Business will always seek to externalize environmental impacts and other costs. Would consumers be willing to pay what a truly sustainable cup of coffee would cost?
Slightly Coffee Roasters Sustainability Efforts:
Sustainability is something that is incredibly important to our business model and to the owners personally. There isn’t one thing a person or organization can do that will truly be enough to reverse the anthropomorphic related climate changes we are seeing on a global scale. We don’t pretend to be the solution to all of our environments woes. Slightly Coffee Roasters is a new company and is very limited in budget and total man hours we can dedicate to any task. We are taking sustainability very seriously and plan to grow with the goals of becoming much more sustainable over time. In fact we believe so much in sustainability it is one of our core values- sustainability, hospitality, ownership and quality. These are the values that drive all of our decisions.
Current sustainability efforts at our cafe:
Refillable coffee containers: We sell more jar refills than any other whole bean option at our cafe. (Almost 500 refills this year!). This is a major step in starting a conversation about sustainability, and we are unaware of any other coffee company selling their coffee in refillable containers.
Compost: we compost all food waste and coffee grounds at our cafe. Some coffee grounds are saved for local gardens and compost piles for owners and employees.
Paper Free Sunday: This year we hosted Eugene’s first “Paper Free Sunday”, and have offered our customers the option to take their to go coffee in ball mason jars every day since. We plan to make “Paper Free Sunday” a regular occurance here in Eugene for many years to come.
Current sustainability efforts at our roastery:
Burlap sacks used in local gardens- we have maybe thousands of sacks that we have reused- some of them ended up at the community garden on the river path.
Coffee chaff: This is the thing that most coffee roasters will throw away in the garbage. We save it and use it for local chicken coops and also for composting. Chaff is naturally high in nitrogen and makes the coop smell great too. We are sure there are many more uses for this that we haven’t discovered yet and can’t imagine throwing away such a useful thing.
Reusable buckets for coffee deliveries: This year we have saved about 2000, 5lb bags from being disposed by delivering all of our coffees locally in reusable buckets. We feel like this is a great step to embracing sustainability, and we are not aware of a single other roastery delivering their coffee in reusable buckets.
Green Coffee Buying: We do our very best to buy coffee from importers who share our value of sustainability. One example of a coffee we are currently selling provides a great example of this. Our coffee from Guadalupe Miramar is a coffee farmed by that village in Oaxaca. Sustainable Harvest is our partner who purchased that coffee at origin and brought it to the USA. This specific coffee saw the farmers getting $3.50 a pound for their efforts. The price we paid was $3.85 a pound. This coffee was then sold at auction for much more than that price and all the proceeds were returned to that village. We don’t always get this kind of information from importers, and we are still learning the best ways to ensure farmers receive such fair compensation for their efforts. To put this into context the current commodity price of coffee is $1.12 a pound. We always endeavor for our farmers to receive a fair price well above the commodity price that is paid for coffee. Here is more information from our importer on the farmers in Oaxaca and their specific challenges brought in part by climate change. https://www.sustainableharvest.com/blog/la-lucha-shines-a-light-on-oaxaca-with-single-village-coffees
The challenges here are many- importers aren’t always transparent with the prices they pay to farmers. Importers are also not always willing to share as much information as we need to be assured our goals are met. We also are limited in the amount of money we can pay for coffee, and the amount our customers are willing to pay for a cup of coffee.
To put our current efforts into context:
Although our efforts may seem small, in all of our years working in coffee we are not aware of a single coffee roastery that is doing as much to be sustainable as Slightly Coffee Roasters. We want to be carbon neutral and create zero waste in the long term.
It’s important to bracket these grandiose goals with some grounding in the realities of business: we want to be able to do much more than we currently do! The food industry in general is plagued with sustainability challenges. How far can we go as a business without putting ourselves out of business? Should we go entirely vegan? Should we only source ingredients that we can have delivered on a bicycle? Should we even be roasting coffee? Business always seeks to externalize their environmental impact and other costs. Would consumers be willing to pay what a truly sustainable cup of coffee would cost? We think general moving things in the right direction is far better than doing nothing.
Personal Sustainability Statement from Owner/Co-Founder, Joseph Harrison:
I, Joseph Harrison, have been hearing all about sustainability long before it was cool to be green. My grandparents are pioneers in the ecological art movement and have spent the better part of the last 30 years specifically addressing human caused climate change in their work! I grew up knowing how important it is to take these issues seriously. Feel free to check out their lifelong pursuit of environmental justice here: http://theharrisonstudio.net/. In fact it was a conversation with my Grandfather about the challenges the coffee industry faces that inspired me to face the challenge of addressing sustainability at Slightly Coffee Roasters. Out of these conversations came many of our current and future efforts for a sustainable coffee roastery and cafe.