Reusable coffee cup karma: don’t be one of the 400 million

The Karma Kup

I recently acquired this nifty little cup from Gourmet Getaways.  It’s called a Karma Kup and it’s designed to be the best friend of regular coffee drinkers who would prefer not to contribute takeaway cups to the global landfill mountains.   Australia produces (and chucks out) approximately 400 million takeaway coffee cups a year*.  Imagine the global figures! If you are someone who likes a takeaway coffee, it makes a lot of sense to bring your own cup and do your bit to help the planet.  There are other benefits too – like having a cup that’s more comfortable to hold and less likely to remove a layer of skin than some of the flimsier disposables.  Your favourite purveyors of fine cappuccino can also benefit by saving a few dollars on how many cups they need to provide.  BUT not every business will let you BYO.  I conducted a little science experiment this week to see what kind of public support there is for reusable coffee cups.

I knew some places would probably say no; it used to be flatly refused in the onsite café at my last employer, for example. I knew others would be happy to offer refills, but only for patrons using their own brand of reusable cup.  I wondered whether the small independents would be more amenable than the big chain suppliers.   In the end, the results were mixed and, in some cases, surprising.

The mega chain fast food café – McDonalds

I know people who are serious about coffee don’t think anything with a ‘Mc’ in front of it should ‘count’ as coffee. But, in McDonalds’ defence, if you get the right barista, their offerings don’t actually taste too bad.  Plus they offer Rainforest Alliance coffee blends and (yes, yes) it may all be a token effort, but it’s better than nothing.   I doubted, however, that they’d be onboard with the reusable cup concept.  I was wrong.

“No worries love,” was the quick and polite response I got to my request to slip my Karma Kup under the McCafe jets.  What’s more, the chatty barista (and a few of the other waiting customers) had a lively discussion about how refillable cups save the organisation money – so why say no?  Turns out this particular barista also runs a coffee van that she takes to local fetes and sports events on the weekends. “Saves me a few cups and there’s less rubbish left lying around if people bring their own” she said.  Good for her,  and good for Macca’s.  It was a very positive start!

Small step up from megachain foodcourt café – Donut King

Please bear in mind that I did this in the name of science.  My backside and Donut King have long been sworn enemies, but I do make the occasional brief stopover there when behaviour bribery is required in a shopping centre.  Again, their coffee is quite drinkable, though there’s no pretence towards ethical alliances.   Buoyed by the positive response at the Golden Arches I stepped up with my shiny red cup.

But…you know when people say “She looked at me as if I had two heads”?  I now know exactly what that look looks like.  The young lady pushing the coffee dispenser buttons simply glared, shook her head and regarded me with great caution throughout the rest of our interactions.  When I asked why not, she said “We’re not allowed”.  No doubt that was all she knew about the issue. Coffee machine says no.  Nul points,  Donut King.

Small step up from foodcourt aspirational chain café – Gloria Jean’s

A standard standard next to a grande grande

In short,  no problem. They sell their own reusable coffee cups, but are more than happy to accept interlopers too.  The only minor disclaimer I discovered here is that they have to charge you their standard rates – ie. they will charge you for a regular coffee even if your cup comes up slightly short of regular, if you know what I mean.   No doubt that applies everywhere else too, I just forgot to ask.   Taking my scientific method one step further, we got into the nitty gritty of my cup being around a 10 oz rather than the usual 12 oz cup which constitutes a ‘regular’ coffee in most places.  Don’t take my word on those figures, by the way, but the point is that if you’re concerned about your dollar per oz coffee ratios, it might be something to look into.

Shopping centre independent café – Coffee Guru (Strathpine, Qld)

Well, it was a yes, kind of.  This café will allow you to buy one of their refillable cups and use it again in future.   It is $19.95, which includes your first ‘grande’ size coffee (I presume you can refill it with any size of coffee purchase after that).  I asked why they prefer this system and was told that if they don’t standardise the process by offering their own cup people would just bring in “any old thing”.   I suppose I can understand why, in a busy café, it might be cumbersome to juggle a range of different sized cups – or that some people’s cups may be cleaner than others.  But if Macca’s can do it….

Independent with funky décor nowhere near a foodcourt local café – Generations (Sandgate, Qld)

Take the civilised approach, when possible, and sit down

I should confess up front that this is one café where I do usually prefer to drink-in.  It is kid friendly, and in fact just generally friendly, and I love their mismatched vintage crockery and comfy chairs.  But, if I did want to get a takeaway, they would be happy to put it in my Karma Kup.  When asked the question about whether they let punters BYO, they replied “We sure do! We encourage it … We’ll even wash it for you if you don’t mind waiting the extra minute or two!”

So, my highly scientific week of coffee experimentation revealed that most places are willing to let you bring your own reusable cup and knock a few edges off that mountain of annual waste creation.  There are benefits for the environment and the café itself, so hopefully even more of them will come on board if the coffee drinking public keeps reminding them of the issue.

Karma Kups are light, easy to slip in your handbag and comfortable to hold –but there are 101 other companies producing similar things.  Go out and investigate reusable coffee cup options some time – it’s a great excuse to drink more coffee! *


*Highly scientific figure found via Dr Google on a couple of difference recycling sites.

*No wonder I haven’t been sleeping so well lately.

This is not a sponsored post but I did win a Karma Kup by promising (in 25 words or less) that I’d conduct this experiment. 

17 comments for “Reusable coffee cup karma: don’t be one of the 400 million

  1. November 18, 2012 at 2:49 am

    I don’t drink coffee, but this was very interesting. I would think most places wouldn’t have a problem with it. Even if they have a policy against it, it’s a reasonable question. Not sure why you got such a snarky response from that one cashier.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 19, 2012 at 11:29 am

      Yes, that was a funny one!

  2. November 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    This is really interesting – I have been meaning to get one of those re-usable cups and just assumed that it would be accepted anywhere. I might have to do some research of my own!

    • This Charming Mum
      November 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm

      Yes I was surprised at who said ‘yes’ and who said ‘no’. Tasty research project anyway 🙂

  3. Enid Bite'Em
    November 16, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    I’m kind of glad I don’t drink coffee after this (one of main failings as a wife, Mr Bite’Em has some fancy Italian coffee machine and mourns that he could be such a good husband “if only you’d let me make you a little cup of coffee.”)

    But I love your theory – ‘coffee machine says no’. I wonder what other machines say ‘no’ – the ATM I visited today would be able to join that club 🙂

    • This Charming Mum
      November 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      Yes ATMs can be very contrary machines – ‘No’ with no good explanation! I can imagine there must be some distinct positive and negatives to living with a chef – not much art to making a diet coke unfortunately 🙂

  4. November 16, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    On the shoulders of this highly informative article I’m considering staging an experiment of my own. I am going to take my own karma wine glass to a number of local bars/pubs and see if they will fill it up for me.
    Seriously though – it makes alot of sense.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 16, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      Oh very good thinking – let’s extend the refillable cup model in different directions. Although, I’m probably less inclined to grab a takeaway sauv blanc while I’m doing the school run, but still, I can imagine how that might be a good thing 😉

  5. Robyn Cain
    November 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Thanks for all that information. I will take my cup next time. It certainly will reduce the rubbish if all coffee places will oblige.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 16, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      Yep, the more people ask, the more they should eventually comply I guess.

  6. November 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Any experiment that involves freshly brewed coffee is a great experiment in my book!

  7. RandEm
    November 16, 2012 at 9:12 am

    I have enjoyed the convenience of my version of karma cup on route to work practically every day. I often slip in to de bella at Bowen Hills for a cheeky second double shot piccolo and they cheerfully rinse out the slurry and shave 50 cents of the price, leaving me richer karmically and literally. 5 stars for the karma cup. R

    • This Charming Mum
      November 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

      50 cents off is awesome! I’d heard that a few places were doing that now (offering discounts, that is) but I couldn’t find any in our local area. Hopefully more and more places with latch onto the idea. Good to keep di bella in mind when I’m over that way. Have a good weekend 🙂

  8. Ingrid
    November 16, 2012 at 7:59 am

    What a great experiment! I have seen these cups everywhere, and on saying that I do have a few of my own. But like many I have always wondered the response if I did manage to bring my own and not leave it in the cupboard like I usually do in a hurry to get that ‘fix’. Thanks for the enjoyable read.

    • This Charming Mum
      November 16, 2012 at 11:03 am

      Hi Ingrid, yes I have a few of them too but I never remember to take them with me! I was glad for the chance of this ‘challenge’ cos it really put it back in the forefront of my mind.

  9. ann
    November 16, 2012 at 7:26 am

    I really like Mccoffee!! Can’t believe some stores will not use your cup!!

    • This Charming Mum
      November 16, 2012 at 11:05 am

      It’s funny isn’t it? You’d think if one place could do it, it wouldn’t be too hard for the others. Hopefully more of them will come around the idea over time.

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