An Overview Of Our Solution
Responsible Cafes is an Australian based community organisation that connects a network of 5000 cafes with millions of conscious consumers, local governments, social enterprises and brands striving to reduce waste and carbon emissions. Established as non profit community group in 2013 by a group of volunteers who ran beach clean ups to address an increase in hospitality waste. Further action saw the creation of a website (www.responsiblecafes.org) that targeted the hospitality and cafe community to change their waste habits and divert waste at the source. The program has proven to drive long-term behavior change within cafes and the community and to date has diverted millions of single-use plastic items from landfill and from littering our oceans and waterways.
- Population Impacted 19,000,000
- Continent: Oceania
- Nearly 19 Million Australians drink coffee and of those, 28% have 3 or more cups of coffee daily resulting in a huge amount of single-use coffee cup waste
- It is estimated that over 1 billion disposable takeaway cups & lids are used in Australia every year, almost none of which are recycled
- According to Clean Up Australia volunteers, 10% of rubbish they identify as paper is coffee cups
- Reusable containers have been deemed 'unsafe' due to Covid-19 even though there is no evidence to support this, meaning there has been a rise in single-use plastic waste
- Takeaway culture is more popular than ever with busy lifestyles and more available online food delivery services
- A great majority of single use plastic takeaway waste ends up landfilled or littered & can take thousands of years to break down in the environment
- Evidence suggests that a reusable cup is a gateway to other environmental actions and can lead to further behaviour change with other single-use items
Describe the technical solution you wanted the target audience to adopt
- Incentivize people to use their own cup by offering them a discount for using their own cup at cafes.
- Create the world’s first cafe rating system that rates cafes based on their environmental actions, celebrating cafes that are reducing their impact and giving cafes a reason to improve. Provide resources and training to facilitate their goals.
- Place rated cafes on a digital map so conscious consumers can find cafes that align with their values.
- Educate cafes on how to reduce their dependency on single-use plastic products (discounts, loyalty schemes, cup libraries, swap systems).
- Educate consumers on how to reduce single-use habits and feel confident in using reusables.
- The coffee industry is worth $8 billion and has the opportunity to create collective impact through purchasing decisions and supply chain. We connect cafes with businesses and organisations who care providing them with solutions, brokering discounts and offers on ‘responsible’ product suppliers.
Describe your behavioral intervention.
- The initial behavior change intervention was to ask cafes to offer customers who use their own cup a discount and featuring them on our digital map.
- In our first few years of operation 400 cafes registered driving community awareness via social media and branded posters.
- In 2017, the initiative was featured on a successful ABC TV show called War on Waste, which demonstrated to people that paper cups have a plastic lining and therefore cannot be recycled. 1000’s of concerned coffee drinkers and cafes contacted us asking how they could get involved. From that point an average of 9 cafes per week register with the program.
- Before Covid-19, 70% of the network offered a discount of 50c or more.
- Our social media reach to cafes and customers averages at 100,000 per month and the map receives an average of 80,000-100,000 searches per year. We communicate regularly to a collective database of 7000 cafes and consumers all fighting the war against waste.
- Cafes that signed up to the program saw a 117% increase of customers using reusable cups.
- An average cafe saves 1056 disposable cups/month from landfill. Across the entire network that equates to 65 million cups from landfill or littering each year.
- Since the map was launched, we estimate that 174 million cups have been saved from landfill or littering through the education of the initiative.
- The program is free for cafes and therefore no barrier to enter.
Behavioral Levers Utilized
As needed, please explain how you utilized the lever(s) in more detail.
EMOTIONAL APPEALS: Our tone of voice is positive and doesn’t shame people into making decisions. We provide pictorial evidence of the destruction that single-use plastic items are having within our environment and on our wildlife so people understand the consequences of their behavior.
SOCIAL INFLUENCES: We've created a popular movement that normalizes/popularizes reusable cups, so people with disposable cups feel marginalized and social pressures to use reusable cups.
CHOICE ARCHITECTURE: Our rating system gives consumers the choice of which café to choose based on its rating. The new system also gives cafés choice on which single-use cup saving action they can support.
INFORMATION: We provide information that helps cafes and consumers make the right choice. Our rating system also provides consumers with the info to choose which business they want to support based on their values.
MATERIAL INCENTIVES: Discount for using your own cup or charging for a disposable cup.
Describe your implementation
- Responsible Cafes environmental rating system allows cafés to offer more options to incite customer behavior change to use their own cup without taking a financial loss. Options include; a discount for using your own cup, charging for a disposable cup, a loyalty system, a cup library or a cup swap system. This ensures the café has more options to available to incentivize customers to reduce their single-use waste.
- Cafes login to their own café dashboard and tick off other responsible actions e.g composting, banned plastic straws and bags etc, download free posters/guides and get discounts from brand partners.
- Other categories cafes can be rated on include their supply chain, other single-use plastic items, their menu options and community actions. Each action is awarded a weighted point and the café is given a rating.
- We are faced with the challenge of engaging cafes on environmental issues at a time with they are commercially struggling. As a result we are producing a 5 event digital online summit called ‘Stronger Together’ aimed at uniting the network to increase collective impact.
- Key successes include free education available on the website, including a poster that demonstrates the discounted amount. More than 35,000 printable educational resources and posters have been downloaded. Guides include subjects around which natural milks and reusable are better for the environment. The website has many free downloads, poster and guides and tools available to coffee drinkers who want to learn more about the issue and have the confidence to approach cafes in their local area to join the network.
Describe the leadership for your solution. Who is leading the implementation?
Jo Horsley - General Manger
Jo has 15 years experience, managing large partnerships and marketing campaigns for social enterprises and global brands. She was one of the founding members and hired contractors to help build the program.
Jane is a relatively new member to the Responsible Cafes team but brings with her 20 years of experience in sustainability and training. She will be the main education lead with the upcoming summits.
Catherine Leach – Creative
Cath is the creative director and was one of the founding members of the team who built the initial website and brand. She brings with her years of strategic design thinking.
Laura Castelini – SM Manger
Laura is a social media intern fresh out of university. She brings with her a youthful perspective with her tone of voice and ability to adapt to new digital technologies fast.
Andy Marks – ABC War on Waste impact producer
Rachel Draper – Ops Manager
Nailia Alimova – Accounts
Share some of the key partners or stakeholders engaged in your solution development and implementation.
We believe in the power of collaboration and understand that this issue requires a team effort to overcome. We therefore have created partnerships with:
We have created strategic commercial partnership with over 50 local Australian councils covering over 10 million residents. As part of their partnership they gain access to co-branded marketing materials that they can use to promote the program in their local council areas. See full list here.
Not for Profits
We work closely with other NFPs in the space for example Keep Australia Beautiful, Plastic Free July and have an organization that we work closely and share the same values with in New Zealand UYO. See full list here.
Who adopted the desired behavior(s) and to what degree? Include an explanation of how you measured a change in behavior.
In a survey to the community 250 responded to the following behavior change questions such as:
A) Before offering an incentive, how many orders did you get per day in a reusable cup?
B) After offering an incentive, how many orders do you get per day in a reusable cup?
C) How many single-use takeaway cups do you use per day, per cafe?
D) Have you noticed a change in customer behaviour/expectations since joining Responsible Cafes?
The average answer to QA was 12 cups and the average answer to QB was 35, resulting in average rise of 21 cups/day saved from landfill or littering due to the program. In addition, 85% of cafes answered yes to them noticing a change in customer’s behavior and expectations. Total average number of disposable cups per/day is 104 cups.
We devised a survey for coffee drinkers through a pro bono research company to test the theory that people who use their own cup also drive further behavior change, however this project is on hold due to COVID.
How did you impact water pollution? Please be specific and include measurement methodology where relevant.
It is hard to specifically measure the changes in water pollution, as the primary goal of Responsible Cafes is to turn off resources at the source to avoid litter and landfill. According to research by packaging company Biopak 90% of disposable cups send up in landfill. The other 10% is either composted or littered. We know on average we are saving 35 cups per day from going to landfill or being littered. Based on the low assumption that 1% of those 35 cups could end up as litter/day that results in 127 cups littered per café per year. Multiply this by our 5000 registered cafes that results in 638,750 cups being saved from littering our streets or waterways.
How has your solution impacted equity challenges (including race, gender, ethnicity, social class/income, or others)?
One of the barriers to using a reusable cup is the cost of buying your own cup. We are aware that some members of society cannot afford a reusable cup. For this reason our program is a huge supporter of the following:
- Making your own cup using an old jam jar and rubber bands around the glass to protect your hands. We even have a make your own cup kit available to purchase for a low price on our website
- Cafes implementing their own cups libraries which means customers can borrow and old mug from the café and return it washed the next time they are there
What were some social and/or community co-benefits?
As part of the rating system we have introduced community measures that cafes can share including:
- A Talky Table - a table where people can make new friends!
- Pet friendly cafes
- Cafes with a library or host community events
- Cafes with free wi-fi
- Cafes that give away free coffee grounds to community gardens (we also have a poster promoting this behavior)
What were some environmental co-benefits?
Other benefits of reducing coffee cup waste include the carbon emissions to produce, deliver and dispose of the cup. A study suggests that a single cup production and transportation leads to an emission of about 0.11 kilograms of CO2. As we save 65 million cups from landfill per year, that equates to approximately 7,150,000 kgs of CO2 per year.The reduction in cardboard consumption and in turn trees being harvested.
What were some sustainable development co-benefits?
Responsible Cafes also rates cafes on their menu and supply choices. These include examples such as offering vegan menu options, composting food scraps and using renewable energy suppliers. These actions all contribute to reduce the carbon emissions of the cafes. Currently 5% of the program state to use renewable energy, 20% compost their food scraps.
Sustainability: Describe the economic sustainability of your solution.
The program is currently funded by local government as part of their waste education service to their community. Partner councils get access to a digital dashboard showing data from cafes within their local area – see example here. Councils can measure the success of the campaign and understand how to service these small business better. They also get access to a full toolkit of printed and downloadable co-branded assets that they can use in their marketing channels to promote the program. We have sourced commercial sponsorship for the upcoming Stronger Together online events. We have avoided making the program a paid service for cafes but it might be something that we consider in the future.
Return on investment: How much did it cost to implement these activities? How do your results above compare to this investment?
To keep running costs low and maximise ROI we are run by a mixture of professional consultants and volunteers and where possible pro-bono relationships are established.
However, the program still costs roughly $70,000-$100,000 per year to run. Per café that is $20 to run. This includes staff wages, new developments to the website and all marketing activities. With more funding more work can be done to engage the community and spread the message.
How could we successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?
Yes! We are so ready to upscale the program globally. The website can be easily replicated for other markets as it built on wordpress. We are currently working with a Café Culture magazine in China to bring the program to the Chinese market who have a major single-use coffee cup issue as the cup is regarded as a status symbol. In order to scale it into other market it would require a lead and partners to drive the local website and map.