Is Free Coffee worth it?

Is Free Coffee worth it? via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

At least twice a week I  commute to Bath. And, like many other commuters in the city, I stop at Waitrose to get my free coffee.

If you haven’t come across the Waitrose loyalty card before, you can use it to pick up free takeaway coffee/tea or get a big reduction on hot drinks in the cafe. When the supermarket first started the scheme a couple of years ago all hot drinks were free –  a rather over-generous, and unsustainable,  gesture on the part of the marketing team. As a result people only used the cafe for their free drinks, causing huge queues. Now the loyalty card has been refined and a special takeaway self-service station set up. You  have to get your card scanned in order to get a takeaway cup (which is pointless for someone like me who brings a reusable cup).

Free Coffee at Waitrose - is it worth it? via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

For the past few weeks I have been happily joining the queues to get my free latte and feeling rather smug when I produce my re-usable cup (while trying to inform people of the evils of disposable coffee cup lids in the process!). But a couple of things have got me thinking about this:

  1. On my walk into work I pass a small coffee shop. Despite being on a busy main road it’s not in the best position for passing trade and a friend and I have commented on this. Last week the manager handed out a free pre-stamped loyalty card to us. The idea was that if we came in and got a couple of coffees we’d earn enough stamps to get the next one free. I admired his attempt at reaching out to potential customers, but still happily passed by en route to Waitrose.

Bath coffee shop loyalty card

2. On my way back from a meeting at the Fashion Museum I passed by another cafe, The Boston Tea Party, which is part of a small chain. I was pleased to see they offered a discount to people bringing in their own reusable coffee cups. But I’d already got my free latte and didn’t want another shot of coffee that day. So I just passed on.

BUT if I didn’t get my free coffee from Waitrose I COULD have popped into the new coffee shop, or got my latte fix for a reduced price from Boston Tea Party. And slowly I began to wonder how many local coffee shops were struggling with customers because they were getting their daily cuppa free of charge from somewhere else?

A quick search indicates there are 82 coffee shops in Bath which is a huge number I know. Some of them have been established for years,making use of local and tourist trade. Others are more recent and, I believe, may not last as long as location and cost are pretty crucial. As overseas tourists don’t tend to have Waitrose cards it’s probably the local and national trade that is affected more by the free coffee from the supermarket (which also has a great central location). Anecdotally I have family members who will only use Waitrose to get their free cuppa when they are visiting another town – no matter how many great independent coffee shops there may be.

While I don’t have any hard evidence for the decline in  sales of coffee in other shops, particularly at commuter time, I’m going to make a change. I’m going to skip the Waitrose latte in the mornings and seek out some of the independents. I also want to locate those shops that give discounts to customers with their own cups. So watch this space…..

 

 

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (16-22 Jan)

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.comSo now that I’m getting into a new working pattern my week is starting to look rather different. One of the biggest changes is being in Bath three times a week and having a lunch break. If I’m not careful I will be trawling charity shops a lot and my Thrifty Finds may grow ….

This past week, though, I was still quite restrained :

  1. I’ve had mixed fortunes  dealing with food waste this past week. I managed to use up the last of the Christmas mincemeat by adding it to a fruit cake. I also used up the water which I had kept after cooking some beetroots. I added it to some homemade playdough for the kids – which turned into a cool red colour.

homemade playdough made with natural beetroot dye

But, if I’m honest, I’m still struggling with the veg and fruit box and not using all the ingredients. I had to throw away a few mouldy oranges and a lot of lettuce 😦

2. I picked up a couple of books on Slow Living/Living intentionally at the library. I realised I hadn’t got a book from the library for well over a month. It was nice to have time to browse the shelves and, now my kids are older, I don’t have to head straight for the children’s corner.

library books as part of Thrifty Finds series on seoncdhandtales.wordpress.com

3. I finally received that refund for the delayed train last month (We were stuck on a train outside Sevenoaks station for over an hour!)

4. I went to a free lunchtime talk at Bath Guildhall. It was about the 50th anniversary of Bath Record Office. As part of my job I will be promoting this great service.

5. I’m struggling at the moment with the free coffee from Waitrose that I pick up every morning when I’m at work. I know I shouldn’t struggle with free coffee but I do wonder how it affects trade in the other local coffee shops. I’m currently planning a post on this. In the meantime I take my trusty re-usable coffee cup (and have already had a few conversations with people about it!). I also received double stamps on my loyalty card from another coffee shop because I brought a reusable cup!

Reusable bamboo coffee cup

And finally… not a Thrifty Find at all but I wanted to say that I marked last Friday by meeting up with the lovely Deborah from The Magic Jug blog. She had been in town earlier to help with the ‘Build Bridges Not Walls’ banner that had been draped over Bath’s historic Pulteney Bridge – to mark Trump’s inauguration  (see here). It’s always so lovely when you meet up with someone whose words you read on a regular basis. And last Friday it was even nicer to meet up with a similar minded person. I also watched and read all the coverage on the Women’s Marches which stirred my feminist soul and made me feel I really had to do something.

 

princess-leia via ladieswhodesign.com

You can download this poster via womenwhodesign website here

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Plastic Free July: Failing to plan…

So, despite the fact that I have been trying to avoid some single use plastic for the past couple of years I still slip up by failing to plan. Sometimes I can be very good and take a  trip out with my disposable coffee cup/water bottle, spork, napkin and reusable bags.

But there are also times when I don’t think ahead. For example this week I went to see the wonderful Billy Bragg in concert (a great, therapeutic post-Brexit experience).

But I hadn’t even clocked that, at the bar, drinks would be served in disposable plastic glasses. This is something that is so obvious and, as someone who works the bar in an Arts Centre, I should have known this. Of course, because I couldn’t go without a pint of the local brew, ‘Funky Monkey’, I had to order the drinks in the plastic pint glasses.

What makes me even more cross with myself is that we have two reusable plastic pint glasses picked up from last year’s festivals:

reusuable plastic pint glasses

So, next time I go to a gig I must remember to take one of these. Sometimes I feel I need a crystal ball to predict what sort of disposable plastic products I will be faced with on a day to day business. And if I packed for every eventuality I would have a very heavy bag….

Still it’s all a learning experience and, as I promised myself, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

On an unexpected positive note this week I ordered a t-shirt which, although it did arrive in a plastic bag, had only this fabric label attached:

Redbubble label

The label explains the care instructions and points customers towards its returns website. I was also very impressed that it was attached to the t-shirt with the wooden clothes peg, rather than those awful plastic tags that end up lost on the floor when you cut them off!

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Plastic Free July Days 1-6

plastic free July

This month is Plastic Free July, an idea originating from Australia that encourages us to give up single use plastic for a month.

I haven’t completely made up my mind as to whether I will actively take part in Plastic Free July this year. I participated a couple of years ago (post here) and really struggled with finding alternatives that matched a)my time and b)budget.

However I like to think I have learned a lot since that experience, and incorporated some of the plastic-free habits into my everyday life.

So, with this in mind, I’ve set up a very loose guide as to how I am going to participate in Plastic Free July this time:

  1. Continue with my ‘good habits’, that is to take reusable shopping bags, refuse plastic straws and disposable cutlery and, instead, bring my own.
  2. Refuse the top four single use plastic sources: carrier bags, straws, takeaway coffees and plastic bottles. I do most of that already (see above) but could be better with the latter two.
  3. Not beat myself up if I make a ‘fail’.

So, since the beginning of July, I have gone out and about with my new(ish) reusable bamboo coffee cup:

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I have carried water in my brilliant Lakeside container that keeps drinks hot or cold:

 

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We managed a plastic-free picnic for school sports day last Friday:

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I also undertook a mammoth baking session at the weekend to ensure we had lots of unwrapped, homecooked snacks

 

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I have, however, been not so good when it comes to plastic wrapping. I went to the cinema and bought a packet of Maltesers (although I also took my water bottle instead of buying a plastic bottle there); went shopping with my youngest and bought a few things wrapped in plastic; bought trainers online that came in a plastic bag.

As much as I think I have fairly good habits when it comes to refusing plastic and waste, it is only a drop in the ocean. But when I look at how far I have come since before participating in Plastic Free July in 2014 it is quite a distance….

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Plastic Free July article in Green Parent magazine

Green Parent magazine June/July 2016

A couple of years ago I took part in Plastic Free July; a worldwide initiative to encourage participants to cut down on – or eliminate – single use plastic.

I found it to be a really enlightening, yet frustrating,challenge. I learnt a lot about alternatives to plastic wrapping, straws, disposable cups etc but also discovered that plastic is everywhere. By linking up with like minded bloggers I picked up tips on how to go plastic free but also found out just how prevalent the material is (did you know there is plastic in tea bags and chewing gum?).

Suffice to say that I haven’t repeated the challenge but have tried to incorporate some of the things I learned into everyday life.

 

Anyway, to cut to the chase, I wrote an article on my experience of Plastic Free July for the Green Parent magazine and it is featured in their current June/July edition. I have written for them before (as I dabble in some freelance writing) and love their ethos and attitude. I also blogged about the magazine here as one of my go-to inspirational reads on slow living.

The Green Parent magazine is on sale in major newsagents and supermarkets or you can find it here. Even if you don’t have children – or your kids have grown up – I still think it’s a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to live a greener life.

(Plastic Free July 2016 begins next week on Friday  1st July. My blog post here summarises my thoughts at the end of the 2014 challenge)

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What are your green ‘no nos’?

I was thinking about this the other day while trying to work out what I could shave off our monthly grocery bill. There are some things that I will swap, or do without, if I need to cut costs (or for convenience) but these are the things I won’t do:

1. Swap free range eggs for factory farmed

Well this is a bit of a no-brainer. I would rather go without eggs than buy cheaper products produced by caged animals. Where we live we are lucky enough to either get eggs from a local smallholding, or free range ones from the newspaper shop (you get a discount for reusing your egg box)

free range eggs

2. Buy plastic bags at supermarkets

So occasionally I may buy a ‘bag for life’ but I really wouldn’t buy a plastic bag from a shop. As I tend to have a supermarket delivery and veg box there is very little need to use plastic bags. I also use my trusty net produce bags when shopping in the greengrocers (or they provide paper bags) and take loads of cloth bags with me when shopping.

package free grocery shopping

3. Buy first hand

After all this blog is called ‘second-hand tales’! Over the past few years we have made a conscious decision to try to buy second-hand. Rather than automatically going to Ikea, Currys or B&Q to buy a new item of furniture, or electrical item, we have scoured charity shops, facebook sales and ebay to pick up a pre-loved alternative. Not only is this cheaper it is also extending the life of the object. I love the fact that we aren’t buying into the First World mantra that you must buy shiny and new, and buy it often.

second hand sofa, chair and lamp in sitting room

second hand sofa, chair,cushions,picture frames, lamp, piano stool and electric organ (plus bookshelves from reclaimed floorboards)

4. Buy a second car, or drive when we can walk

I’ve written here about how we manage without a second car living in a small rural village. However owning a second car is just a complete no-no. Not only can we not afford it, or find anywhere to park it, it makes no environmental sense. I like the fact that I have to be resourceful when being car-less and that, during the school holidays, the children and I use the local bus service (which still costs over a tenner for an eight mile journey!). Even when we do have the car we have to garage it quite a distance from the house. To be honest I’d rather walk than have to get the car out, anyway.

5. Not recycle

This may seem like quite an obvious one but, yes, I do know people who still don’t recycle! Saying that, I have tried very hard to not need to recycle in the first place. That is, to reduce the packaging and other items that come into our house that can then be recycled. We try to avoid plastic bottles and containers where possible and reply on a doorstep milk delivery in returnable glass bottles, bars of soap and refillable washing up liquid and cleaners, to name a few.

glass recycling bin in the Netherlands

6.Not Vote

Isn’t this the most important one? I know that, living in rural Wiltshire, it often feels like my vote doesn’t count. But I can hardly moan about it if I don’t at least try to change the voting results, or  let the other candidates know that the environmental issue is an important one. If you read this blog regularly you may also know that my husband has stood for the Green Party in both local and national elections. And last year – for the first time ever – the Greens had a candidate standing in every constituency in our county.

There are plenty more things I would like to do on a regular basis, or commit to permanently. Sometimes I feel like a ‘green’ fraud when I think of the things we haven’t done – or could do better.

Top of this ‘could do better’ list is:

1. Switch to green energy provider

2. Refuse plastic straws at all times

3. Remember to always take refillable water bottle (we went to London last Saturday and got caught out by the heat and had to buy a bottle of water)

4. Use refillable coffee cup – or refuse takeaways

5. When shopping first hand, buy from more ethical suppliers (esp. clothing)

There’s always far more to do, than I’ve actually done. I admire those people who can completely give up plastic, live without producing waste, or devote their time (and purse) to causes such as avoiding palm oil products. But I must always remember that I can only do what is possible at the time and, when I look at how our behaviour has changed (especially since having children) we have come a long way in those things we do – and don’t do – to reduce our impact on the environment.

But over to you: what would you do/not do to lessen your impact on the earth?

 

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Plastic Microbead Ban – and alternatives

plastic free oceans

You may have seen online the petition to get the UK government to consider banning plastic microbeads here. The US has already agreed to ban the production of microbeads in personal care products from 2017.

Microbeads are the tiny particles of plastic that are found in body scrubs, face washes, some toothpastes etc.

They are so tiny that, once they are flushed down the drain, water filtering plants can’t stop them. Unfiltered they end up in the world’s rivers and seas where they don’t degrade. Here they can be ingested by marine life, which is harmful to them and to us (if we end up consuming some of this marine life).

It seems such an unnecessary form of pollution, just to make our teeth brighter or our skin glow.

But there are alternatives…

The very handy Beat the Microbead website here has a great list of products that do and don’t contain microbeads. Since I found out about microbeads I have been searching for alternatives and have discovered Lush’s Ocean Salt scrub which smells of summer holidays and works really well.

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What’s more if you collect five of their plastic pots and return them empty to the store you get a free face mask. They recycle all their black pots (see here).  The blog Refuge for Daffodils has also pointed out that at the bottom of each black pot is a number that equates with how many times it has been recycled (10 is the limit). So far I’ve collected two pots that seem to be on life number 2 and 6.

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The deadline for the UK petition to parliament is 23 January so please consider signing it. And do look at the list of alternative products as well.