Business & Careers

BEHIND THE BIZ // Green Caffeen

Changing The World One Coffee At A Time

By Brad Kelly 


Martin Brooks was a burnt out police officer struggling with his mental health when he decided to pack it all in and take the family on a nine-month sailing voyage up and down the Queensland coast.


And what he saw shocked him.  


“We’d go to a remote beach, somewhere off the coast and there would be plastic on the beach,” Martin says.


The sight niggled away at the keen sailor and although he knew he couldn’t save the planet, he wanted to make an impact somewhere.


After a bit of research and a chat with his sister Kate and mate Damien, Martin discovered that one of the main culprits was Australia’s love affair with coffee.


We sat down with Martin to discuss the idea behind the concept of Green Caffeen, a local business that is focused on doing their bit to help save our beautiful planet. 


1 :: Martin, you’ve set your sights on the disposable coffee cup!


Yes, the numbers are a bit alarming. The average Australian coffee drinker consumes 500 cups of disposable coffee cups per year, contributing about 7.5kg of plastic to landfill.  Or even worse, it ends up in the ocean which is what I discovered on that sailing trip with the family.


We really wondered how we could get people to change their behaviour to make a real difference. If one person could change, getting 10 people to change could save 75kg of plastic going into the ocean. And so on.


2 :: So, you had your lightbulb moment and Green Caffeen was born. 


Yes, the main reason why Green Caffeen started is we realised if we could change our behaviour, maybe we could get lots of people to change their behaviour and have a bigger impact.  


And was actually my sister, Kate that came with the idea of swap and go reusable cups. 


Along with Damien, my business partner at the time, we purchased 100 reusable coffee cups and took them down to two of my local cafes in Kiama. Within forty-eight hours, they’d all gone. 


3 :: You were onto something…..


We were. But we also knew that we couldn’t change people’s behaviour without offering convenience to consumers or cost savings to the cafés. But we also had a hunch that the popularity of those first 100 cups meant that people would be keen to jump on board. 


4 :: And you had the idea of the App!


Everyone has a mobile phone and we thought, why not build a reusable coffee cup into your phone?


Think of it like you’re borrowing a book from the library, except you’re borrowing a reusable cup from a café. The first thing you do is sign up to the Green Caffeen app and order your coffee at a participating café.


You simply scan it out and scan it back in again when you return it. You don’t have to wash it. The café does that for you.


5 :: Handy! We’ve been using the app and love how you can see how many cups have been used. 


It’s so easy to sign up and use,  isn’t it? 

And there are some really cool features on it so you can see your impact while you are waiting for your order. 


6 :: How does it impact the cafe taking part in the program? 


We know every café has a dishwasher and they all had cups ready to go, so thought why don’t we tap into that infrastructure and see if they’re able to make change and actually make it more profitable for them to do so?


Everywhere you go, you can actually have access to a clean, green, reusable coffee cup.


7 :: The reality is you need to make it easy for people to change.


Exactly. When we first started, we did plenty of research and discovered that between 2-5% of people have a reusable cup – or multiple cups! – but they’re sitting in cupboards or cars.


People have great intentions, but life gets in the way. So, by creating a simple swap and go system, we’re removing the excuses around that.


8 :: And now there are nearly 800 cafes signed up across Australia – where can I find it in the Illawarra?


Yes. It’s definitely gone national! We’ve got over 40 participating cafes in the Illawarra between Thirroul and Kiama. Log into the App and start searching!


No excuses.

And we love that it alllll started in Kiama – nice one! 

Head to the Green Caffeen website to find out more about how these guys are changing the takeaway coffee culture and helping the planet, one coffee at time. 

Download the Green Caffeen app and get involved! 

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