of diverse projects  “squarely aligned with what our team was into,” Charlie said, but they still wanted to see a tighter connection between product and impact.

Doing Good Globally

“We make stainless steel vessels so that people can enjoy the things that our team enjoys—coffee, beer, wine, and food. If the whole point of this company is to hold these incredible commodities for people to gather around and enjoy, we thought we needed to help close that loop.”

MiiR’s vessels hold things that depend on the existence of water, earth, and relationship. So, they extended that as criteria for impact projects with three areas of focus: clean water, healthy environment, and strong communities.

Today, instead of “punctuated sporadic grants,” MiiR has evolved a Product to Project model that comprehensively reflects the range of vessels in their product line — including the innovative Give Code that enables buyers to connect to individual projects in a personal way.

For instance, the Give Code on a MiiR tumbler I was recently gifted links to a community-focused project in Kayonza, Rwanda. There, MiiR is working with Kula Project, a nonprofit focused on eradicating poverty by developing female entrepreneurs. The goal of the project is to train 50 women through a 15-month artisan fellows program to either focus on tailoring or weaving.

Kula’s approach to putting the artisan fellows on a path to building a successful business is holistic, with almost as much funding invested in areas like mentorship and personal development training as in the actual materials used for the artisan training.

MiiR has anywhere from five to 15 active projects at a time—some of which are local while others, like the artisan training project in Rwanda, are going on thousands of miles away. Beyond grantmaking basics like impact and revenue breakdown, Charlie said the most important part of sizing up new potential partners is examining how they engage the communities they’re working in.

“Before even breaking ground, have they gone to that community and asked what they need right now and how they want it implemented?” More often than not, a project that “holds water” by MiiR’s estimation comes from a long-time partner they already know and trust.

Rooted in Community

At the same time, MiiR is committed to continually expanding the community of people connected to their work. That’s why in 2015, MiiR opened its Flagship, a physical space in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood where people can rent meeting space, bring their laptops to get work done, or meet up with friends—all within close reach of local coffee, beer on draft, and snacks.

During a time of social distancing, Charlie and his colleagues were sad to lose the Flagship as a typically bustling and inspiring community touchpoint. But, keeping with the spirit of MiiR’s perennial emphasis on community, Charlie encourages people interested in shopping their products to first look close to home.

“Of course, you can always go to our website. But if you have a favorite cafe that already sells MiiR and you know they have a website—or you can physically get there—go buy our products there. Support your own local folks.”

Even if you buy your MiiR products locally, it’s worth visiting the company website to keep up with special releases of new products. For instance, the Alone Together Camp Cup, designed by artist Kyler Martz, features two women, a mermaid, and a dog all social distancing with the help of an octopus. (It makes a lot more sense if you click the link!)

According to MiiR, the new design “speaks truth to both the connection and isolation felt in this rising tide of uncertainty and our collective calling to embrace our togetherness in new ways.” And in its typical mission-first fashion, the company is donating $5 of every sale to support the Covid-19 Response Fund at Feeding America.

Special editions sometimes disappear quickly, like this year’s Dawn Patrol Camp Cup, which featured a custom design to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in partnership with another Cause Consumer favorite, Climate Neutral.

In 2019, as part of their commitment to offsetting the material impact of making functional and enduring drinkware, MiiR became one of the first brands to commit to going carbon neutral through the Climate Neutral certification process. The Dawn Patrol cup was released to mark the end of the certification process in April 2020 — and sold out within a matter of weeks.

For MiiR, going carbon neutral was just one more manifestation of a mission-first philosophy that permeates every aspect of the company. It’s small wonder, then, that the company’s 2019 Impact Report sprawls across 50 pages. From the giving model to the manufacturing process, it all holds water (plus coffee, wine, and beer).

At Cause Consumer, we’ll drink from any carbon neutral, stainless steel vessel to that!

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Check out MiiR’s website to browse their products and learn how to create your own custom drinkware. Whether you buy in person or online, be sure to register your Give Code to get connected to a worthy project advancing clean water, healthy environment, and strong communities.

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Cause: Community • Format: Small Wonders
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