Guest post, by Hunter DeRusha
It’s only one cup, said 1 billion people.
I still remember my very first made by Fressko. I’d been surfing all day, taking in the pristine beauty of the ocean and the sunny Australian landscape. I remember vividly thinking how we need to protect this amazing place. As I caught my last wave, I realised I wasn’t surfing the wave alone, there was a takeaway coffee cup bouncing along with me. As the wave broke it was washed away, and while I paddled to shore I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When we get takeaway and put our trash into the bin, there is a disconnect about what happens to it. It doesn’t just disappear. A single takeaway cup takes more than 30 years to degrade. That means that almost every takeaway coffee cup you’ve used is still somewhere on this Earth. It might be bobbing around in the ocean or sitting in landfill, but it’s there. I was hit with an instant paradox; how could I love the planet and its natural beauty and be doing it harm?
When I went for my post-surf caffeine hit, I saw the cafe were selling reusable coffee cups and I bought my first 12oz, Khaki Camino. That was four years ago and I’ve never looked back.
Statistics show that as a coffee-loving nation, Australians throw out 2.7 million single-use or disposable coffee cups every single day. This adds up to 1 billion coffee cups every year. Let that sink in! However, it isn’t just the consumers who are taking responsibility for their trash, café owners are now stepping up for the planet.
In my hometown of Bondi Beach, Australia, this week is proudly BYO Cup Week. An initiative by more than 40 local café owners who are making a stand and saying “F**k The Cup!”
BYO Cup week is the brainchild of Sondie Beram, owner of Bru Coffee in Bondi and advocate and food identity Sarah Wilson.
From December 1 – 10 in Bondi, participating café’s patrons will not be able to get a takeaway cup. There are plenty of options. You can use a reusable cup (like my trusty Camino), you can stay a few minutes and enjoy your brew at the café, or some cafes, like Bondi’s loved café and bookstore, Gertrude and Alice have a mug library to choose from. Gertrude and Alice began their mug library years ago as a way to help customers who forgot to bring their reusable cups. The local community donates old mugs from their home that they don’t need, or from op shops and you can take away one of these and bring it back another day.
Jane Turner, owner of Gertrude and Alice explains that their mug library “was something that we started with Responsible Cafes. When BYO Cup Week came around we put a shout-out to our customers and asked for mug donations and were inundated with mugs for our Library. Some customers are fantastic and use the Mug Library consistently and others have to be encouraged.”
The cafe is a proud advocate for BYO Cup Week and Jane tells us why it is so close to the heart of their café and the Bondi community.
“When I heard that Bondi cafes use 75,000 single-use takeaway cups and lids a week - how can you not be shocked by that!” 75,000 cups mean that Bondi cafes alone could fill Bondi Beach with cups in a matter of weeks. We live in the most amazing place on earth - how can we not care about one little thing that we can do to make a difference. It’s a no-brainer. We have retrained our supermarket habits to not use plastic bags - now we have to get in the habit and say NO to single-use coffee cups.”
When there are so many options for reusable cups, it seems hard to fathom that many people are still resistant to the change. We asked Jane about the feedback from customers, and sadly she tells us that it hasn’t all been positive, particularly their café policy that if customers are sitting down in the cafe, they can’t use a takeaway cup.
Jane says “In some cases, it has been downright nasty and we have had our share of abuse. As a team, we feel really strongly about this initiative and we think that we can make huge changes to reduce single-use plastics over time. If our customers didn't want to support us about something that we feel strongly about it would be really disappointing. We encourage people to take 5 minutes for themselves and enjoy their coffee with us and if they have to leave we will give them a cup. 9 times out of 10 they finish their cup at G&A and the takeaway cup doesn’t get used.”
To minimise pushback Jane and her team have been encouraging all the regulars to get back into the reusable cup habit for several weeks in the lead-up, and have thoughtfully put extra staff on to help people manage their choices throughout BYO Cup Week.
Jane tells us “it takes a lot of time, energy and education to encourage people to make the change. Often when they do, they never use a takeaway cup again” and at Fressko we understand that journey and are proud to be part of the movement, to make the transition to Reusable Cups as seamless as possible.
As I write these words, that very same Camino Cup is on my desk and I’m sipping my morning coffee from it now. It takes just one little change, one person or one week to make a shift in habits, and that tiny change can have a ripple effect for many years and generations to come. With 2 coffees a day over four years, this humble cup has saved almost 3000 takeaway cups from landfill or the ocean or wherever they might have ended up.
I have gifted my friends and family Fressko goodies over the years and I now also use an insulated water bottle for my takeaway smoothies that keeps them ice cold and fresh. These small changes make a big difference, we just need to take that first step.