Cafes - how to host a 'Use Your Own Cup Day'

As a small business in the hospitality industry, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed or even somewhat guilty about the impact your business is having on the environment.


This could be arising from the increasing awareness around single use plastics, food waste in landfill or even the food miles associated with that exquisite Grana Padano cheese sourced from the finest northern regions of Italy.


We now know that basically everything we do, to some extent, has an associated impact. We also know that there are many, just like you, who are deeply concerned about the impact of their operations but yet, do nothing about it.


This is because most people are able to think about a variety of issues from multiple, often conflicting perspectives but are then held back from taking action because of perceived attitudes of the community.


In response to these conflicting perspectives, we have developed a program that both frames the issue of single-use coffee cups (specifically) as a solvable problem, as well as one that cafes have a civic duty to lead on.


That’s right, we’re here to help you take the lead.


You can think of this program as a step-by-step guide to supercharging your stance in your community as a leader on waste and single use plastics reduction, even if you don’t consciously realise this as a business goal (yet).


What is the program? And why should you think about implementing it in your business?


The program is coined “Use Your Own Cup Day'' or “UYO Day” for short. The idea is that over the period of (ideally) a month, your café works to supercharge and normalise the number of customers using reusables, culminating in #UseYourOwnCupDay.


Whilst single-use coffee cups are just one of the many single use items wreaking havoc on the environment, the program intentionally targets these items specifically as their daily consumption amongst the masses is representative of a deeply ingrained throwaway society - one that this program seeks to change.


Australians throw out an insane 2.7 million single-use or disposable coffee cups every single day- over a billion per year, it is statistics like these that we call upon you, to help to reduce.


Earlier in 2021, our Plastic Free Places team engaged in a pilot UYO Day with nine cafés across the country. There was a marked increase in the use of reusables for ALL cafes involved. Results of this can be found HERE.


So how does it work?


This guide will encourage you and your community to think about reusables over single-use; whether that be through encouraging BYO practices, cup networks, mug libraries or simply by utilising good, old fashioned dining-in.


If you’re a business located within one of our Plastic Free Places communities then we are here and available to engage with you one-on-one, to reach the goal of hosting a ‘UYO Day’ - make contact with us via any of our socials if you’re interested!


But this guide is designed to go beyond our communities and be utilised by any cafe business, anywhere, who is sitting on the edge of recognising a problem but shying away from taking action.


So here we go, here is all you need to know to start acting on single-use waste, today.


THE PROCESS


1. Determine current behaviors your business has with regards to reusables.


Ask yourself...


● Do you currently encourage the use of reusable cups?

● If yes, how have you done this?

Why would you like to host a ‘Use Your Own Cup Day’?

When would you like to host your ‘Use Your Own Cup Day’?

What is your goal for ‘Use Your Own Cup Day’?


A noteworthy point when considering these questions is that habits take 21 days to form, therefore any communications that you undertake to engage with your community in the lead up to a UYO Day should be conducted over this timeframe at a minimum. We suggest you make it a one month process.


Each week, your cafe will tally how many customers use reusable cups, with the goal being to increase the percentage of reusables being used each week. The final day of the campaign, “UYO Day'' should be targeted as the day to achieve the highest numbers of reusables used, or even better, a day without any single use cups at all.


2. Increase engagement and steps to take in the lead up to the UYO Day


Whilst the aim of the program is to culminate in a final “day” the buildup to this day is of equal importance, as this is where your community will form their habits and lasting change can be created.


Ways to do this include:

  • Display signage to help encourage people to use their own reusables.

  • Implement a reusable cup swap system such as Green Caffeen or Huskee Swap - these systems can greatly reduce the amount of single use cups used by increasing the availability of reusables in the event they are forgotten/not prioritised.

  • Implement a mug or jar library to encourage reuse - cups can be used either by donation or on a ‘boomerang’ style system. Inevitably cup numbers will dwindle, so keeping them restocked is imperative for the library to be effective. You can do call outs on your social media asking locals to drop off unwanted mugs or restock from nearby op shops. Click HERE to download our guide to starting a mug library.

  • Run promos and giveaways for customers who use their own cups to potentially win free coffees, coffee beans or other giveaway incentives.

  • Stamp your single use coffee cups with reminders to UYO next time.

  • Encourage your customers to take selfies with their reusables using hashtags such as #byoselfie or #byomugshot.

  • Invite local social media influencers to be active in the process, getting them to also take selfies and post about the program.

  • Encourage “me time” through dining in and slowing down.


3. Next, think about the measurement process.


“How can I record the use of reusables versus single-use, in order to determine the effectiveness of the program?”


Recommendations on how to do this include:


  • POS systems. (Ensure you measure both reusables for takeaway and dine-in)

  • Chalk boards

  • Other physical ‘scoreboards’

We recommend not using a piece of paper next to the till, as it gets forgotten about during peak periods. A physical scoreboard where the customer can mark their own participation helps spread the load of record keeping if there is no suitable POS system available. Or you can do both, to encourage customer participation, and for other customers to witness that participation.


Examples of how you can tally the weekly reusable numbers

4. Promote your Use Your Own Cup Day


This is obviously a critical factor in ensuring the success and participation of the campaign. As mentioned, with habits taking 21 days to form, promotion should be put into place well before the day, and be a daily factor leading up to it.


You might decide to do some giveaways or free coffees for those who bring their own cup on the day – this is something you can promote beforehand to encourage participation.


Be sure to give weekly updates on how many reusables have been used and therefore, single use cups saved.


Reshare any posts your cafe may be tagged in, create as many stories as possible to build up the hype.


Aside from doing a consistent blast on your own social media platforms, to receive the most coverage it is recommended to team up with prominent individuals in your community, as well as other organisations. For example, if your business is located nearby a gym, large office building or yoga studio, you could partner with these businesses to help get the message out.


It is also important to refrain from posting any social media images which include single use items, this will send the wrong message out to your community and encourage individuals to post similar images, perpetuating the throwaway culture.


More on photos..


If possible, get a heap of photos of reusable cups in action at the cafe before the campaign gets started. Hopefully your cafe has some on hand already - if not, organise a quick shoot using your phone.



More on signage..


Displaying signage in your cafe sends messages to your customers. By outwardly showing that waste reduction is a key focus of your business, people may feel encouraged and be more willing to change their habits. Do this early - have them on display from day one of the campaign. Have them in prominent places such as right at the point of sale, on the coffee machine and drink fridge doors.

5. On the day


The success of the day will come down to how wholeheartedly the campaign is adopted by not only you as the owner or manager, but how your staff interact with each and every customer in the weeks preceding your UYO day, as well as on the day itself. Bringing a vibrant and enthusiastic energy to your space that highlights how important individual action is for environmental protection will appeal to community members who recognise their own behaviours and desires to implement positive change.


Take photos! Lots of them. Host a cup selfie station and do live social media stories.

Overall, be engaging with customers and share your story of why this transition is important to you!


6. Review and evaluate your UYO Day


Gather your data via whichever means you used to measure your results. Once data is collected, do a social media post that celebrates your achievements.


If you haven’t had any media coverage prior to the day, why not write a media release and send it out to your local media network. Often local business chambers can assist you with contacts if they aren’t readily available.


Now that you have done all of the hard work, why not keep the ball rolling? We recommend continuing to focus your efforts on building your community around reusable ethos. Host UYO days, once a week, or just once a month to begin with. The more regular you can be with your community the more likely it will be that long lasting change can be created.


Gee, one day, you might even be completely single-use cup free.


Whether you’re reading this from within one of our community locations or elsewhere, please don’t hesitate to make contact if you have any questions on how to get started, or anything for that matter. We can be reached via our socials at WA Plastic Free, Plastic Free Byron, Plastic Free Cairns, Plastic Free SA, Plastic Free Townsville, Plastic Free SA and Plastic Free Central Queensland.


RESOURCES

Our Guide to starting a Mug Library

A5 Reusables Posters