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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Saving the world one cup at a time

Barton coffee shop Café Brindabella has raised over $300,000 for environmental projects through their takeaway coffee cup levy.  

The café, owned and run by Skye Palmer and partner Keith Ashurst, introduced a 20 cent takeaway coffee cup levy in 2004 to encourage their customers to bring their own mugs and reduce the amount of disposal cups going to landfill.

“We’ve always been mindful of the environment, and we thought ‘how do we encourage more of it?’” Skye says.

“All the customers were totally on board … Every single customer went ‘that is a brilliant idea’.”

Seeing the success of the initiative, Skye and Keith looked into how the 20 cent levy could be put towards something else. They decided to contribute their levy funds to Greening Australia, Australia’s largest environmental not-for-profit organisation, after seeing the devastation after the 2003 Canberra bushfires, and the restorative work Greening Australia was doing in the area.

“It was good to see what the projects [we were contributing to] were doing,” Skye says.

Graham Fifield, business unit leader, Great Southern Landscapes at Greening Australia, says the funding they’ve received over the years from Café Brindabella has been great, allowing the organisation some freedom to do projects that would not have been possible otherwise.

“Our aim is to create landscapes where people and nature can thrive,” he says.

“We are a very pragmatic organisation with innovative solutions.”

The Café Brindabella funds have so far allowed Greening Australia to plant over 20,000 plants, sow 73km of tree lines and protect 100ha of woodlands and 1.5km of rivers and gullies.

“This [the funding] is really quite unique,” Graham says. “We do have that freedom to invest in key species or areas.”

Skye says that awareness of environmental issues is more heightened now than it was in 2004, with only 30% of coffee sales at Café Brindabella now sold in takeaway cups.

“It certainly does show the changing attitudes of people,” she says. “It’s just about trying to reinforce positive habits.”

The café encourages people to bring their own mugs or a keep cup, and has a ‘mug orphanage’ for those who have forgotten a reusable mug. Skye says she would love to see other cafés get on board with similar initiatives.

“It [the levy] doesn’t have to be a lot; it just accumulates over time.”

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Ian Cubitts
Ian Cubitts