Brooklyn Roasting Company (Jay Street store), Brooklyn. Finally here. This has been on my list before I even had a list. Researching about cup waste solutions, I had found out these guys were involved in a project called Good To Go Cup (a cup share program).
My first impression is the size of the place. Tall ceilings, ample seating with communal tables. A large converted warehouse. A land of freelancers. Hip hop is the beat of the place.
There’s a line. I queue up. I observe the people sitting, seeing only paper and plastic cups. I overhear two girls behind me mention the name of a company I’m interested in partnering with. She says she knows four people who work there. This starts an internal debate on whether I should say something to them. I’m next in line and before this dialogue finishes, I’m called up to the counter. I’m greeted by a large, friendly guy with glasses – he’s got the hipster beard. I ask if Dan is in, mentioning we met at the NYC Coffee Festival. The man, whose name I learn is Seon (it took me several tries to remember this) says he had heard something about this.
Seon tells me he’s the manager when I ask if I can ask questions about sustainability in the store. Agreeing with an easy-going attitude, we then step to the other side of the counter.
Seon tells me they give 25¢ off to people who bring reusable cups. I’m curious why this isn’t more obvious – like why isn’t this on the signs? (This is actually a more general question I have to stores that offer a cup discount – why isn’t it big and in bold like on the UK Pret a Manger sign?). “How do people know about this?” I ask. Seon tells me people find out through word of mouth.
They’ve recently formed a partnership with an organization to pick up grinds on a regular basis – that’s big. Stores have a lot of waste generated from grinds. I can only imagine the amount a store of this size has. Seon confirms it’s large.
The paper cups here are biodegradable. They purchase them from Seda Packaging. Plastic cups are recyclable. Seon mentions they will be working with a waste contractor who will sort their trash and provide bins for different types of waste. I ask where the biodegradable cups go. (Another general question I’m still searching for a clear answer). Seon is not sure, commenting all he knows is that they’re paying a lot of money for the service.
My understanding is that biodegradable cups don’t go in recycling but I’m not aware of a sorting process for food waste. I make a note to find out who the contractor is so I can investigate this matter further.
I’m given a sample of their drip. Seon asks me if I want it for-here. “I do! “I see him grab what looks like a plastic cup – a small surge of anxiety shoots up in me, then I realize it’s in the double-insulated glass cup (by Bodum) he was just telling me about. I bring it over to a wooden-topped bar decked with a vintage cash machine and begin working.
On my bathroom inspection, I see the toilet paper has an environmental certification, soap comes from a dispensary, and there is a hand blow-dryer. I notice that there are plastic cups by the water.
A portion of the Manhattan skyline is visible from the window I’ve been looking out for the past four hours. A helicopter flies by. The sun has just set and a light pinkish hue lingers in the sky. From my visit, I’ve gathered this Brooklyn Roasting Company store is making an effort to be responsible with their waste. I think they can do more though, particularly with the cup situation. Things like offering more for-here cups and stacking reusable cups by the water are a place to start. I plan on meeting Dan at some point, so likely there is more I’ll learn and have to share.