Halifax’s first zero-waste café offers unexpected benefit for coffee lovers

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Customers of a zero-waste shop and café in Halifax are discovering an unintentional benefit of cutting down on their plastic consumption: a few minutes of “me time” in the middle of a busy day.

The Tare Shop, which opened recently on Cornwallis Street, doesn’t offer disposable cups, plastic-wrapped treats or plastic straws in its café, which bills itself as the only coffee shop of its kind in the city.

Customers looking to grab a quick cup of coffee can buy a travel mug on the spot, bring their own reusable mug, take one of the café’s free mugs to go or enjoy their drink inside. 

“It’s been pretty cool to see people come in, all rushed and frantic, in need of their coffee to go, and when we tell them that we don’t have any disposable mugs sometimes they’ll realize that they have five or 10 minutes and they sit down to have their coffee for here,” said Kate Pepler, the shop’s owner.

Making a difference

The shop also sells bulk foods and liquids that people can buy package-free or with their own containers, such as mason jars, cotton bags or resealable bags.

Since it opened Oct. 3, Pepler said the store has saved close to 2,000 coffee cups and plastic bags.

“It’s been very cool to see that tangible impact,” she said.

Even if café customers don’t want to take or buy a mug and don’t have the time to drink their coffee inside, Pepler said she believes they will leave the shop and “think about the implications of why we are doing this.”

Providing education

Pepler graduated from Dalhousie University with a degree in sustainability, environmental science and marine biology in 2016, where her studies inspired her to make a difference.

“I started looking at my own plastic consumption and trying to cut it down, and realized that it’s pretty difficult in Halifax. There was nowhere in the downtown core that was kind of a one-stop place for package-free.”

(Craig Paisley/CBC )

In filling this gap, Pepler felt that it was also important to educate people on environmental sustainability. The store offers workshops on how to live waste-free in the hopes it will ease customers into a more sustainable lifestyle. So far, two have sold out.

“We try to make everything affordable and accessible, so these workshops are all pay what you can, $5 minimum donation,” said Pepler.

Pepler will soon be expanding her workshops and events to help people have a zero-waste holiday season.