7 Sustainable actions to implement in your coffee shop

Michael Elligett

More and more people are becoming aware of the environmental impact of goods and services they are consuming. In fact, according to a Square Up research, consumers are not only conscious about their plastic waste; “they’re also trying to reduce the footprint of their daily coffee habit.” This means they are now most likely to have their coffee fix in a café that promotes sustainability

So why should café owners like you start implementing sustainability practices? Apart from catering to environmental-conscious consumers, being sustainable will help you improve your brand value, help attract and retain customers, reduce costs, and most importantly help the environment. 

Don’t know where to start? Below are some steps you can take to make your café business more eco-friendly. 

1. Offer vegan alternatives 

One of the most significant ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Did you know that gas emissions used in the production of plant-based milk such as almond, soy, oat and coconut milk, are lower than dairy milk? A 2019 research also shows that if more people decrease their meat consumption by a quarter, we can reduce around 82 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

Giving your customers vegan options widens your market, promotes inclusivity and helps achieve your goal of becoming an eco-friendly café. According to a Roy Morgan Research study, “there were over two million Australians whose diet was all or almost all vegetarian. This represents over 11% of the population and a 15% rise over the previous four years.”

The vegan community is also appreciative of cafés that cater to them. They will recommend your shop to their friends and families which leads to free word-of-mouth marketing and ultimately, a boost in sales. 

2. Be smart with your waste 

Food waste is a major problem in Australia. Each year we waste around 7.3 million tonnes of food costing the economy around $20 billion annually. 

Develop an effective waste management strategy to reduce your café food wastage. If you’re having a hard time managing food waste from the kitchen or your customer’s plates, you can give it to local farmers for compost. You can also donate food left at the end of the day to homeless shelters.

We all know that used coffee grounds make excellent fertilisers. Why not give it to your customers or local farmers for free? By getting creative with your waste management, you’ll notice a massive drop in the amount of trash your café is producing. 

3. Use less energy

Reducing energy consumption can be challenging especially when you’re running a café business. However, managing how you use your café equipment and appliances can go a long way if you want to decrease your energy bills efficiently.

The first thing you can do is to start switching to energy-saving light bulbs like LEDs. These light bulbs use up to 75% less energy compared to halogens. They also emit less heat and can last up to 10 times longer. If your café has a lot of windows, you can take advantage of outside lighting by opening the blinds rather than switching on the lights during the day. 

Having efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVACs) is also crucial if you want to use less energy. You want to make sure that your HVAC system is properly optimised to save more energy. According to the Department of Energy, HVAC optimisation may involve: improved control systems, modifications to ventilation and distribution, relocation of HVAC units, and good maintenance. Upgrading to a more energy-efficient HVAC system is also essential to further reduce your annual heating and cooling costs.

If you’re looking to upgrade your coffee machines or any other equipment, switch to energy-efficient ones. It can be a little bit more expensive than regular machines, but it can help you save energy and money over time, and become more eco-friendly. Energy-efficient appliances help reduce greenhouse emissions which are the leading causes of global warming. 

4. Reduce printables

If you’re still using traditional or printed menu boards in your coffee shop, it’s the perfect time to upgrade to energy-efficient digital menu boards. It allows you to have an option to edit your menu items quickly and reduce your café’s paper waste.

It can be expensive at first, but when you invest in a digital menu, you no longer have to reprint regular promotions and menu changes. Your staff won’t also need to replace old poster boards, helping you save time and money significantly.

With digital displays, you can also include value-added content like interesting coffee facts or other trivia about your café to help minimise your customers’ boredom while waiting in line. It can also influence customer behaviour and boost upsells.

5. Promote BYO cups

We all know that consumption of single-use packaging and its disposal is unsustainable. This is why many businesses in the hospo industry started to promote bring-your-own (BYO) cups initiative. According to research, the use of BYO cups at coffee shops in Australia has increased by 292%.

Minimise waste from takeaway food by encouraging your customers to bring their own container. Offering discounts to customers who bring their own cups is also a great collaborative effort on the seller and buyer side in reducing the carbon footprint. You can also sell your reusable cups for those who don’t have one to urge more people to support the initiative.

6. Support local

Studies have shown that most consumers nowadays prefer to pay more for locally sourced menu items. 

Sourcing locally allows you to have homegrown produce and ingredients for your food and beverages while promoting other small businesses at the same time. It also enables you to give back to your community by supporting your local economy and help with job creation.

Locally-grown food products are also better for our environment because less energy is being used for harvesting and transportation. So by simply buying products or ingredients from local suppliers, you’re not just helping your local economy, you’re also reducing your carbon footprint. 

7. Switch to sustainable coffee cups and cutleries

Aside from promoting BYO cups in your café, you also need to make sure you have sustainable takeaway cups and containers for those who can’t bring their own. 

Avoid using non-recyclable items like plastic or styrofoam cups, lids, and straws. Opt for compostable, biodegradable or fully recyclable packaging that can reduce your overall waste. Always make sure that you’re choosing materials that have little impact on the environment. 

For other food items, use recyclable boxes and paper bags instead of plastic. It’s also important to train your staff to always ask the customers if they need takeaway cutleries. Most of the time, takeaway utensils are left unused as they consume their food at home. 


If you need a supplier of non-dairy milk or sustainable food packaging, The Café Supplier is here for you. Visit our website to check our wide range of products.

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