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Member spotlight: r.Cup

2022-04-16 12:00 PM | Reuse Minnesota (Administrator)

Member spotlight: r.Cup
Q&A with Michael Martin, r.Cup Founder and CEO

Click here for video of the interview.

RM | How did you get started in sustainability?

For the very first Earth Day in 1970 in Wisconsin, I went out with my 4th grade class and cleaned up the banks of the Fox River. It was a very big thing there because Senator Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin created Earth Day. Years later, after watching environmental disasters like Bhopal and the Exxon Valdez oil spill, I decided businesses needed to factor sustainability into operations. And so in 1990, I started Effect Partners, to combine culture, business and sustainability solutions. Recalling that first Earth Day experience, the first thing I did was to produce the big 1990 Earth Day Concert and rally on the Great Mall in Washington, DC.

RM | What sparked your interest and commitment to reuse?

Over the last 30 years I have introduced many of the sustainability concepts in live events. I’ve even been called the “Guru of Live Event Greening” (thanks, Billboard Magazine!)

In the process of designing and developing sustainability strategies for everyone from Jack Johnson to Dave Matthews Band to U2 to Live Nation to AEG, it was clear that the most visible environmental impact at live events is the single-use cup waste that’s generated. 

Back in 2011, on U2’s 360 Tour, we saw a reusable cup system in place on the Zurich date. I thought this was brilliant and decided to bring it to North America. By working with the world’s leading artists and cultural influencers, I felt we could introduce the concept of reuse at scale to create systemic change. In the process, I realized what was really needed was the platform for the reuse economy.

And so, that’s what we set out to do with r.Cup. We’ve built the platform to maximize positive environmental impact, positive community impact, operational efficiencies and sanitization capabilities. We are set up to eliminate the billions of single-use waste items that contribute to our world’s climate crisis. Through the simple act of reuse, we can help combat climate change. 

RM | What does Earth Day mean to you? What are your most memorable and meaningful Earth Day moments?

It means a lot to me. I produced the nationally broadcast stadium Earth Day concerts from 1990-1995, helped establish the Earth Day International Organization, and was on its board for 20 years. Earth Day is now the world's largest secular event. I view Earth Day as the funnel to introduce people to the environmental movement. Because of its strong focus on schools and youth, it allows us to plant the “sustainability awareness” seed early.

My most meaningful Earth Day moments were organizing campaigns that engaged millions of people in taking action around Earth Day. One of my favorite moments was when we were able to reunite Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr for the first time since the Beatles broke up for an Earth Day concert. This created millions of impressions and quantified actions globally around Earth Day.

RM | Why focus on Minneapolis/Minnesota?

I moved here in 1990 for one year, and I’m still here because it is an amazing place to live. It’s very supportive of innovation, sustainability, the arts, and entrepreneurship.

And so, I’ve found that Minneapolis is the perfect location to launch a concept like reuse and r.Cup and r.Ware. As a matter of fact, our first r.Cup event was U2 at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sept. 8, 2017.

Our compost facilities are getting overrun with bioplastics. Our landfills are filling up. Waste going to the incinerator releases toxins into the community. If we can take millions of single-use items out of the waste stream, the health of our residents and the environment all benefit.

RN | What’s your vision for Minnesota?

I would like to see Minnesota be the state that leads the country in reuse with less of a reliance on compostable plastic and other single-use items. Reuse Minnesota has and will play an absolutely critical role in the state’s growth of reuse. I believe, working together, Minnesota will once again lead and inspire other states to do the right thing.


Reuse Minnesota was founded in 2012 and is a member-based nonprofit that supports repair, resale, and rental businesses, bringing visibility to the reuse sector as a means to lower our state's impact on the environment.

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