Creating a sustainable café takes a great deal of mindfulness and devotion — those of you that purchase high-grown, shade-grown, ethically-sourced arabicas are 90% of the way there! Finding excellent, sustainable coffee is by far the greatest hurdle to operating a sustainable café. (To learn more about coffee and sustainability, click here.) These rest of it — finding sustainable décor, cups, waste disposal options, etc. is easy. With a few small changes, you can take your cafe from being sustainably-sourced to being environmentally-friendly. Scroll down to learn more.
Buying, brewing, and serving
Buy local! While you may view local sourcing as a way to celebrate your community, purchasing from local suppliers significantly reduces the carbon footprint of your products by reducing transportation emissions.
Swap plastic straws for reusable or bamboo straws. If you offer a number of iced or cold beverages, swap your plastic straws out for reusable and / or bamboo straws. They are sustainable, cost-efficient, and look very chic.
Invest in biodegradable, recyclable, or non-disposable stirrers and cups. In addition to being more eco-friendly, steel stirrers and porcelain cups allow the rich flavor or your coffee to shine through without absorbing flavors from wood stirrers or plastic / styrofoam cups.
Sell reusable mugs or travel mugs and provide customers who bring their own mugs with a discount. Not only is this better for the earth, it also serves as a form of passive advertisement if you offer mugs with your café name / logo.
Practice water efficiency and conservation by investing in energy-efficient bulbs and appliances, using low-flow, pre-rinse spray nozzles, air-cooled ice machines, and a water filtration system. Finally, fix leaky faucets! It may seem like a small loss but that water-down-the-drain adds up over time.
Compost, use, or donate used grounds. Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen making them a wonderful addition to compost piles and acid-loving plant soil. If you have more grounds than plants, consider creating a take-what-you-like compost pile for eco-minded customers or donating your grounds to a local farm.
Water acid-loving plants with leftover black coffee. Brewed black coffee, just like used grounds, makes a marvelously nutritious drink for your plants. Rather than pour stale black coffee down the drain, mix it in with your plant water and let your greens have a caffeinated feast.
Clean green! As a café enthusiast, you know that with coffee, comes cleaning — lots and lots of cleaning. To ensure your green efforts aren’t marred by commercial cleaners, try cleaning green. You may not know it but coffee grounds are excellent at removing grease and grime from grills and sinks — just pour, scrub, and rinse.
Décor and maintenance
Use sustainable decor. Sustainable decor can be anything from cushions made from old coffee sacks to garage sale treasures and furniture made from reclaimed materials, bamboo, rattan, or metal.
Use a chalkboard menu instead of paper menus. Chalkboard menus cut down on the need for paper and have the added benefit of allowing you to update your menu at a minute’s notice!
Add plants! A green wall, floor plants, ivy — all provide a splash of color, help purify the air, give a good home to your leftover black coffee, and serve as a continued reminder of your commitment to sustainable operations. They also look great.
If you enjoyed this blog and would like to learn more about coffee and sustainability, please check out our Sustainability Series.