“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
As a family business with a number of longtime employees, we take the sentiment of this quote to heart. We recognize that the actions we do or do not make today shape tomorrow for our families, for our company, and for the environment that enables us to indulge both our professional passion and personal obsession (coffee). Today, we are closing out our Sustainability Series by discussing sustainability at Mills Coffee and TheQueenBean, highlighting our sustainability efforts in the roasting facility, in coffee purchasing, and in waste reduction.
Our roasting facility
Our roasting plant, housed in one of Providence’s historic buildings, has all the trappings you expect from a 19th-century industrial building — concrete walls, a flat roof, and a dumbwaiter (a small, hand-operated elevator we use to send invoices and other small items between floors). Over the years we’ve taken steps to preserve the history of our building while adding modern, eco-friendly features, including solar panels that generate approximately 80% of our annual energy, efficient appliances, and a number of new trees to the facility’s grounds. We use hand-dollies when possible on the plant floor and while we have two roasters, we try to only use one. Both of our roasters are equipped with modern afterburners which burn off emissions, smoke, and air-polluting scents ensuring they never hit the environment. We are also exploring the possibility of installing a green roof on the lower roof and will update this entry if / when we can make that a reality!
Our coffee is our representative in the world and we only purchase beans that benefit both the farmer and their community. For us this means only purchasing high-grown, shade-grown coffees. (To learn more about why high-grown, shade-grown is important, click here.) All of our coffees are sustainably grown and many are organically grown. While we offer coffees that are Certified Organic (CO), we personally find the CO roasting requirements too restrictive and, like many small and medium-sized roasters, choose not to seek certification (to read more on our reasoning, please click here). Where possible we engage in direct trade and really love to offer coffees that support positive community and environmental initiates. All of our coffee is held in-house post-roast until sale.
Note: Presently, we offer coffees with the following certifications: Rainforest Alliance Certified, Bird Friend, CO (labeled organically-grown), UTZ certified, and 4C certified. If you would like to know more about these coffees, please contact us. To learn more about these certifications, please click here.
We try to reuse and repurpose as much of our waste as possible. If you have been following our Sustainability Series, you know that coffee generates a significant amount of reusable waste, primarily in the form of burlap bags and chaff, a nutrient-rich particulate matter that gathers at the bottom of the roaster during roasting. At Mills and The QB we upcycle, recycle, and repurpose as much of this waste as possible. Our used burlap and jute sacks are repurposed in-house as basket liners, wall hangings, tote bags, potato pots, and other craft projects. We also donate used sacks to a local orchard, the RI Department of Environmental Management for reuse as sandbags, youth groups, summer camps (who doesn’t love a good sack race!), schools, and pretty much anyone else who asks for them. We never discard our used coffee sacks in the trash. Our chaff, which makes an excellent addition to compost and fertilizer, is either donated to a local landscaper or taken home by employees for use in their gardens / compost piles.
This is unquestionably my FAVORITE section in this entry! As mentioned earlier, we are a fifth-generation family business with employees who have been with us for decades (to give some perspective, the person writing this is in their 30s and was a flower girl at Mike’s wedding and used to be babysat — as a child — by Kristen, who works in our office). Mike, one of our roasters, keeps bees which means he needs healthy flowers and fuel for his smoker. He often takes home chaff for his fertilizer and burlap bags to fuel his burner. Most of our team members try to eat local, organic, free-range, and wild-caught when possible. And now … a little bit more about the wonderful people who make up Mills and The QB.
I know this blog is about sustainability but it is nearly impossible to speak about our team without talking about the animals. Almost everyone who works at Mills and The QB has at least one furry friend, most of whom are rescues. While we can’t name ALL the pets, here are some standouts: Susan is mom to Choppa, the beloved parking lot pug who rides to work each day and has his own desk and chair in her office (as well as two dog beds — one for sun, one for shade). David M is dad to Bubby, the parking lot cat who wandered in one day and decided he liked the indoor life so much that once settled in David’s house, invited in some friends for a lie-down and some filtered water. Dave M has a beloved pit bull, Charlie, rescued from a local kill shelter. Kristen is mom to (among many animals) an adorable three-legged cat named Sheldon and Maine coon named Leonard (if you are wondering if she is a Big Bang Theory fan, she is!). Kelly provides a home to pretty much any stray she finds … amazingly, this diverse assortment of feral cats, precious pups, and hamsters live harmoniously. Lindsay has helped rescue many of the Mills strays. Danny has two cats rescued from the pound and Timmy’s mom runs a local animal shelter. If you follow The QB, you likely know that Nicole and Cindy met while studying for their MPA in Environmental Science and Policy AND each has much-loved, often-find-their-way-into-coffee-photo cats. For more pictures of our team, our plant, and our pets, please check out the gallery below.