Wānaka Sun       

Wanakup: more than a cup

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 15 Apr, 2021 | By Joanna Perry newsdesk@thewanakasun.co.nz

The Wanakup stall has been serving up free coffee at almost every festival and event this summer - from the A&P Show, to Ripe, to last week's cold and rainy Skyline Track challenge Gritt - in the signature stainless steel cups. But this sustainability initiative is about much more than coffee.

The non-profit environmental organisation is the brainchild of two local baristas, Nathale Thaipun and Benjamin Quinn, who are using their backgrounds in environmental and social science to bring about sustainable change through behavioural change.

The pair are running the most used reusable cup system in Wānaka. Their $10 borrowing scheme is used by over 15 local cafes and will soon be launching in hotels. They support local businesses to establish reusable systems through consultation, providing mugs and jars to set up libraries, and sanitisation in their commercial dishwasher.

They've provided catering for a whole range of street, beer and arts festivals on the South Island, and they were a finalist at last month's Local's Choice Wānaka 2020 awards for favourite sustainability initiative, alongside Wastebusters (winner) and Te Kākano Aotearoa Trust.

And they have achieved all of this off their own backs, whilst working full-time, with the help of a team of volunteers. 

Thaipun said that the project had been “passion-driven” since its inception in 2018, which involved “spending every second of our day” researching and designing the perfect thermally insulated and virtually unbreakable reusable cup.

When Wanakup officially launched in June 2019, they were not the only reusable cup system on the Wānaka scene - but during the Covid-19 pandemic they gained significant traction with cafes through offering frequent collection, sanitisation and delivery of clean Wanakups.

Now busy with events almost every weekend, Thaipun said that at first punters didn't understand what the “catch” was when they were offered a free coffee. 

“We're trying to encourage people to reuse,” she said. “People don't realise how much of a takeaway cup goes into landfill.”

Wanakup estimates that over the last two years, their cafe system has already stopped over 200,000 cups from entering landfill, and their events work another 50,000. 

Thaipun said to be nominated for the Local's Choice award was “so warming.”

“Sometimes Ben and I get a little bluesy because we really do work hard. Ben and I have been doing endless doubles to essentially pay our living wage as well as pay for us to run Wanakup. We don't make money because we want to make a point... We don't want any excuses from businesses, we don't want it to be over complicated. So we just do it all.”

With their three year anniversary coming up in July, Wanakup have some exciting plans for the future, both to establish funding streams and expand their offering. Keep your eyes out for a beer collaboration between Rhyme & Reason and Little Black Caravan, with $1 of every pour going to Wanakup, fundraising community events to support local businesses during shoulder season, and further expansion outside of Wānaka (and maybe even New Zealand).

Read edition 1022 of the Wānaka Sun here.


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