Even before Blue State Coffee opened its Thayer Street doors July 27th, 2007 on Providence’s East Side, owners Drew and Marshall Rubin had a different business philosophy than most. They wanted to operate a business that was not just community based, but had global reach as well. They saw their budding venture as a socially-minded coffee shop, both out front with the customers and behind the scenes.
The Rubin’s’ public mission was three tiered: to sell organic, fair-trade coffee; to donate 10% of sales to causes that reflected their political values; and to unite a community of people who care about events shaping the country. Behind the scenes, bolstered by their public mission, they took steps to ensure the business operated responsibly based on global issues. Drew and Marshall, believing that actions speak louder than words, implemented socially responsible management and maintenance practices at their coffee shop. Many of their efforts have been geared toward reducing their impact on the environment by living the “Three R’s”-Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
All of the steps taken by Blue State Coffee to “green” their business can be replicated by other food establishments. The benefits are many: making a difference environmentally, free media exposure about your efforts, creating a strong customer base, earning greater employee investment in your success, and an improving the bottom line. Businesses of any size can implement the steps taken by Blue State Coffee to become a bit more green.
The following are some of the initiatives currently underway at Blue State Coffee in relation to the “Three R’s.”
Blue State Coffee is also on the move to compost 100% of its paper and plastic products. Currently Blue State Coffee purchases compostable cold and hot beverage to-go cups, utensils, straws and lids. These products are made out of a polymer that is 100% corn based or potato based, not petroleum based plastic. The material these products made of are biodegradable and commercially compostable. The products, purchased from Boulder, Colorado firm Ecoproducts, cost between 15%-20% more than standard to-go products, but they will break down faster under normal composting and landfill conditions, and therefore have a greatly reduced carbon footprint. To the owners of Blue State Coffee, the cost is outweighed by the benefit to the environment, and publicity of their choice to use these products has resulted in an increase in customer sales.
Blue State Coffee also acts as a small-scale distributor for the product lines they carry, and have begun developing accounts with local businesses interested in providing an alternative to the standard Styrofoam, plastic and wax coated cups. One of their new partners is a local fitness center.
The next phase in becoming a zero-waste business entails sending all the compostable material collected at the café – food, coffee grinds, filters, paper products, cups, straws, utensils – to a commercial composter who will be marketing and selling the finished compost. This next step is not cost prohibitive because Blue State Coffee currently has zero overhead for waste hauling. Brown University is responsible for all trash and recycling costs, therefore the cost associated with this new program, including the renting of a storage “dumpster,” hauling charges to bring the material to the composter, and fees charged by the composter to accept the material, will be the only waste disposal costs incurred by Blue State Coffee. This is a very unique situation, butthis co-operative relationship could be replicated easily under similar parameters.
By January of 2009, Blue State Coffee will have two additional locations, one at the Brown University Bookstore, and the second at Yale University. Because of the success they have experienced with the recycling, reuse, and reduction plan they have in place at the Thayer Street location, they aim to continue the practices at their new locations.
Looking to Shave Costs
Douglas Lumber, Kitchens and Home Center, a 32-year old, family-owned business based in Smithfield, thought they had some recyclable materials mixed in with their trash but weren’t entirely convinced it was worth their while to try to separate them. Last year, the 65-employee company generated an average of 24 tons of waste per month, all of which was sent to the Central Landfill for burial. Paying the $61.00/ton rate, Douglas was spending $18,000.00 per year just in disposal fees.
“I had read and heard a lot about recycling, but I wasn’t sure where we could begin,” said Scott Shayer, shipping supervisor of Douglas Lumber. “I heard that Resource Recovery could help so I called them. Within a week, I had a waste assessment in my hand and an action plan that made sense.”
Separate The Goods
RIRRC conducted a free waste assessment of the Smithfield company in January and identified numerous easily recyclable materials. In fact, close to 80 percent of the waste was recyclable – an unusually high number for this type of business. The company learned they would be able to divert office paper, corrugated cardboard, wood pallets, wood scrap, metal strapping, plastic strapping, shrink wrap and plastic sheeting. In short, most of the materials used to ship and store the lumber as well as all of the scrap pieces of lumber were eligible for recycling. Fortunately, implementing a recycling system was quite inexpensive and easy to do. Douglas owns several roll-off containers; and, since they do not use a hauler to dispose their waste they are able to truck it to Johnston only when needed.
Separation is important because different rates apply for the different recyclables. To manage the separation well, Douglas purchased two additional roll-off containers and trained their staff about putting the correct materials into their designated containers. Contamination (or mixing) makes the materials less marketable to recyclers. Because the company was so well prepared, it took only two weeks to begin the new procedures.
Wooden You Like These Savings?
Douglas Lumber has diverted 105 tons of recyclable materials from the Central Landfill in six months and saved $6,450 in disposal costs. The savings in tip fees has already offset the purchase of the containers, and it’s estimated that the company will save about $14,000 annually.
“We know that Resource Recovery wants to preserve space in the Central Landfill for non-recyclable waste, and we were looking for ways to minimize our waste and save money” said Shayer. “I believe we both made out well.”
Cox Communications has launched compete environmental and conservation program for its Rhode Island corporate offices.
Since Cox Enterprises Chairman and CEO Jim Kennedy announced “Cox Conserves” in 2007, the company’s 1,500 employees in Rhode Island and Connecticut stepped up to meet his challenge. Locally, Cox Communications’ two points of operation in Rhode Island – the headquarters in West Warwick and New England Distribution Center in Cranston – have exceeded company and industry standards for reduction under this ambitious program.
“Cox Conserves” is a national corporate program that includes the company’s six major subsidiaries. The program enables and encourages Cox’s 80,000 employees and families to engage in eco-friendly practices that reduce energy use and promote sustainability. Since 2000, Cox Enterprises has reduced its energy consumption by 10 percent. Building on this success, the goal of “Cox Conserves” is to reduce its energy consumption by an additional 20 percent by 2017.
In Rhode Island Cox has focused its effort on 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) by reducing the amount of toxicity of trash discarded as well as the amount of energy consumed, reusing containers and other products, and recycling as much as possible, including buying products with recycled content.
Reducing energy consumption is a key part of the Cox Conserves strategy. Several enhancements to the company’s facilities have been implemented including:
Reusing and Composting
A comprehensive and full-circle recycling and composting program has been implemented by Cox. The program recycles or composts all paper, cardboard, plastics and food products that pass through its cafeteria. The plates, trays and cups used in the cafeteria are made of 100% recycled fiber and are fully compostable. Although the cost of these products is higher than standard material, ultimately the expenses are not increasing. Savings realized through the implementation of energy-efficient systems have been re-invested into the added cost of the recycling and composting program.
All waste products are divided into three categories: trash, recycling and composting. Food waste and biodegradable container products are sent to a compost facility and then to Newland Farm in Norton Massachusetts. Newland Farm’s organic compost is then used by Cox on the grounds of its West Warwick headquarters.
Cox’s recycling program exceeds Cox Enterprises’ standards and the State of Rhode Island’s mandates for commercial recycling. The R.I. Department of Environmental Management requires all commercial entities to recycle plastic containers marked with 1 or 2. Working with PF Recycling and Collection in New Bedford Cox’s recycling program also included plastics 3 through 7. Cox recycles approximately 90 tons/month with PF Recycling and Collection, allowing only 10 tons of trash to be sent to the landfill.
The company has also implemented a desk-side recycling program at its West Warwick location, where nearly 800 of its 1,500 Rhode Island employees are based. Cox plans to expand the desk-side recycling program to its six satellite office locations throughout Rhode Island before the end of 2008.
Already, Cox’s employees are showing strong levels of participation in its programs as well as high awareness of the need to protect the environment. A survey indicated that 95% of Cox employees participated in the program at work as compared to 82% who were recycling at home.
For more information on “Cox Conserves” and tips on how any business can become more environmentally friendly visit www.coxconserves.com.
Every year hundreds of boat owner take their vessels out of Rhode Island waters for dry docking during the winter months. Part of this process involves “shrink wrapping” the boats with a heavy plastic cover. When the boats are wrapped in the fall, excess material is cut and disposed, and in the spring when boat owners removed the wrap to ready the boats for the water, the plastic is thrown away. The marina owners paid for the disposal of tons of this material, trucking it to the Central Landfill in Johnston where it was buried - taking up precious space in the already limited landfill. In 2003 the Rhode Island Marine Trade Association stepped up to the plate to curb the amount of trash local boat owners and marinas were disposing.
Based on similar programs in neighboring states, the Rhode Island Marine Trade Association (RIMTA) approached Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) about implementing a recycling program for this heavy plastic material. As part of RIRRC’s annual grant program, RIMTA was awarded $15,000 to implement a recycling program. The initial funds were used to purchase recycling storage bags distributed at marinas, development of an informational brochure, and hiring a recycling contractor to pickup, market and sell the material collected through the program.
The program now operates year-round, with marina pickups twice a month from April to June and once a month from July to October. The marinas purchase the bags from The Industrial Recycling Network at $10 per bag. The Institution Recycling Network, based in New Hampshire, is a cooperative that works to improve recycling for public and private organizations throughout New England. The marinas sell the bags to boat owners for approximately $17 per bag. The price per bag covers the initial purchase price and handling costs. Some marinas have dedicated dumpsters for the shrink wrap material, while other marinas and marine service providers “hold” the bags in designated areas for collection.
At the beginning of the program 15 marinas participated. That number has grown to 47 marinas and marine service providers who recycled 55 tons of plastic in 2007. The program is simple-the material can be recycled on-site in a ‘shrink-wrap only dumpster’ or a boat owner can purchase bags, fill them and return them to the marina for pick-up by the recycling agent. The recycling contractor bails the material and sells it to manufacturers who use recycled plastic in their products. Profits from the sale of the plastic wrap material are split with RIMTA. To ensure the longevity of the program and regulated pick up of the material, RIMTA used $6,000 of its 2006 profits to purchase a recycling truck dedicated to the marine shrink wrap program.
Interest in the shrink wrap recycling program has reached other industries as well. Manufacturing companies, schools and other entities that generate a great deal of shrink wrap waste are looking to replicate the RIMTA program. As a free Commercial Waste Assessment service, RIRRC provided information about the shrink wrap program to Rhode Island companies located near participating marinas. The recycling agent PF Trading/AAA Recycling of New Bedford, Massachusetts is now working with companies and other entities that generate large quantities of shrink wrap, such as PM Industries and The Prout School, to establish individual recycling programs where regular pick up of the material is supplied.
For more information about the Marine Shrink Wrap program or establishing a shrink wrap recycling program at your organization please contact Michelle Maher or David Bordieri at (401)942-1430.