We’ve all been a-buzz these past few weeks with the revelations of the ABC’s War on Waste. Who knew we were such unconscious consumers that we waste thousands of dollars’ worth of food each year or won’t eat a banana that’s not a standard shape? A few of us even saw the tram running through the CBD horrifyingly filled with 50,000 disposable coffee cups – the show stated that we go through roughly a billion cups a year and host Craig Reucassel and zero waste activist Joost Bakker talked us through the behavioural and business barriers to reducing our use.
As War on Waste demonstrated, disposable coffee cups are a real problem, both in their abundance and in the way we dispose of them, often mistakenly in the recycling bin. The best solution is not to use disposable cups at all. But since coffee is a way of life in Melbourne, we can strive to get into more helpful habits. At one of my workplaces, we introduced a fleet of KeepCups for staff use, inspired by a scheme at Sustainability Victoria and we highly encourage our readers to pick up the baton and do the same. While the ready stock of reusable cups significantly reduces office waste, we know that the other levers of leadership and incentives could make the scheme even more successful. When it comes to leveraging change through incentives, the initiative Responsible Cafes has Australia covered.
Responsible Cafes run an innovative website and social media platform where cafes that are incorporating sustainable business practices are recognised and promoted. Businesses offering an incentive to patrons to bring reusable cups when they visit can register on their website and feature on their searchable national map of ‘responsible cafes’.
Businesses are a powerful force for influencing sustainable behaviour in patrons, suppliers and in their neighbours. Famously, Joost Bakker ran two no-waste ventures in Melbourne, Silo and Brothl, and has wonderful anecdotes of how his sustainable practices changed behaviour all along their supply chain. This month is Plastic Free July and it is a ready-made opportunity for cafes, restaurants and us to make small and significant changes to minimise our impact on the environment. Initiative The Last Straw is challenging businesses to ditch the plastic straw year round but you'll find them campaigning particularly hard in July.
The Last Straw aims to facilitate a change of culture in the way we use and think about plastic straws in Australia. They see engaging hospitality venues as one of the biggest opportunities to start to make this change by re-training the industry to think about plastic straws and their environmental impact and not just a convenience. They are also tapping into changing customer habits regarding plastic straw use and the growing trend towards more sustainable and environmentally choices with a mind to preserving our unique Australian environment when it comes to consumption.
The Last Straw ask venues to adopt a policy of only giving a straw out on request, greatly reducing the number of straws being used, and then consider switching to a re-usable alternative. As customers, we can make a conscious effort to request not to have one in our drinks. So far, The Last Straw have had over 90 venues across the country sign up to take part over Plastic-Free July. We were so excited when one of our favourite South Yarra bars, Shadowboxer, signed up for the challenge! It is heartening to see so many businesses getting behind this movement and we hope they continue their no-straws policy in an ongoing way.
In a world where customers are looking for easier ways to filter down to businesses that match their needs and values, these movements and the tracking of committed businesses are invaluable, with both sites offering maps of registered venues. To contribute to our part in this, Melburnian Guide is collaborating with Responsible Cafes and The Last Straw to let you know which venues we've reviewed that have signed up to their sustainability pledges. We will indicate participating cafes by badging the review with the Responsible Cafes and The Last Straw logos, like for our recent review of The Grey Smith.
Melburnian Guide are just as passionate about community as we are about coffee so this month we are launching a 'Businesses We Love' page which will feature eateries and businesses we encounter that use environmentally sustainable practices or show community leadership. Check our website regularly to expand your go-to list.
We would be happy to give you some tips on setting up a reusable coffee cup scheme at your work, contact us with any questions.
Responsible Cafes volunteers also operate the Compost Revolution which will help you find out about the types of composting available in your area and any local council incentives. House, apartment or business you can get involved!