Coffee with a conscience: Making your cafe more environmentally friendly

Do you already run your own coffee shop, or are planning to open one soon? With the industry being so heavily-focused on how it can tackle consumer waste and carbon emissions, it’s likely that the impact of your own shop has been a consideration in your plans for the future.

Well, there’s no better time to start that right now, so here are six ways in which you can make sure your cafe is contributing in a positive way to the world around us.

Reusable cups

Recently, a lot of attention has been given to single-use coffee cups, which are difficult (and expensive) to recycle, resulting in an overwhelming number ending up in landfill. Instead of offering cups that are made from the conventional plastic/paper composite, aim for your cafe to provide drinks in completely biodegradable vessels.

In addition, you can incentivise your customers to bring their own reusable cup by offering a significant discount on their drinks, or by charging them a penalty for forgetting to bring their own cup (a move which proved to be much more effective when tested on this university campus).

Make sure you have a supply of eco-friendly, ethically-produced reusable cups available for cup-less customers to purchase.

Other plastic implements

Plastic cups aren’t the only problem – other single-use plastics like straws, cutlery, stirrers and bags are all adding to the high levels of pollution in our seas. You don’t have to stop offering these items altogether, just try and switch them for paper, wood or even pasta alternatives.


If you order your coffee beans in bulk then there’s a good chance that you have a serious stock of old jute coffee sacks. There are countless ways to craft these into profit-spinning merchandise, or, if you don’t have the time or inclination to transform them yourself, you could sell or donate them in bulk to your crafty customers.

Where you have beans for sale, think about the packaging you use to market them. Conventional coffee bags are made from foil and plastic, which is a composite material that can’t be recycled. To reduce your waste, switch to paper bags or talk to a supplier that offers environmentally-friendly alternatives such as The True Bio Bag.

Make sure you’re choosing the greenest option for your everyday supplies, too. Look for unbleached napkins and coffee filters, which will biodegrade without leaching chemicals into the soil. If you’re the type of establishment that uses coffee pods for some of its beverages, you can even get plastic-free versions of those, too.


In a similar vein, think about what you do with your coffee grounds when you’re done with them. There are heaps of uses for them in gardening, chemical-free cleaning, hobbies and beauty products. Even if you don’t feel like producing your own compost or body-scrubs, you could offer spent grounds freely to your customers who might want to try it for themselves.

Lowering your energy bills

It’s not just physical waste that’s a problem. Something as small as switching your light bulbs to energy-saving LED equivalents can reduce your energy consumption (and your electric bill) drastically.

Mending leaky taps, dusting fridge coils and turning appliances off at the wall every evening are other ways in which your energy use will improve. When you can afford to upgrade fridges and ovens to more energy-efficient models, do.

Social enterprising

If you’re really looking to make a difference, it’s time to look beyond the cup. Social enterprise cafes are popping up across the country to support all kinds of people that are often excluded from the mainstream, such as ex-offenders, homeless people and those who are recovering from addiction.

These judgement-free environments offer employment and training opportunities for people that are struggling to get back into a job and host coffee-and-cake events for disadvantaged communities. By serving excellent food and drinks (that people would be happy to purchase without the charitable element), social enterprise cafes promote the issues of diversity and opportunity right on the high street.

By Dakota Murphey

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