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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet

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No reusable cup? In Australia, it’s at your own risk.

That’s thanks in part to people like Sam Power, who stopped at the Alimentari near the city’s Carlton Gardens one recent day during a break from his job as an arborist. Holding a shiny silver mug with a handle, he said he had been pushing friends and cafe owners around the city to get back to reusable cups.

“I think it’s laziness half the time,” he said. “Sure, sometimes you might forget it. My partner forgot his cup today. But mostly the problem is business laziness.”

Forsyth agreed, and pointed straight at the branded paper cups of Starbucks. For years, she said, she had been in touch with the company, encouraging executives to embrace boldness.

“What I’ve always said to them is ‘be the first mover,’” she said. “People will high five you for it.” In late 2019, a team from Starbucks’ sustainability group even came to Melbourne for an exploratory tour. “Then they disappeared and we never saw them again,” she said.

I asked Starbucks what the company had learned in Australia. A spokeswoman said it was one of several trips made worldwide to examine customer behavior.

But if there is a lesson or two that Australia may hold, for Seattle’s giant and for coffee fans everywhere, it might be found in the friendly, shameful experience I recalled above. In that case, both baristas and customers signaled with a smile and scorn that I was an outlier who would benefit from joining the club of responsible coffee lovers.

KeepCup’s first innovation, according to cafe owners, was size: creating cups that matched the usual orders and fit under espresso spouts. But both baristas and customers joined forces to support the shift because the cups were not just easy to use, they were also better, cooler, more personal — more enjoyable for me, and a fashionable wink to like-minded friends and strangers. While many reusable cups still contain plastic, they do divert single-use cups from landfills.

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