Joshua O’Leary | House Manager Bermondsey
With everyone’s attention firmly focused on the unfolding coronavirus crisis, it can be easy to forget about that other massive, potentially world-ending catastrophe (what a time to be alive right?) - environmental collapse. I suppose, in a way, the primary beneficiary of lockdown, after perhaps Zoom, Houseparty and Yoga-with-Adriene, has been the environment. As economic activity has ground to a halt, fleets of aeroplanes have been grounded and air pollution in cities has dropped precipitously. And while our green spaces have been flooded with thousands of people seeking any escape from their living rooms, at least the police are moving everyone on regularly, so our grass has a chance to really flourish.
Yes, all things considered, the environment is doing rather well right now. However, the likelihood of this state-of-affairs continuing post-lockdown is slim to none. Millions of stir-crazy citizens, brimming with bundles of unspent energy will be pouring back out into the world in a frenzy of activity, and this spells bad news for the environment. I can imagine that many people are not going to want to hear about the other great crisis in the room, having recently escaped quite a dramatic one. Well, unfortunately for them, the importance of sustainability will not go quietly into the night. World Earth day is here to champion the cause of environmental protection and in honour of this, here is some of what we at Watch House do to look after our lovely planet.
Seems like an oxymoron right? “Compostable Plastic”. Plastic is supposed to be that God-Awful material that, while being super convenient for keeping your coffee in its cup, also has the minor side-effects of filling our bodies with nasty chemicals and filling our oceans with nasty rubbish. Well it turns out that it’s entirely possible to make cups and lids from entirely compostable materials. That is exactly what our supplier of coffee cups and lids, Decent Packaging, do.
“The essential concept at the heart of everything we do is to ensure we can unmake everything we make”
Normal plastic can usually only be recycled once or twice. After this, it is disposed of in a landfill where it can take hundreds of years to degrade; or it is incinerated, releasing mad carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It doesn’t take a genius to look at the size of the global coffee industry to realise the damage that takeaway cups and lids are doing to beautiful Mother Earth. Using some smart chemistry and some high-level technology, the eggheads over at Decent Packaging created a process allowing them to produce heat-stable products, which are compostable, entirely from plants! This means that, if you really want to, you can use you daily morning coffee cup to fertilise your garden. Thank you, eggheads. This made the decision for Watch House to switch to Decent for our packaging needs quite an easy one.
Above: Our customised Decent Packaging takeway cup
Anyone who has had the pleasure of working in a specialty coffee shop, will be aware of the unfortunate amount of milk wasting that goes on. Baristas, often needing to steam milk for multiple coffees simultaneously, under pressure to get those drinks out quickly, will, of course, end up miscalculating how much milk needs to be steamed. Due to our high product standards at Watch House, we don’t re-heat milk and because of this, milk has to be thrown down the drain.
Understanding that this knowledge could make any of our customers quite upset and have any of our vegan customers in fits of rage, we knew we had to do something. Enter Milkmate, for all your milk-dispensing needs. Milkmate is a wicked piece of machinery produced by Austrian company Silexa. Simply hook it up to a large bucket of milk, program in the volume of milk to be dispensed each time and hit the button. This allows our baristas to maintain precision accuracy with the amount of milk they are using, increases their productivity and reduces the plastic wastage (no more milk bottles). A Win-win-win.
Above: Milkmate in action at Watch House Tower Bridge
The U.K. wastes a lot of food. A LOT of food. According to a study done last year, the country wastes £9.7 billion worth of food every year. This is obviously an unacceptable and unsustainable situation. At Watch House, we found ourselves in a tricky situation. We want to be able to provide enough food for our lovely customers and avoid disappointing them when they come in for their favourite sandwich to find it sold out, while also avoiding being left at the end of the day with an abundance of food to be binned. Thankfully for us, amazing companies like Too Good To Go and OLIO exist! Any sandwiches that survive the lunch-time rush are swiftly uploaded to Too Good To Go where users can bag them at bargain prices and collect them any time before we close. In the event that there are still any sandwiches left at the end of the day, they are collected by one of the lovely OLIO team. OLIO is a food sharing app and website and allows our leftover food to be distributed in our local neighbourhoods. The combination of these two apps keeps our food wastage to an absolute minimum.
Above: We stock all our counters with daily fresh items.
So, don’t worry Mother Earth. Just because some new crisis has come along, doesn’t mean that Watch House has forgotten about you. We will continue to work as hard as we can to run a sustainable business and protect this beautiful planet we all share.