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10 Ways to Reduce the Cost and Environmental Impact of Takeaway Coffee

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The climate crisis can feel like an insurmountable challenge, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to tackle the issue. There are plenty of small changes we can all make to start turning the tide of environmental catastrophe. Here we provide ways to not only reduce your carbon footprint, but valuable tools to help reduce costs to your hospitality business.

Takeaway coffee is something we all enjoy, but it’s easy to ignore the fact that our cups, lids and straws often end up polluting waterways or sitting in landfills. There are ways for cafe owners to start reducing this negative environmental impact, though. Let’s take a look at some simple steps that you can take to start making takeaway coffee less damaging.

Incentivise Using Reusable Cups

Whether your cafe is using recyclable or non-recyclable plastic-lined paper cups for takeaway orders, the sad fact remains that way too many of these convenience products end up in a landfill every day. So what can be done? After all, a cafe that doesn’t offer takeaway coffee isn’t going to last very long.

One way to start making a difference is to reward customers for bringing their own reusable cups. Rewards can take the form of a small discount or you can integrate a loyalty rewards app into your POS system

It’s also a good idea to sell your own branded reusable cups – regulars will love being able to represent their favourite cafe and they’ll quickly get into the habit of bringing in their own cup every morning.

Make Lids, Sleeves and Straws Optional

While customers love the convenience that takeaway provides, there’s nothing worse than an unused lid or straw going straight into a rubbish bin. Encourage your baristas to start asking customers whether they even need a lid or straw. You might be surprised by how many people actually decline.

Coffee cup sleeves are another convenience that many cafes have become used to giving away automatically, and you can be sure that they’re taking up more and more space in landfills each year. Again, by making sleeves optional, you (and your customers) might realise that they’re not really necessary in most cases.

An added benefit here, of course, is the opportunity to greatly reduce overhead costs. By simply tweaking the procedures of a transaction to make these accessories optional, you cut costs. At the end of the month, this could be the difference in turning a profit and taking a loss.

Switch to Non-Disposable Stirrers

There are simple, effective steps you can take to help make your cafe more environmentally friendly. Getting rid of plastic coffee stirrers should be near the top of your list! Just think of the 14 million tons of plastic that ends up in the ocean every year; anything you can do to protect marine life from all that pollution is a positive step. Instead, offer metal spoons along with a convenient place to put them once they’ve been used.

Don’t Offer Plastic Cutlery

A simple cafe setup encompassing coffee drinks and baked snacks shouldn’t need the addition of plastic forks and knives. Still, many cafe owners feel like they should offer all the bells and whistles, just in case.

Consider getting rid of plastic single-use cutlery if you’re automatically adding it to every pastry bag – most customers are probably just throwing plastic forks and knives into the bin without using them. Your business will instantly become more sustainable and your overheads will decrease again here, too.

Switch to Compostable Takeaway Cups and Lids

These days, lots of companies advertise their products as ‘100 percent recyclable’, but the fact remains that only a small proportion of recyclable products ever gets properly reused. A more sustainable option is to offer compostable cups and lids.

There are plenty of companies that specialise in producing biodegradable cups for both hot and cold beverages, meaning you’ll only pay slightly more for an eco-friendly and sustainable product.

While there are added costs associated with such cups, they should be more than made up for as the word gets out about your environmentally friendly cafe. More customers equals more profits.

Provide Clearly Labeled Bins

You’ll know from experience that plenty of customers will order takeaway coffee then hang out in the cafe while they finish their flat white or cappuccino. That’s why it’s really important to have a well-organised and clearly labelled setup for rubbish, recycling and compost. After all, it doesn’t really make sense to offer compostable cups and recyclable lids if they’re just going to end up in a landfill.

Avoid Printing Paper Receipts

Cafe owners often overlook paper receipts when assessing the sustainability of their operation. However, eliminating receipts can make a big difference when trying to make your business more eco-friendly.

Unfortunately, the receipt paper is often BPA-coated, meaning it can’t be recycled and it can cause health problems after long-term exposure. The good news is that modern POS systems allow you to send the customer a digital receipt, which is usually more convenient, anyway.

Choose Milk Carefully

There are plenty of concerns surrounding the environmental impacts of milk production, but the carbon footprint of cow’s milk is massively reduced if the animals are pasture-raised. Although you’ll have to charge a little more for a cappuccino made with milk from grass-fed cows, you’ll be serving a sustainable product.

When choosing plant-based milk alternatives, consider avoiding almond milk altogether. Almonds are a particularly water-intensive crop, yet most of the world’s commercial almond production takes place in drought-stricken California. Not only that, the intensive production of almonds has created a monoculture that’s incredibly bad for local ecosystems.

Provide Bike Racks

As the owner of a successful cafe, you aren’t responsible for your customers’ life choices, but you can nudge them in a different direction. Depending on the location of your business, many of your regulars might make their daily coffee pilgrimage by jumping in the car and driving a few blocks. Consider installing bike racks outside your cafe – perhaps by doing so you might encourage one or two customers to start cycling to get coffee rather than driving. It’s a small gesture, but every little thing counts.

Plus, the bike parking doesn’t take up nearly as much space as car parking. Just run the numbers. A rack with ten bikes takes up about as much space as a single parking spot for a car. If you only have 20 spots for cars available, you can increase the amount of customer parking by 50% for each bike rack added, assuming the cars have one person each. That’s also assuming you don’t sacrifice a car parking space for the bike rack.

Use Sustainable Coffee

Although this doesn’t just apply to takeaway coffee orders, it’s still really important. Whether you roast your own beans or source them from a third party, you should make a point of learning everything you can about how the coffee was produced when starting your cafe business.

Ask questions about the environmental impacts of coffee production in the area in which it was grown, as well as whether chemicals and fertilisers were used. Although labels can sometimes be misleading, try to use coffee that’s been certified as Fairtrade and Bird Friendly. That way you’ll know that you’re offering a product that’s been grown according to high ethical and environmental standards.