Brew Sisters' café is a Melbourne-based coffee business which is saving the planet one mug at a time. The sisters and baristas, Gabby and Flick have set their coffee cart apart from the rest at Melbourne University by encouraging consumers to drink responsibly (their coffee, that is). Brew Sisters provide their customers with waste-free options through the use of a mug library and their strong encouragement of keep cups. They have two locations at Melbourne University, a coffee van and a shop front, as well as a mobile coffee cart which they set up at different events and markets. Their main goal through this innovation is to educate people on the environmental impact of their consumption habits – FYI coffee cups are NOT recyclable!
Brew Sisters strongly encourage the use of keep cups by charging all customers $3.50 per keep cup coffee, regardless of size and choice of milk – big win for those Melbourne Uni students who want a large soy latte but don’t want to pay $5 or more. This is also a big win for the environment, as dairy milk has a huge environmental impact in terms of emissions, land use and water use compared to alternative milks such as rice, soy, oat and almond (Briggs & Guibourg, 2019). As a result of this, the café has gained a competitive advantage over others in the area who do charge according to size and milk choice. Big win for everyone!
The mug library is a board of pre-loved mugs which have either been donated or purchased from thrift stores, giving them a second life. The idea behind the mug library is that you can have your coffee and hang around to drink it as you would at a dine-in café, you can also take your mug with you and return it later, or take a mug and replace it with another. Regardless of how you choose to use the mug library, the best part about it is that it is zero waste because regardless of where the mugs end up, they will be reused.
The most important part of the way that Brew Sisters run their business is that there is no judgement to those who choose to use takeaway coffee cups, in our interview Flick stated “our main goal is to educate people about the benefits of responsible consumption and through that education have a positive impact on the world”.
After learning about the huge amount of coffee cups that end up in landfills every year – an estimated 1 billion in Australia alone (White, 2016) – the sisters decided to make a commitment to be a driver for positive change. They began with the promotion of keep cups, however a recurring barrier that Brew Sisters faced is that not everyone has a keep cup, some people are put off by the idea of carrying one around all day or they may not see the point. Through research on sustainable coffee initiatives the girls found their answer, the mug library! The mug library now operates permanently at one of their Melbourne University locations and comes along to weekend events.
For Brew Sisters, their innovation has an overall positive impact on three key areas – people, planet and profits. The environment is positively impacted every day as coffee cups are less in demand, saving them from going to landfills. People are benefiting through education, improved morale, and the positive health effects of reduced emissions (Potter, 2017). The business is also thriving as they are now known for being the environmentally friendly café on campus.
Gabby and Flick have created a competitive advantage for their business by differentiating themselves from other businesses in the area. Offering discounts for keep cups and promoting environmental awareness has created a loyal customer base in their permanent locations at Melbourne Uni. Additionally, they have created a point of difference for events with their quirky approach to minimal waste. Another benefit is that the innovation minimises the café’s own environmental footprint – a mission that the girls are very passionate about.
The benefits for society include educating people about the impact of using paper cups and empowering them to make better choices for future generations. As previously mentioned, this is likely to make people feel better about themselves and also has a positive effect on their health. Benefits for the environment include waste minimisation, a reduction of water use and greenhouse gases as less single-use cups are demanded. By planting the sustainability seed in the minds of their customers, Brew Sisters' café is potentially provoking thought in other areas of people’s lives where they improve. Further, this innovation is easily replicable and scalable, other businesses can find inspiration from Brew Sisters and implement their own waste minimisation initiatives. In our interview, Flick welcomed the idea that other businesses would follow their lead and “hopefully bring about lasting change”.
Flick Mifsud, Co-owner
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Melbourne, Victoria, AU
Business Website: https://www.instagram.com/brewsisters/?hl=en
Year Founded: 2017
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Brew Sisters' café is a Melbourne-based coffee business which is saving the planet one mug at a time. The sisters and baristas, Gabby and Flick have set their coffee cart apart from the rest at Melbourne University by encouraging consumers to drink responsibly (their coffee, that is).