We spoke to rugby star, environmental activist and coffee lover David Pocock about coffee, sustainability and reducing the use of single-use products.
During your time playing rugby union in Australia, you’ve always been a frequent visitor to local cafes. Do you have any particular favourite places to visit?
Traveling for rugby it’s always good to get out of the hotel when you’ve got some time off and cafes obviously make a great place to get a coffee or a meal and do some work. Origin and Truth Coffee Roasting are two coffee places in Cape Town that are right up there. In Brisbane, Black Star in West End is an all time favourite. In WA Margaret River Roasters is a great locally run roastery and coffee shop. But when I’m home in Canberra between The Cupping Room, Highroad and Barrio there’s more good coffee than one could ever drink.
Do you have a favourite type/style of coffee?
I usually drink a long black. Occasionally a batch brew.
I have to admit that at home I usually use a french press, so maybe that disqualifies me from this interview?
How do you keep up your coffee intake when you’re on the road? Do you brew your own coffee, or frequent other cafes?
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in teams with Matt Toomua, who is a coffee fiend. And I often room with him so there’s usually some sort of coffee on the go. He has been known to tour with a small La Marzocco coffee machine!
You’re most well known as a professional rugby player, but also engage in a lot of activism and environmentally-focused projects in your own time. Can you tell us a bit about what you’ve been working on/have done over the past few years?
I really believe reorienting our lives back toward Nature is critically important. If you think about the kinds of crises we’re facing – so many of them are a result of us being disconnected from the natural world which is the only thing that can sustain us at the end of the day. A lot of my attention, away from rugby, has been on thinking about how I can help be part of that reorientation. At the end of 2019 Em (my partner) and I released a book – In Our Nature – where we tried to tell some of the stories of places and people we’ve visited who are doing that work and our own attempts at it.
As a public figure, why do you think it is important for you to share the work of environmental projects, and what kind of effect does it have?
I feel like it’s something I’d be doing regardless of whether I was playing rugby or not and I’m just talking about things that are important to me. The way a lot of our media and parts of the economy have vested interests in treating this incredible continent like it’s just there to be turned into profit means that looking after our home can, unfortunately, be a divisive thing. Cultural change is always fraught but we’re at a moment of real urgency when reimagining what the future could be like and building new models is the most important work.
You’re an avid user of reusable cups. Can you tell us how long you’ve been using reusable cups, and why do you think it is important to do so?
I’ve been the butt of jokes for years carrying around a water bottle and reusable cup, but figure the slight inconvenience of remembering a cup is better than sending a cup to landfill after every coffee. If you actually stop and think about it that’s pretty insane. We’re all addicted to convenience.
It’s great to see businesses like Ona Coffee starting to lead on this with the #giveupthecup campaign.
Restrictions put in place due to COVID-19 quickly saw reusable cups largely drop out of use, and the use of single use cups soar. What do you think can be done in the coming months to encourage people to start using reusable cups again?
Sarah Wilson wrote a great piece about how there were no public health recommendations or rules that stopped people using reusable cups, so while understandable, it was disappointing to see almost all cafes refusing to fill clean reusable cups. As things ease we’ll hopefully see more people and cafes ditch the single use cup for good. Maybe one day we’ll look back on this time of single use non-compostable cups and packaging in horror and disbelief?
During normal trading (without COVID-19), Australians use about 2.8 million single use cups every single day. In your view, what can be done to encourage businesses and the public to move away from using these cups and to embrace more sustainable alternatives?
Education about just how many cups we chuck out and how most of them aren’t in fact recyclable. We talk about throwing things “away” – but there’s no “away” and that cup goes somewhere, usually to landfill after one cup of coffee. Not to mention all the cups you see in bushland and creeks.
Bringing on this sort of circular economy will require a big paradigm shift, but I think we’re all starting to get there.
In your view, how can the #giveupthecup campaign help to encourage these sustainable alternatives?
#giveupthecup is the kind of leadership we need from businesses. Individual choices are important, but we need most of them to be scaled by politics to make significant change. I think politicians will probably only get involved when enough people and businesses demand they do. It’s a simple and cheeky campaign (with a give up the cup message on takeaway cups) encouraging people to find an alternative. Hopefully the time has finally come to give up the cup.
If you could describe your ideal future of coffee consumption (with sustainable products), what would it look like?
Coffee culture as a whole has improved out of sight from the early days of Fairtrade changing the way producers were treated, to many cafes and companies now having relationships and direct trade with farmers. Climate breakdown obviously poses a huge challenge to coffee and where and how it will be able to be produced, so there’s a important story in there for coffee drinkers to be part of making it more sustainable. And for the drinker that is probably through either sitting to have your coffee, bringing a clean reusable cup or being part of a cup exchange scheme.
Read more about the #giveupthecup campaign at onacoffee.com.au/sustainability