Alison Rogers Cove ’12

  • Founder of USEFULL
Alison Rogers Cove ’12

Alison Rogers Cove will never forget the moment when, on her first offshore sailing trip, she saw a bunch of plastic balloons bobbing off the boat’s bow. Her mother always had a habit of picking up trash as she walked — something the then-middle-school-aged Cove found embarrassing. Now? She understands her mother’s obsession. Every decision onshore affects the environment offshore.

Cove’s passion for protecting the environment guided her journey to Mount Holyoke, where she majored in geography, politics, coastal and marine science and spent time working at Duke University’s prestigious Marine Lab. After graduation, Cove attended Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business Bridge Program, an immersive program meant to catapult young business leaders into top entrepreneurial roles. She also was selected to be one of the EPA’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellows, serving in the agency’s Oceans and Coastal Protection Division.

Since graduation, Cove has worked to use entrepreneurialism to solve some of the planet’s most pressing environmental issues. After launching the reusable water bottle company Bottling Hope and the crowdsourcing solar platform Crowd Solar, she turned to solving a problem of waste in her own life. Her busy schedule required quite a few of her meals to be eaten on the go. Though she didn’t own a car and tried to live sustainably, these to-go containers were thwarting her goal to live a low-footprint life.

In 2018, Cove founded USEFULL, a company focused on reducing waste produced by to-go cups and containers. USEFULL uses the circular economy — meaning goods are repeatedly reused. The key to USEFULL’s successful implementation is the brand’s tracking software, which allows an eatery’s to-go containers to function like items in a library. The containers are free to borrow, but there are late fees if customers fail to bring them back. Through the software, USEFULL’s partners can track inventory and send due-date reminders, which help reduce loss rates.

If you’ve eaten a meal on campus in the past two years, you’ve likely seen the shiny, double-walled, stainless-steel containers in Mount Holyoke’s dining facilities. In 2021, USEFULL and Mount Holyoke announced a partnership to bring USEFULL to campus as part of the school’s commitment to ditch single-use plastics. That same year, USEFULL was part of a $3 million funding initiative by the EPA aimed at helping accelerate environmental technologies.

Class year: 2012
Major: geography major, politics minor