Coffee for Climate

Coffeefor climate2.jpg

When you grab that morning takeaway coffee, you are one of millions of Australians across the country that drink up 2,700,000 cups each day. That’s a whopping 1 billion cups of takeaway coffee Australians purchase each year! So many, in fact, that if all those cups were stacked end-to-end, they would stretch 120,000 km, or almost 10 times around the world.

Imagine just for a second how much energy it takes to produce, distribute and dispose of all those cups and the huge impact it’s having on our environment and on climate change. Globally, it’s estimated around 206 million trees are cut down each year to make the 500 billion paper coffee cups. With the carbon footprint of 10 cups being around one kilogram of CO2 emissions, that’s 50 million tonnes of emissions globally, or 100,000 tonnes of emissions for Australia alone.

This means your humble cup of morning coffee to kick-start your day isn’t quite as innocent as you might have thought. What’s more, although disposable cups are often made from recyclable materials—paper and a thin plastic lining—there are big challenges for recycling systems in separating these mixed materials which means most councils simply can’t accept disposable coffee cups so they end up in landfill – that’s 60,000 kg of disposable coffee cups in Australia’s landfill each year. And it’s not just the paper cups that are going to landfill - even 'compostable cups' are rarely composted, because Australia's existing composting facilities can’t yet process them effectively.

When faced with these facts, Lowanna, founder of community-led initiative Coffee for Climate, figured she needed to do something.  For Lowanna, ‘Climate-induced extreme weather events close to home is what ultimately sparked Coffee for Climate,’ she said. ‘Witnessing the devastating flooding in the Northern Rivers left me with the urgent question; what's a tangible way that we as a village can contribute to climate action?’ That’s when she came up with her dream of Bellingen being the first in the world to phase out single-use coffee cups.’ Her 11-year-old daughter, Sky immediately got the ball rolling when she came up with a prototype for the Coffee for Climate logo.

Since then, Lowanna’s been yarning with café owners around our Shire to work together to create a system that supports customers in their transition away from disposables. Bellingen Gelato Bar became the meeting hub for the Coffee for Climate campaign, with Danny’s background in graphic design bringing his own flare to Sky’s prototype, making it the logo you now see in the windows of participating cafés. Boaz from Thora General Store has been inspired by the process, ‘Getting together with other café owners around our Shire has been an empowering process,’ he said.

Village Pottery in Valla Beach are regularly supplying small batches of ceramic travel mugs at a discounted price. You can now purchase these beautiful locally made cups when ordering your next takeaway coffee at any of the participating cafés. But if you weren’t wanting to purchase a cup just yet, the Coffee for Climate team has organised mug libraries so you can borrow one instead – but don’t forget to bring it back and keep it circulating! Or why not bring your own reusable cup each time you venture out for that must have coffee?

‘Regular customers are really catching on and are now choosing the ‘reuse’ option,’ said Ed at Black Bear Café. The best tip from Boaz at Thora General Store is to go for a drink-in coffee, and he has the perfect veranda for it, ‘Why not pull up a chair and watch the world go by?’

For all the early bird tradies out there who are on the move – barista, Kye, from the Swiss Patisserie and Bakery, reckons BYO cups are a great way to go. ‘The majority of customers are using our mug library now,’ he said. Lynne at Bello Burgers agrees, ‘Reusables have been a big hit amongst my early morning regulars.’

Solutions are a bit trickier for visitors just blowing through our beautiful Shire – a good option is for them to bring their own travel cup or buy a new one with their takeaway coffee. But if neither of these options works, and visitors decide to purchase a disposable cup, Planet Ark advises saying no to the plastic lid. Lids make up an additional 3,300 tonnes of waste to landfill across Australia each year and while lids can be recycled, most end up in landfill along with the disposable cups, so avoiding using a lid in the first place will make a big difference. Just remember, if you do grab a lid, don’t forget to separate the cup and lid to avoid contaminating recyclable waste.

Each of the participating Coffee for Climate cafés have been amazed by the enthusiastic support of our community for phasing out single-use coffee cups. They can see first-hand the big difference this small change can make. ‘It’s great to see when customers get that ‘Ah-ha’ experience and start bringing their own reusable cups,’ Daisy at the Gelato Bar said. Finn at No. 5 Church Street has an eye on the future - he believes young people are passionate about making the switch to reusables, ‘Our baristas are really helping to get this positive messaging out there and students from Bellingen High have made a great video about the Coffee for Climate initiative. Young people are right behind this shift in coffee culture,’ he said.

Sam, one of the baristas at Hearthfire Bakery, is ecstatic about the huge difference Coffee for Climate is making towards phasing out single-use coffee cups, ‘I only made 5 coffees in disposable cups today, compared with the 100 it used to be.’

Liberty Providores has already taken the plunge — they made the bold move of phasing out single-use takeaway coffee cups altogether back in September. Emily says locals are responding with gusto and she’s wishing she’d done it sooner. ‘The response from locals has been overwhelming, everyone’s on board!’ she said.

There are so many ways we can all kick the single-use disposable coffee cup habit and the Coffee for Climate movement is leading the way on helping us all reduce our impact on the environment by providing easy ways to achieve daily action on climate change. Next time you’re heading out for that morning or afternoon coffee, don’t forget to bring your own reusable mug or borrow one from the mug library!

Bellingen Shire Council is running a series of ‘Sustainability Snapshots’ over the months ahead, featuring the great achievements of our Shire’s sustainability and climate action leaders. If you’d like to be part of the series, why not get in touch with the Bellingen Shire Council’s Sustainability Officer on (02) 6655 7300.

Coffeefor climate.jpg