Reusable Addiction

I’ve become a part time eco warrior. My mission… Help rid the world of disposable coffee cups.

I have a dream where cafes will one day never serve coffee in any form of disposable cup.  I don’t care if it says you can add it to your compost or if it’s made from recycled product.

What are our takeaway alternatives? There are many kinds of reusable coffee cups to choose from. Labeled Keep Cups, or artistically crafted coffee cups made from beautiful and lovingly molded clay.  Alongside these options there are simpler counterparts that you can pick up from almost any store or petrol station. 

I see people using household mugs and mason jars as alternatives or actually taking time in your day to stop and have your coffee inside the café if you forget to bring your own reusable cup.  

I am a little addicted to reusable cups. I’m the first to admit it. I want to buy them all, gift them to friends and share the reusable love!  Drinking coffee, that first sip, which is ever so important, seems to escalate in enjoyment when drunk out of a cup you love!

During level four we had to forgo our daily café coffee fix.  Since returning to level three I have become judgmental and stubborn in choosing the cafes I support.

I have three favourite cafes.  Why? Firstly, good coffee and secondly great staff that seems genuinely interested in all of their customers.  But thirdly and most importantly for me, accepting of reusable coffee cups.   

I’ve only been drinking coffee for a year.  I started my coffee journey in a time where reusables are common and normal. I won’t lie and say I have never used a disposable cup, that is almost impossible, but I make a huge effort to always have a reusable cup on me to avoid buying coffee in a throwaway useless cup.

I understand cafes are torn. They don’t want to lose business in a café culture that we have glorified as our right to drink coffee no matter the cost.   Let’s start glorifying reusable cups instead of the disposable ones in our photographs and social media. 

I don’t want to lose our earth under the weight of a throwaway takeaway coffee cup culture. Not now and not in the future, even if I won’t be there to see it.

Customers need options but they also need education. Someone to show them the ropes or at least own a funky coffee cup they can fall in love with time again. Perhaps phase out disposable cups slowly, introducing the importance of reusables. Some cafes provide incentive for reusable cups giving a discount on coffee. While I don’t personally think this is necessary it is incentive enough for some to make the switch.

Some people protest that it’s hard to use a reusable. Wrong. It’s easy to clean and rinse your coffee cup as soon as you can after consuming it, that way it’s ready to be used again later in the day.

Like anything, good habits need to be encouraged and take time to evolve. Leave a clean reusable cup next to your keys or handbag each evening so it becomes practice to take one with you the next morning.

The following statistics shared on UYO.nz (Use Your Own) Instagram blew me away. New Zealanders on average use 810,440 disposable throwaway cups PER DAY! This is roughly 5,670,000 single use coffee cups used EACH WEEK in New Zealand. During the five weeks of level four lockdown, 28,365,384.60 disposable cups were NOT used while cafes were closed. That’s 28 million cups, from just five weeks, that would have otherwise been used and discarded almost instantly.  This is why my passion is fired up.

We simply do not need to use them.

Unplain Jane

When level three arrived, I felt torn. I felt happy that I could now go and purchase a coffee but stubborn in my belief that unless a cafe was prepared to accept a reusable coffee cup (albeit using strict and safe guidelines) then I was not going to buy disposable cups of coffee ever again!

Dramatic I know. But after seeing the numbers of daily and weekly waste from disposable cups alone, I know that I and New Zealand has a very long way to go.

I interviewed Laura Cope (otherwise known as Kitty) from UYO.nz who has been fighting this mission for a lot longer than I have. She gave incredible insight to what makes UYO.nz keep going and its promise to help share the reusable cup (and takeaway packaging) message to everyone who comes across them.

Laura created the UYO café guide in 2017. She began the guide as UYOC (Use Your Own Cup) and has since changed the name to UYO (Use Your Own). 

Laura says, “Use Your Own [stands for] container, conscience, community, cutlery, democracy. The reason why I focused on cups in the beginning was because they offer a gateway into these other areas. Once we see that behaviour change is possible, effective and accessible, we feel empowered to repeat the actions.”

Laura Cope, UYO

Laura is the brains behind the campaigns social media success.

“I run giveaways on our social [media], working with our Instagram followers and responsible influencers to bring some carrot, as well as stick, to the movement. I interact with community projects to provide or create funding that can develop reuse schemes. I talk. A lot.”

“UYO also exists to connect others and work with others to enable solutions to single use waste issues within communities, public institutions, anywhere that there are proactive humans who could do with a little help to kick start change. A great deal of my time is spent thinking of ways to collaborate with existing movements, or responding to all and any requests to collaborate, celebrate, support.”

I have been inspired by UYO. Laura’s passion for change for our country is inspirational and motivating for many every day New Zealanders. If we see others make small changes, it inspires us to feel supported to do the same. If we are socially influenced into making positive changes for our environment, then this is the kick start everyone needs to get behind! 

Since lockdown, Laura says “Over the last two years, the movement to reuse has become mainstream. Cafes are seeing the economic benefit of reducing their investment in single use packaging. They are witnessing the public’s shift in perception around single use branded cups – that having them in a bin, rolling about the street, even on social media, is no longer the status symbol and brand promotion tool that was the case in the early 2000’s. And something to remember, café owners and operators are human; they are parents, partners and are aware of the immediate waste and larger climate change impacts of single use. As a majority, they do not want to create litter.”

Even in Level three Laura understands the huge stress and sacrifices that cafes are facing.  “The stresses on cafes and eateries to keep their staff happy, paid and feeling secure are massive. Working out how to operate contactless, two metre coffee pours has been yet another of many, many issues facing the industry. It took a little time for them to get used to managing the Covid guidelines in order to open their doors at all. But, very rapidly, cafes created, under their existing food plans and within level three guides, adapted methods to welcome personal reusables. The moment that Government made public their support of personal reusables, the amount of cafes that notified their customers, especially via social media, that ‘keep cups’ were back exploded.”

My own admiration of UYO is how often they give away reusables to help people change. Without public shaming or online bullying which of course is unacceptable, Laura loves to gift reusables to individuals or cafes that might otherwise need a little encouragement to make the switch.   She reaches out to cafe users through social media to offer them resuables instead, “no strings attached” and prioritises her spare family income to do so.

When I mentioned my reusable addiction, Laura was quick to remind me that it doesn’t matter what we use for our reusable options, more so that we are using something other than disposable cups.  For Laura, her favourite reusable cups are simply a “peanut butter jar wrapped with hemp twine, and another surrounded in rubber bands. These are my go-to reusables.”

So while Laura understands my love of a ‘pretty cup’ to inspire me to make change, she maintains it is not necessary to spend a lot.

Her advice? “If I were to buy a new reusable cup, however, I would choose one that works for me. That is durable, made to last. Something that I will love and value because it can perform well and makes me happy. Buying local, from New Zealand artisans would also be way up there. We have many of them on the UYO website. Supporting local artists is one of the extras that the UYO guide evolved towards.”

There are many cafes throughout New Zealand that have made the positive change to not use any disposable coffee cups or packaging at all. UYO has a handy guide on their website that helps you to locate these cafes.  You can search and find positive change in many corners of our country. 

“Each of these cafes is creating the new normal. They save thousands each year on their outgoing costs, reduce by thousands of cups the burden on our local waste systems and demonstrate that truly sustainable methods of getting a brew on the run are absolutely no extra work at all, either side of the counter.” Laura concludes.

UYO makes it all sound so simple. And you know what? It actually is. Make small changes become good habits. Inspire others to do the same.

Unplain Jane

Moving into Level two and beyond, Laura notes it is important that “how we act, how we do and don’t spend our dollars, the movements we support, the lifestyle and consumer choices we make, the way we use our voices, will be, and always has been, the key to societal change.” 

“Remembering that for us in Aotearoa we have the luxury of access to a democratic system is vital. We need to set aside a little time each week to learning how we can have our say and remind ourselves the Government work for us. Nothing will change if we don’t drive it.”

For more information about UYO check them out on Instagram @uyo.nz or online at www.uyo.co.nz. You can also check out a joint project and sign a petition for the @takeawaythrowaways campaign.

If you value your daily coffee that much, surely you can value our planet as well. These small movements must mean something.

This passion for finding alternative ways to get our daily coffee fix is a real challenge for disposable cup warriors and I am proud to have joined this movement. We need to take away the option of disposable coffee cups.

I feel empowered that with knowledgeable and passionate proactive movements like UYO and #takeawaythrowaways leading the drive, that I can continue to make change and encourage others in my life to do the same.

After all we have nothing to lose. 

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