Responsible cafe

Entering into any article takes lots of research, however todays article came to me with ammunition from the back burner.

Uncle David Attenborough has told me much of what I need to know and understand, after which there’s no excuses for ignorance.

Which of us haven’t yet worked out that homo-sapiens are out of touch with nature and by default of this dysfunctional state are on a steady and speedy path to self-destruction!

I have said many times, in my strong English accent, how proud I am to be a part of this passionate coffee loving nation. How often am I told by a proud Aussie “how bad the coffee was on our last trip to the UK” and I respond in kind “I understand that there are some Australian and NZ players over there, leading the way in change”.

I think we can safely say, the Southern Hemisphere, like Rugby Union back in the 90’s, is leading the world’s coffee culture globally, whom look to us for best roasting practice and cafe trends. However we are disappointingly, failing dismally, in leading the world in good sustainability practices!

Politics aside, Australia has such a rich history of working with nature, nourishing the land, to continually reproduce and flourish for future generations. Until the last 200 years, where the egotistical mind has driven mankind to overlook what we should value above and beyond all else, what in the Lion King was said to be ‘The Circle of Life’ and for the sake of this article we shall call Earth’s natural cycles.

This is where I introduce to the story Jo Horsley, founding member and GM of ‘Responsible Cafes’

Responsible Cafe is an initiative that started in 2013, from award winning, not-for-profit ‘Responsible Runners’.

Jo Horsley, founding member and GM of ‘Responsible Cafes’

Since their humble beginnings collecting litter on beach walks, this group of volunteers wanted to tackle the issue of ocean pollution from its source and help reduce plastic waste from our oceans and neighbourhoods.

The program, in its simplest format allowed cafes to join the movement of responsible cafes and be put on a map of ‘Responsible Cafes’, that wish to be part of the environmental solution, by discounting the cost of clientele’s coffee, who bring in their own reusable cups.

This program grew organically at first through word of mouth, until however ABC’s War on Waste was broadcast in 2017 (a must watch if you haven’t had the opportunity to view). This catapulted the ‘Responsible Cafes’ movement into hyper drive.

Jo tells us “overnight things went completely bonkers”, receiving thousands of emails and messages of support, from CEO’s to grandparents and school aged kids wishing to know how they can minimise their impact.

The War on Waste screening

Disposable Cup facts 

  • It is estimated that Australian’s use 1 billion disposable coffee cups and lids every year.
  • The lining of single-use coffee cups is plastic, which means they are not recyclable.
  • About 9 out of every 10 disposable cups end up in landfill.
  • According to Clean Up Australia, 10% of all Australian litter in our oceans and streets are coffee cups!!
  • Scientists believe that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans.

Responsible Cafes are now one of Australia’s most innovative, popular and fastest growing programs. Actively engaging cafes, councils and the community to improve sustainability

Jo Horsley is passionate about preserving this earth for her beautiful 4-year old daughter! Jo tells me though, that by the middle of 2019 she was suffering volunteer fatigue after juggling the organisation, career and family.

She recognised what they had achieved by the estimated 174 million cups saved from landfill through the good work of their ‘Responsible Cafes’. Perhaps Jo felt her good work was done, by genuinely changing/shifting behaviour patterns in communities.

Then the fires hit, leaving Australian communities and small businesses paralysed. This truly devastated Jo and she realised she had only done a 180 degree turn ‘in the circle of life’ and her passion was reignited, by fear and anxiety of a climate crisis.

Then Covid-19 hit, and within weeks the years of hard work to reduce single-use plastic and coffee cup waste unravelled in front of her very eyes.

It felt as though the reusable coffee cup was being targeted as a symbol of how the fiendish invisible virus could spread on hard surfaces.

Even after a group of 100 global scientists and health experts signed and published a statement to say that reusable cups could be used by employing basic hygiene measures, the reusable cup is still not welcome in many cafes.

I have in my previous article ‘Is this the end of the Reusable Cup?’ published last month, outlined the findings of these expert scientist epidemiologists, virologists, biologists, chemists and doctors, which concludes reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene.

Even with this guidance, we can safely say the reusable cup was dropped by the cafe and state government guidelines, quicker than a ‘melting snow cone in hell’.

Jo struggles to convey, how very disappointed she is with the lack of direction from the government. Café Culture are equally disappointed after so many years of campaigning for the introduction of the reusable cup!

‘Is this the end of the Reusable Cup?’

It was time to do more as an organisation than just save coffee waste!

Jo challenged the Responsible Cafe committee and advisory group to come up with a plan to counteract the adverse media to the reusable cup and the government guidelines to increase single use plastics, by engaging the community to reduce their impact through savings on carbon emissions, other single use packaging and food waste. 

So, they have invested hours of time, energy and research launching a new digital map and dashboard that better serves the community and drives more impact.

By adding more information to the dashboard your Cafe can do away with the discounted coffee and enter into a new coffee bean rating that rewards waste and carbon footprint reduction.  Jo tells us it’s a bit like chef’s hats, or stars (but more down to earth!).

Responsible Cafes have been overwhelmed and overjoyed by the uptake from their ‘Keen Beans’ and cafes so far, it’s been inspiring to realise they’re not alone in continuing the war on waste!

They have created some new posters that really pop on the page, leaflets and guides to help cafes make the transitions needed to get their Coffee Bean rating up, which are all available to download for free from their cafe dashboard.

Café Culture has been a keen advocate and campaigner for sustainability through the widespread use of reusable cups since the late 90’s. We are hugely upset by the sharp push back on the reusable cup, the negative impact on the environment and the karma that will result, from these dastardly actions.

This is where I can proudly introduce Café Culture as a media partner of Responsible Cafes, Jo and her full team.

I also wish to dedicate myself personally, with my 4-year old daughter Morgan, to get behind the movement by spreading the word in my community and involving ourselves in regular beach litter collections. We wish to call all cafe owners and coffee roasters to join Responsible Cafes.

By joining Responsible Cafes you are signing up to a movement that says you care about the environment and your community.

More so than ever, people are looking to support businesses that are doing the right thing by them and by the environment. Showing your customers that you are a Responsible Cafe demonstrates that you are a good bean and want to be part of the solution – not the problem. 

Cafe Culture International‘s Rob Marlowe is a keen advocate for the reusable cup


Join the growing network of 5000 cafes across Australia striving to reduce single-use plastic. Get on the map, attract new customers, increase loyalty and do the right thing for your community and the planet. Here are some of the benefits of joining:

  • It’s FREE and simple to register via our online registration process. 
  • When you sign up you will get access to posters and guides which you can pop up in your cafe to tell your customers you care! 
  • Your cafe will be included on a searchable, mobile-responsible map of participating cafes, which is searched thousands of times a week.
  • Attracting new and environmentally aware customers by selling reusable cups.
  • Saving operational costs through reduced disposable cup/lid expenditures.
  • Increase your customer loyalty and reduce your ecological and waste footprint.
  • Be proud of your waste saving measures!
  • Councils can partake and lead their café businesses and waste management programs.


When you register your cafe it will be given a Coffee Bean rating. You must have at least one action that reducing single use coffee cup use to join e.g cup swap or library. 

Each action is then given a weighted point.  For instance, composting food waste is given 2 points as it is a great way to reduce carbon emissions, compared to offering free water refills which is only 1 point. This is how the Coffee Bean ratings are awarded:

1 Coffee Bean = 0 – 5 points

2 Coffee Beans = 6 – 15 points

3 Coffee Beans = 16 – 20 points 

4 Coffee Beans = 21 – 25 points

5 Coffee Beans = 26 – 30 points

Gold Coffee Bean = 31 + points


STEP 1: Click on “Register Your Cafe” in the menu.

STEP 2: Create a cafe profile so your customers can find out about your environmental actions and so you can be given a coffee bean rating.  Customers can then search for you using our digital map.

STEP 3: Download FREE posters and guides from your cafe portal.

STEP 4:  Spread the news on your social media channels to let your customers know & we can share your responsible love!

Tag us in a post using #responsiblecafes and we can share the love on the website and social media that reaches thousands of conscious consumers each week. 

Check out the example below of a cafe profile at Ruby Lane Manly – a 5 Bean cafe! Congrats guys. 


Article by Rob Marlowe, Cafe Culture International

Previous articleBrazil is Minas Hill
Next articlePlant Based Options from Art of Blend and Frosty Boy