ZERO WASTE LIVING | How to Encourage Your Local Cafe to Go Green

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We all want to do our bit for the environment, and together our small changes become monumental ones. But it can often feel overwhelming. When I first started my journey towards reducing my waste and living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle, I was daunted by all the things that I needed to change about my everyday routine. I am still very much on my journey, I am not at the end, but I have learned a few things along the way that I thought might help others, and have decided to share them here on my blog.

I have never been a coffee drinker but consuming an average of four cups of tea a day is almost a rite of passage for an English person so grabbing a tea on my way to work or from the staff room to take back to my desk was part of my daily routine. Australians, and particularly you Melbourne folk, are obsessed with coffee but for some reason very few seem to think about the environment when making their morning coffee run.

Australians send over 50,000 disposable coffee cups to landfill every 30 minutes. That is enough to fill a tram. Yep, let that sink in for a moment. A tram’s worth of coffee cups every half an hour.

It is disgraceful and so unnecessary.

But instead of getting angry about it, here are a few things that you can do about it.

1. Bring your own coffee cup.

With so many amazing reusable coffee cup brands out there, there really isn’t an excuse for not bringing one to get your morning coffee in when you go to your local cafe. You know you are going to get a cuppa, so get into the habit of taking your own coffee cup with you. Leave it by the door so you remember it in your rush to get out of the house in the morning; put a post it note on the inside of your front door so that you remind yourself before you leave the house; set a reminder on your phone for 5 minutes before you know you are going to leave each day. Whatever works for you!

2. Contact your local cafes to encourage change.

There is only so much one person can do. By contacting your local cafes or having a chat with them when you pop in, you can impact more people that just yourself.

I have found that a lot of people are nervous to do this because they don’t know what to say so I have popped the email that I have used to contact a couple of my regulars with below:

Hi team!

Hope you are having a beautiful day! I just wanted to reach out with a suggestion.

I've been a customer of yours for some time now. I personally, like many Australians, am trying to reduce my waste that ends up in landfill and am trying to choose plastic free options that are better for the planet. Even plastic that can be recycled often isn't and what is recycled eventually enters landfill anyway - so I'm trying to choose plastic free.

Australians send over 50,000 disposable coffee cups to landfill every 30 minutes, and with so many great alternative options out there, we really should be able to reduce this significantly. Unfortunately, humans are flawed - we forget our keep cups, we think we don’t have the time to sit in to sip our morning cuppa, sometimes we simply have other things on our minds. But businesses like yours can help change these attitudes by encouraging positive action from your customers.

Some ways that you could do this are:

  • A discount for customers who bring a reusable cup for their takeaway coffee or a loyalty card for BYO cup customers

  • A reward system for those who sit in and drink their cuppa

  • Switching to compostable coffee cups and having a drop off station for these in the cafe which customers can return them to if they don’t have a home composting system of their own

  • Offer a range of reusable coffee cups to purchase in the cafe and get staff to encourage the purchase of these (maybe the customer could get the coffee for free if they purchase the reusable cup from you)

  • Run competitions and giveaways with an environmental focus

  • Keep a visible tally of the number of people who have brought in their reusable cup that week to show how many disposable coffee cups you have saved from landfill

I have also found a fantastic site (https://responsiblecafes.org/resources-downloads/) that breaks down how cafes can be more responsible, including a short guide to becoming a responsible cafe through reducing coffee cups, waste and giving back to the community.

I would like to still be able to support your business and continue to enjoy my morning tea with you all but I would love to make sure that my money is a vote for environmentally conscious businesses too. I'd love to see some changes happen and would be very happy to chat about some ideas with you if you would like.

Please let me know your thoughts.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Feel free to copy, paste and edit this template to send off to your local cafes to encourage them to consider their waste and how they can make eco-friendly decisions as a business going forward.