A clever way to promote on-premise sustainability

Whenever and wherever I travel, I always visit at least one new coffeehouse (preferably more if time permits). Recently I was in Davis, California (outside of Sacramento) for a conference. Although it was a quick trip – rarely leaving the UC Davis campus – I had time to walk around the town on the final day before heading to the airport. As I was in California for a tea event, I was craving a decent cup of coffee, and lucky for me, I didn’t have to walk far before finding a Philz Coffee.

While waiting for my coffee (I believe I ordered a cup of the Tesora with notes of caramel, nuts and butter) to be prepared, I noticed a couple of shelves holding ceramic mugs near the checkout counter. I thought they were were retail items but upon closer inspection, I realized that rather than an assortment of souvenir mugs sporting the Philz Coffee logo, the “Mug Wall” was filled with customers’ personal mugs.

A clever approach to enhance sustainability within its coffeehouse, Philz invites customers to bring in their own mugs. If they use their own mugs, customers are charged the price of a small coffee (around USD $3.60 depending on the blend). When they finish drinking their coffee, customers may leave their mugs in the dish return bin, after which Philz employees will wash the mugs and place them on the shelf. So, every time the customer returns to Philz Coffee, their clean mug is waiting for them.

If a customer wants to dine in and drink out of a mug but has not yet brought their own, they may ask a barista to borrow a community mug.

I’ve never seen this type of program in a coffeehouse before, so I do not know if Philz Coffee is the first to employ this tactic, but I find it an inventive way to encourage recyclability and reusability on-premise. While I doubt this initiative would work in coffeehouses located in cities with large populations and heavy foot traffic, in a college town like Davis (the university is also one of the top agronomy schools in the world) that is filled with sustainability-oriented Gen Z students, it seems like an ideal plan.

  • Vanessa L. Facenda, editor Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. She may be contacted via [email protected]

Image courtesy of Vanessa L. Facenda

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