7 Ways Cafes & Coffee Shops Can Be More Sustainable Without Breaking a Sweat!

Sustainable Cafes & Coffee Shops
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The Importance of Sustainable Cafes & Coffee Shops

As we all know, sustainability is no longer an option – it’s a necessity. But where does this leave our beloved cafes and coffee shops? They’re integral parts of our communities and daily routines.

Unfortunately, they also have a significant impact on the environment. From takeaway cups to food waste, it’s clear that change is needed.

Good news, though! There are ways for cafes and coffee shops to become more sustainable. And it’s simpler than you think.

The Role of Cafes & Coffee Shops in Sustainability

Let’s face it: the coffee industry has a few sustainability issues. Consider coffee production, the energy used in brewing, and the disposables we’re so used to.

  • Many cafes and coffee shops already recognise the challenges. Some have started initiatives to minimise their environmental footprint. Fairtrade coffee, recyclable cups, and locally sourced food are just a few examples.

Yet, it’s not just about the coffee itself. Consider the energy consumption in a cafe. Heating, cooling, refrigeration, and other operations all add up.

  • There’s also the waste problem. Did you know an average coffee shop can produce up to 100,000 pounds of waste per year? That’s where our sustainable Cafes & Coffee Shops initiative comes in.

There’s a growing awareness about these issues in the industry. And more importantly, an increasing willingness to address them. This gives us hope for a more sustainable future for cafes and coffee shops.

Sustainability Matters 2021 - Sustainable Cafes

7 Ways Cafes & Coffee Shops Can Be More Sustainable

Feeling overwhelmed by the sustainability challenge? Don’t worry! Here are seven practical ways to start your journey to become a more sustainable cafe or coffee shop.

1. Choose Locally Sourced, Ethical Ingredients

Want to reduce your carbon footprint? Try sourcing your ingredients locally. This not only supports local farmers but also reduces the distance your food travels to reach your kitchen. Similarly, choose coffee beans that are ethically sourced, promoting fair trade and sustainable farming practices.

How to implement it: Build relationships with local suppliers and farmers. Consider seasonal menus that use fresh, local produce. For coffee, look for Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certified suppliers.

Impact: Reduced carbon emissions from transportation and better support for local economies. Ethically sourced coffee helps protect forests and promotes better conditions for coffee farmers.

2. Minimise Food Waste

Food waste is a huge issue in cafes and coffee shops. Minimising it is a big step towards sustainability.

How to implement it: Monitor your food waste, identify areas of excess, and make necessary adjustments to your ordering and portioning. Implement a composting system for unavoidable food waste. You can even offer leftovers to employees, donate to local shelters, or sell them at discounted prices towards closing time.

Impact: Reduced waste going to landfills, fewer resources wasted, and potential cost savings from optimised food usage.

3. Implement Energy-Efficient Practices

Energy consumption is another major environmental impact of cafes and coffee shops. But there’s a lot you can do to cut back.

How to implement it: Use energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting. Implement practices like turning off equipment when not in use and maintaining regular servicing of your appliances for optimal efficiency. Explore renewable energy options if possible.

Impact: Lower energy consumption reduces your carbon footprint and can also save on energy costs.

4. Opt for Sustainable Packaging

Takeaway cups, lids, straws – they all add up. Making a switch to sustainable packaging is a crucial step.

How to implement it: Choose packaging made from renewable, recyclable, or compostable materials. Encourage customers to bring their own cups by offering a small discount.

Impact: Less waste going to landfills, and you’re helping to reduce the demand for plastic production.

5. Reduce Water Usage

Water is a precious resource. Yet, it’s easy to overlook the amount used in a busy coffee shop.

How to implement it: Install low-flow faucets and toilets. Regularly check for leaks and repair them immediately. Educate staff about the importance of conserving water.

Impact: Reduced water usage helps preserve this precious resource and could also lower your water bill.

6. Educate Your Staff and Customers

Creating a culture of sustainability in your cafe or coffee shop is a key to long-term success.

How to implement it: Train your staff about sustainable practices and why they’re important. Educate your customers too – use signs to explain why you’ve switched to compostable cups, or what Fairtrade coffee means.

Impact: Raising awareness and promoting sustainability in your wider community.

7. Encourage Sustainable Transportation

If your staff or customers drive to your cafe or coffee shop every day, that’s a lot of carbon emissions. Encouraging sustainable transportation can help reduce this impact.

How to implement it: Provide bike racks for customers and staff. If possible, create incentives for those who walk, cycle, or use public transportation. For staff living nearby, consider starting a walking or cycling group to work.

Impact: Reduced carbon emissions and promotion of a healthier lifestyle.

There you have it: Seven ways to turn your cafe or coffee shop into a sustainable business. Remember, every step you take, no matter how small, contributes to a larger global effort to protect our environment. So, let’s get started!

Cafes & Coffee Shops sustainability toolkit

Sustainability Toolkit For Cafes & Coffee Shops

Implementing sustainability practices in your cafe or coffee shop can feel overwhelming. But, we’ve got you covered with our Sustainability Toolkit for Cafes & Coffee Shops. It’s full of guides, templates, and policies designed specifically for your business. Here’s what you’ll get:

Sustainability Action Plan Template

This template helps you develop a clear, actionable sustainability plan. It guides you through setting sustainability goals, implementing strategies, and tracking progress. It’s a road map to transforming your cafe into a sustainable business.

Sustainability Policy Template

This template provides a framework to develop your own sustainability policy. It outlines best practices, expectations, and your commitment to a more sustainable future. It’s essential in aligning your team with your green goals.

Sustainable Supplier Assessment Template

This tool allows you to evaluate your suppliers based on their sustainability practices. It guides you to identify partners that align with your environmental goals, ensuring that sustainability is a priority throughout your supply chain.

Waste Audit Template

Reducing waste is a crucial aspect of sustainability. This template provides a systematic approach to identify the amount and types of waste your cafe is producing. With this knowledge, you can develop strategies to reduce, reuse, or recycle.

Employee Sustainability Pledge Template

Engaging your team is key to your sustainability journey. This pledge template encourages your employees to commit to sustainable actions, fostering a culture of sustainability in your cafe.

You can download the toolkit here.

Cafes & Coffee Shops Found These Helpful

Want more sustainability inspiration? Check out these other guides in our series. They’re packed with practical tips, case studies, and toolkits for other business types. You may find some transferable ideas that could work in your cafe or coffee shop:

  • Sustainable Pubs & Bars: Learn how the pubs and bars are going green. Plus, discover their unique sustainability challenges and innovative solutions.
  • Sustainable Supermarkets: Explore how supermarkets are embracing sustainability. Find out about their efforts in reducing packaging, minimising food waste, and sourcing locally.
  • Sustainable Takeaway Restaurants: Dive into the world of takeaway restaurants and their sustainability journeys. Get insights on eco-friendly packaging, plant-based menus, and waste reduction strategies.

Remember, in our quest for a more sustainable cafe and coffee shop scene, we’re all in this together. Every tip, every strategy counts. So, let’s keep learning, innovating, and inspiring each other towards a greener future.

“Cafes and coffee shops can lead the way in sustainability by adopting fair trade, renewable energy, and reducing single-use plastics.” – Specialty Coffee Association (SCA)

The Challenges for Cafes & Coffee Shops & Solutions

While the journey towards a sustainable cafe or coffee shop is rewarding, it’s not without challenges. Let’s explore some of these hurdles and how you might overcome them.

First, sourcing locally and ethically may present higher costs and limited availability. However, customers are increasingly willing to pay more for sustainable and ethically sourced products. Plus, working directly with local suppliers often means fresher ingredients and unique offerings that can set your cafe apart.

Reducing waste, especially food waste, can be difficult. Training your staff, adjusting portions, and planning better can mitigate this. Remember, waste not only represents lost product but also wasted resources used to produce it.

Investing in energy-efficient appliances and sustainable packaging can have higher upfront costs. But in the long run, they often result in cost savings through reduced energy bills and waste disposal costs.

Implementing sustainable practices requires a cultural shift, which takes time and effort. But educating your staff and customers about the importance of these changes can foster a supportive environment for this transformation.

Case Studies – Cafe & Coffee Shop Sustainability

Many cafes and coffee shops have already embarked on their sustainability journeys with impressive results. Here are a few examples:

The Corner Store Cafe in Australia has made considerable strides in reducing waste. They’ve eliminated single-use takeaway cups, offer discounts for customers who bring their own, and participate in a community cup swap program.

In Sweden, Fikabaren, a specialty coffee shop, focuses on sourcing coffee beans from sustainable farms. They are dedicated to maintaining transparency in their supply chain, which appeals to their conscious consumers.

Impressive Stats

According to a report by Euromonitor, 53% of consumers in Western Europe prefer to buy coffee that is sustainably sourced. This growing trend demonstrates the importance of sustainability in the cafe and coffee shop industry.

Meanwhile, in the USA, a study found that 73% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable goods. This willingness indicates that cafes and coffee shops can charge a premium for ethically sourced ingredients and sustainable practices.

It’s clear: sustainability is more than just a trend – it’s an expectation. And it’s the future of the cafe and coffee shop industry.


There’s never been a more crucial time to embrace sustainability in our cafes and coffee shops. With conscious consumers on the rise, taking steps towards a more sustainable business not only benefits the environment but also appeals to your customers. Remember, small changes can make a big impact.

So why wait? Start your journey to a more sustainable cafe or coffee shop today. We’ve given you the tips, the tools, and the inspiration. Now it’s your turn to take action and make a difference!

Sustainable Cafes & Coffee Shops FAQ

Q1: Why should my cafe or coffee shop consider sustainable practices?

A1: Sustainable practices benefit your business, your customers, and the environment. They can lead to cost savings, attract conscious consumers, and contribute to a healthier planet.

Q2: How can I reduce waste in my cafe or coffee shop?

A2: Start by conducting a waste audit to identify key areas. Then consider strategies like composting, recycling, using reusable items, and offering discounts to customers who bring their own cups.

Q3: How can I source ingredients sustainably?

A3: Look for local and organic suppliers, ensure the products are ethically sourced, and aim to minimise packaging.

Q4: How can I engage my staff in sustainability practices?

A4: Education is key. Hold training sessions, develop a sustainability policy, and encourage employee participation.

Q5: What if I can’t afford to invest in energy-efficient appliances?

A5: You can still make a difference! Simple changes like turning off equipment when not in use and using natural light can save energy and money.

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