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Achieve Your Green Coffee Goals Part III: Eliminating Plastics

In Part I of this series, we talked about how to conduct an energy audit of your coffee shop or restaurant, to find out where you should be incorporating energy efficiencies.

In Part II, we discussed the many ways you can increase sustainability without spending a lot of money.

Perhaps the most obvious way to go green is to recycle as much waste as you can. But while some plastics can be recycled, the greenest option is to avoid using it to begin with, wherever possible. Plastics can only be recycled a few times before they become useless landfill—unlike glass and metal which can be recycled over and over. And plastic in landfills leaches into soil and takes thousands of years to decompose—or ends up in waterways, killing marine life.

Some not-so-fun facts about plastic:

  • More than 100 million plastic utensils are used by Americans every day, along with 500 million plastic straws.

  • 50 billion water bottles are used each year in the U.S. (and a million per minute globally!).

  • 80% to 90% of plastic ends up in a landfill without ever being recycled. And, like we said, it eventually ends up in a landfill anyway.

Because your business is meeting demand for quick service or takeout menu items, you can be a big part of the solution to plastic waste:

Keep track of the plastics you purchase and what actually gets used, including delivery/to-go items and food preparation, storage and disposal. This includes plastic wrap, utensils, straws, drink lids and stirrers, to-go containers and storage containers.

Find alternatives for things you normally buy in plastic. Ask some key questions: Is this item (i.e. coffee stirrers) necessary? Is it available in anything other than plastic?

Make purchases that eliminate plastics:

  • Buy in bulk whenever you can—to reduce plastic packaging.

  • Buy packaging-free items whenever possible—or request less packaging from suppliers. Shortening your supply chain can eliminate some packaging as well.

  • Use reusable dishware for on-site dining.

  • Think outside the to-go box. Use recycled paper containers, or even glass mason jars for salads or soups. Offer a refund if the glass is returned.

  • Use stainless steel or glass food containers with lids for storing and preparing food.

  • Eliminate unnecessary disposable items—straws, drink stirrers, toothpicks and cup lids, or make them available by request.

  • Use glass or stainless steel water pitchers.

  • Use self-serve, bulk dispensers for condiments.

  • Use refillable containers made of glass, ceramic or stainless steel for salt and pepper, sugar, oil and vinegar, hot sauce, etc.

  • Use BPA-free paper for your restaurant receipts, and email receipts if requested.

  • Use butcher, waxed or parchment paper wherever possible instead of plastic wrap.

This may seem like a lot to do, but once you get going, these waste-reducing measures will become an easy habit. It will demonstrate your commitment to reducing waste—and even save you money on garbage costs.

Note: If you want to go even further, encourage patrons not to use paper to-go cups—which aren’t recyclable and almost always come with a plastic lid. Offer a small discount on drinks for people who bring in their own mugs.

Check out other posts in this series:

Achieve Your Green Restaurant Goals, Part I: Perform an Energy Audit

Achieve Your Green Restaurant Goals Part II: From local food to low-flow faucets, it all adds up


Topics: green coffee shop

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