On 19 + 20 May 2018, Glasgow Coffee Festival made the brave move to be the first coffee festival to ban all disposable coffee cups. More than 18,000 disposable cups were saved from going to landfill. With more than 55 businesses taking part in the event and 1,800 attendees, making the switch to reusables was a bold move for festival organisers. Ticket holders were incredibly supportive of the move and made it possible by turning out in droves with their reusable cups in hand to enjoy a weekend of delicious speciality coffee.
Lisa Lawson, organiser of Glasgow Coffee Festival and founder of Dear Green Coffee Roasters says, “It was an ambition we’d had for the festival for a while as events tend to generate an excess volume of waste. The idea always seemed like an insurmountable challenge to implement. 2018 was finally the year to make it happen! I was over the moon when KeepCup partnered with the event to make the idea of a ‘reusables only’ event achievable. The response from festival attendees and vendors was overwhelmingly positive. It really shows that consumers are ready to make the switch to reusable cups and independent coffee businesses are willing to support. I’m delighted that Glasgow Coffee Festival, in it’s fourth year was the first event to accomplish this.”
KeepCup general manager, Chris Baker, says “When we were approached by Glasgow Coffee Festival about making the event disposable-free this year, we immediately offered our support (and reusable cups). We were worried about our product being mistreated and discarded, as we are so used to seeing at events. We were blown away by people’s response; more than 1,000 festival goers came with their own cup in hand, which shows how enthusiastically people in Glasgow have embraced reusables and made the change already. Not only were there over 18,000 disposables diverted from landfill, we believe the ‘no waste’ policy contributed in large part to the fantastic atmosphere. Here’s to all the changemakers in Glasgow leading the way.”
Nik Turner from Keep Scotland Beautiful says, “this festival is a demonstration of something bigger than just making a small effort. It sets the precedent that the reuse movement does work, plus it’s easy and convenient!”
Taking part in the festival were more than 55 businesses from the coffee, food and arts industries. Danny Gorton from Spitfire Espresso in Glasgow’s Merchant City says: “we think of ourselves as an environmentally conscious business, so we were stoked when Glasgow Coffee Festival announced this year would be reusable cups only. It’s saved us money because we didn’t have to bring along disposable cups. It also saved the hassle of disposables and the only impact was a positive one. Not a single person missed the disposable cups!”
Brian Williams, author of Brian’s Coffee Spot says: “The reusable cups have been phenomenal. I’m so pleased that Glasgow’s taken the lead and I’m looking forward to other festivals following suit. I’ve always enjoyed coming to Glasgow for the coffee festival and this year’s been better than ever. I’ve caught up with lots of old friends and met lots of new friends too.”
It wasn’t just cups being reused at the festival. Mossgiel Farm supplied milk to the festival and used glass bottles to provide milk to the stallholders. These bottles were then reused in total, saved 412 plastic bottles. Farmer Bryce Cunningham says, “I’ve been working on switching to reusable milk bottles so it worked out perfectly that Glasgow Coffee Festival was all about the reusables this year. It actually made it logistically easier to provide milk to each business in a reusable glass bottle. Lots of customers also asked about reusable milk bottles which I’m excited to say are available for retail purchase at Locavore in Glasgow’s Southside, from their milk vending machine. At Mossgiel we’re working towards only using reusables and ditching plastic completely by later on this year.”
Lisa Lawson says, “we also recycle the wooden boards from the festival booths which we have custom made. We sell them on so that they can be used for another project. We’ve done this every year to make sure as much of the festival as possible gets reused!
Kelly Conway from The Glasgow Markets says, “This was our first festival and we absolutely loved it! Our Vintage pop up definitely fit in with the theme of sustainability that the event promoted so well. By buying an old object you are not only getting a unique piece of history, but contributing to reusing and repurposing rather than buying new. Dear Green’s commitment to sustainability through this event has been very inspiring and we hope to adopt some of their techniques in our events in the future to reduce our waste.”
Other reusable activities at the festival included:
- Kabloom, Revive Eco and Dear Green collaborated to turn all the coffee grounds from the festival into compost, which were then used for guerrilla seedboming along the Clyde on Saturday and Sunday. These seedboms are now available to buy from Dear Green's website.
- McCune Smith used biodegradable wrappers for their food which will then be used at their cafe kitchen garden and turned into compost.
- Gie it Laldy collaborated with Dear Green to turn coffee into lip balms which were launched at the festival. These 'Pure Roaster' lip balms are now available to buy from Gie it Laldy.
- Rags to Riches upcycled coffee sacks into tote bags and chair coverings.
- Sponsor La Marzocco who hosted the after party made sure reusable cups were used. Beers by Tempest Brewing Co and cocktails by Tia Maria were served in KeepCups with washing stations setup to wash between drinks. There was a latte art throwdown for baristas to compete, which also used reusable cups to reduce waste. These efforts also made the post-party tidy up a lot easier as people had only used one cup throughout the night.
The festival was opened on Saturday by Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow. Patrick says:
“Glasgow’s coffee culture has grown hugely in recent years, but it’s vital that we don’t let that mean an ever-growing mountain of disposable cups. People are increasingly aware of the need to cut down on single-use products, so it’s great to know that the Glasgow Coffee Festival has ditched the disposables.”
Glasgow Coffee Festival is possible thanks to support from its amazing sponsors including La Marzocco, KeepCup, Dear Green Coffee Roasters, Mercanta, Speciality Coffee Association, The Independent Coffee Guide, BWT, Us vs Them, Tia Maria, Espresso Solutions, Tempest Brewing Co and TKC Sales. All profits from the event goes to charities World Coffee Research and Glasgow City Mission.
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All photos by Brian Sweeney.