Sometimes the world feels like it’s falling down around us, but there are always those silent super heroes, spreading love, kindness, and instigating action, who put it all back together. Meet Laura Cope. Laura is one of those people. What would the world be like without her? Not as great; that’s for sure.
As well as a joy spreading and community connecting wizard, Laura is the founder of UYO “Use Your Own”: New Zealand’s Responsible Cafe Directory who connects cafe goers with cafes that make the effort to reduce their impact on the planet, and will welcome you and your KeepCup with open arms. Laura is on a mission to change the culture of single use, and swap it for a more mindful and community focused way of living with reusables.
When was the moment you realised UYO was needed?
It wasn’t that I saw bins overflowing, it was that I had a David Attenborough moment. A literal one. Listening to him speak to his audience at the Civic Theatre in Auckland, February 2017. He answered question time about what we should do to make a difference, to make the future brighter and viable by saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, “support grass roots movements and repeat your own small actions, over and over and over again”. I went away searching for a platform where I could create change in an industry that was inherently wasteful, but where change was possible, where those small actions, repeated over and over again, would not only have a physically beneficial impact on resources depletion and waste stream mess, but could also produce a philosophical and societal change. Encouraging and normalising personal stewardship. A return to common sense. UYO also exists to work with and connect communities and groups who are making change. All the Attenborough boxes could be ticked. It wasn’t that I saw waste needed to be reduced, it was because he made me realise that our minds needed to be reprogrammed, and single use coffee cups was, perhaps, a way to do that.
What would you say to the people who still use disposable plastics because “one person can’t make a difference”?
One person is the only person who can make a difference. Every change in society, in process, in what is normal, comes from a ‘lot of one people’ doing what they think to be right (sometimes, of course, unfortunately, this can be wrong). It is how we evolve and how our societies evolve. Today, especially within democratic systems, more than ever before, the consumer is all powerful. If you stop buying something, you will effect change. The market will adapt to your choices. You, your sister, your work colleagues, your kids, everything you do directs the future. The way we spend, or don’t spend our money has become more powerful than how we vote…
What advice would you give to someone a bit overwhelmed with going plastic-free?
Forget the word plastic. Ask yourself the question, do I need this, really need this? If the answer is No, walk away from it. Then the question, is this item multi use? If the answer is No, don’t buy or accept it. Then the question, would my Nan’s Mum think that buying or using this was a waste of money? If the answer is Yes, walk away.
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?
Do you have a morning routine? If so what is it you do to set yourself up for the day ahead?I sleep with the curtains open, so I’m almost awake before my alarm makes it official. I am woken up by ‘Sunny Skies’ by James Taylor. Not too loud, so sometimes it integrates into my dreams. I had set it as my alarm when I got my phone and never changed it, but it works. I sing along every morning, all the way through. No leaping up. Have a cup of something wet, herbal tea, a mash up blend of water and blueberries and hemp hearts and a bit of banana if no one has eaten them beforehand. And then I walk somewhere. Anywhere. Rain or shine. Either the beach (which is pretty close, or up on the hills behind where I live. With the dog, unless it’s raining: she’s a fair weather friend and shrugs at me, like a discernible shrug, if I request her company outside during inclement weather. Or just around the block. I home-school my daughter, Esra, so she comes along. We chat, try and notice seasonal changes, breathe it in, remember we’re little so it’s all ok, do all the things that we read are good for our spirits, and it works hey. I make time for this time. But I could stay up till 3am and sleep till noon, happily – I’m not a natural day person, but I have things I need to get done before I die, and people I love to see, so that keeps me on course. Unchecked, I had always leant towards chaos, had taken on jobs and goals that could be reasonably accomplished within a flexible and unorthodox time schedule, not always to my benefit. Motherhood has really helped me see the advantages and mental health necessities of some kind of routine, and within that, self-care.
Best piece of advice you have ever received?
From my Nan, two pieces that kind of roll together, both about motherhood but both relevant elsewhere: “They need your love most when they appear to deserve it the least”, and, “walk out like you know where you are going – you’ll get there eventually and you’ll make others feel safe”.
What’s your definition of success?
To be in a position to contribute to the wellbeing of other living things.
What’s one thing you’d tell someone about to launch their own business?
Live and work your values – find a way to incorporate your beliefs into your business life. For your own satisfaction and resilience when times are tough, and so your intent and integrity are unimpeachable. Today, I believe we all have a responsibility to contribute to society more than just making our IRD payments. If your business idea is creating something that squanders resources, encourages an unhealthy obsession with status objects, creates waste that cannot be repurposed, or reused, or at the very least, recycled, perhaps reconsider your business plan. Think about how you can give to others and lift others as a part of your day to day working life? That was 3 things? Dang.
One book and/or documentary everyone should read/watch? Why?
Cowspiracy. Definitely. Animal agriculture, in my mind, is planetary enemy number one. And yet is it so deeply ingrained in our economic and social structure that it is insidiously and dangerously omnipresent, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The elephant in even the most ethically conscious room. Cowspiracy unravels the excuses that society utilises to continue with behaviour that I am certain history will mark as suicidal, barbaric, genocidal. Big words, and I can feel unknown readers flinch and back away even as I write them, but it’s a violent and destructive industry. To shy from those words would be irresponsible.
Are there any other Movers & Shakers our there in your world that you think people should know about?
Shit yes. Where to begin? Niamh Peren, the author of the Thumbs Up New Zealand petition which at time of writing has over 30k signatures, calling for clarification of packaging materials and how they should be treated: Two Green Thumbs Up = packaging 100% recyclable in NZ & made from 100% recycled material, One Horizontal Yellow Thumb = 100% recyclable in NZ, not made from recycled material, Two Red Thumbs Down = not recyclable in NZ. A game changer.
Damaris Coulter, champion of The Realness World. A web based guide to owner/operators in hospitality who are playing the game for real. Hands on. People who care about the food they prepare, where it comes from, who and how it is made and the circumstances under which it is enjoyed. This woman is pure joyful fire. Every single one of the café owners who have listed their businesses with the UYO guide. Quietly chipping away at the norm, gently shifting behaviour patterns, influencing their customers, staff and the whole industry by using their voices to say ‘Nah, it’s time to stop contributing to a problem when solutions are as easy as saying ‘I’ll have that coffee here please, or in this jam jar’. Every day heroes creating a tide of change – far wider than simply reducing the use of single use coffee cups.
Inspired? We certainly were.
Check out UYO for yourself here.