How To Start a Green Coffee Shop


In the United States, more than 50% of all adults drink coffee daily, and another 25% drink coffee occasionally. Among regular coffee drinkers, the average number of cups per day is more than three. Coffee shops are not only popular with customers, they can also become real fixtures in their community. People love to congregate in a great coffee shop and become very attached to their favorites. As a result, coffee shops can be powerful forces for positive social change within their communities.

If it is your dream to open up an eco-friendly, socially responsible coffeehouse, here are some ideas and tips to get started:

Choosing a Green Coffee

Of course, the most important thing to consider is what coffee you will serve. In general, the most environmentally and socially responsible coffees are organic, shade grown, and fair trade coffees.
Coffee plantations are among the heaviest users of pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals on the planet. These chemicals threaten the health of coffee farmers, local residents, and consumers alike, as well as threatening native plant and animal populations. Serving organic coffees helps protect the health of both people and the environment.

Conventional coffee plantations are also highly destructive to local ecosystems, replacing diverse tropical rainforests with coffee monocultures. A more environmentally friendly method of growing coffee is traditional shade grown coffee, which takes longer to mature, but preserves a canopy of mature native trees that provide habitat for wildlife, including dozes of species of migratory songbirds, shade the soil, reducing water consumption, and provide a natural mulch that prevents erosion and reduces the need for herbicides and other chemicals.

Finally, consider the social impact of your coffee. Exploitation of workers is a serious problem on many conventional coffee plantations, and fair trade certification ensures fair prices and working conditions for workers on the certified coffee plantations and other coffee farms.

Other Things to Consider When Starting a Green Coffee Shop

Choosing ethically and sustainably grown coffee isn’t the only consideration when starting a green coffee shop.

Installing energy efficient appliances can be an especially important step for green coffee shops, because coffee shops require so much equipment that must run constantly. Energy efficient appliances can also save money in the long run. Energy efficient refrigerators, freezers, and dishwashers typically pay for themselves within one year thanks to the savings on energy bills they provide. Another way to save money on energy bills is to insulate appliances such as water heaters, espresso machines, and brewers, and to keep all appliances properly maintained and cleaned.

Another important consideration for green coffee shops is dishes and to go containers. Disposable cups waste resources and contribute to overflowing landfills or worse, litter. A more eco-friendly alternative is biodegradable cups. You can also seek to eliminate disposable use entirely by encouraging customers to bring their own mugs. A few ways to do this include offering discounts, hosting a wall of cups for regulars, or offering free coffee to anyone who purchases a reusable mug with your logo.

A few more green ideas for coffee shops:

  • use organic, locally grown ingredients for baked goods and other foods
  • use environmentally friendly cleaning products or services
  • use sustainable building materials and design
  • print menus and advertising materials on recycled paper with eco-friendly inks
  • purchase carbon offsets
  • educate your customers about your green products and business practices and why you chose them

Three Great Green Coffee Shops That Serve Both Their Customers and the Planet

glas-coffeeGlas, located in Sturgeon Bay, WI, is a green coffee shop with deep Irish roots and a commitment to protecting the environment. In addition to shade grown, organic, fair trade coffees, Glas offers loose leaf teas and a number of gourmet baked goods, sandwiches, and light entrees. Glas is located in an energy efficient building made from salvaged and eco-friendly materials and offers a 10% discount to cyclists. It’s hard to have a greener coffee shop than Glas!

green-sage-coffeehouseThe Green Sage Coffeehouse and Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina is a combination coffeehouse and natural foods cafe. All coffees and teas are certified fair trade and organic, meats are grassfed and locally raised, and nearly every item on the menu includes vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. The Green Sage uses solar heated water and compostable to go containers. Deliveries are made by bicycle, food scraps and waste are composted, and used cooking oils are converted to biofuel.

coffee-exchangeCoffee Exchange is a small batch coffee roaster and cafe located in Providence, Rhode Island. Coffee Exchange has been supporting organic, fair trade coffee growers for more than 25 years and is the original home of Coffee Kids, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of coffee growers around the world. Coffee Exchange also offers a variety of gourmet teas.

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