Propel Climate Action in Your Cafe

Propel Climate Action in Your Cafe

By Anukampa Freedom Gupta-Fonner (Freedom). Sponsored content provided by Design By Freedom.

A climate action plan is relevant to every business in the country, especially for coffee shops. The coffee industry is already being severely impacted by climate change. Without major changes in our ways of thinking and acting, we will not have a habitable planet to live in and we can say goodbye to the beloved coffee bean. The future is now. We need to act immediately.

40% of the carbon footprint in the coffee industry comes from consumer waste. This is a direct result of single-time-use packaging, one-time-use vessels, disposables and other consumer-facing products that end up in waste streams. Our trash is exacerbating climate change. When disposables end up in landfills, which happens 76% – 91% of the time, these products end up creating large amounts of methane. And even when a single-time-use product or disposable is recycled, there are planetary ramifications. The energy and resources needed to create disposables and process their end lives far outweighs the purpose they serve.

The opportunity to eliminate this 40% of coffee’s carbon footprint is real. Here are the simplest things you can do right now to mitigate climate change:

Find a downloadable version of these steps here.

Coffee is community, and the community needs our leadership – especially in the current state of political affairs where everything for climate action and the environment is being reversed and regressed. As the foremost thinkers in the specialty coffee industry, it’s up to all of us to be radical collaborators, inventors and implementors that affect positive change in our communities.

At the end of the day, it will boil down to: Who do we want to be? How do we want our cafes and our baristas want to be remembered? The oil industry is coming under increasing scrutiny for hiding climate science and threats to planet earth which they knew about back in the 1970s and 1980s. They chose to do nothing about it.  As the world reels with a trash epidemic that threatens our very existence, who do we in the coffee industry want to be? Creators of a new future for a healthy planet, or the dirty-oil people?

The answer is clear.

Re-Designing Coffee for Climate Action

As we take climate action via these simple and profound next steps to reduce waste, we can use  design to solve some of our most wicked problems. The fact that waste is an accepted byproduct of every single consumer good that exists on Earth is an error of design (or more specifically, industrial design). We can drive design to fix itself and these systems!

Think about this: What if we reimagined trash? What if we reinvented disposables? What if we reengineered packaging? What if we redesigned everything to be entirely waste-free?

This may sound far-fetched, but it is entirely achievable. We can do this by converting disposables into highly functional, fashionable and portable zero waste solutions for the everyday person. As an example, consider the seemingly-innocuous cardboard coffee sleeve. 40 million cardboard coffee sleeves are discarded each day in our country. But we can change this with inventions like the Freedom Sleeve. The Freedom Sleeve is a multi-functional coffee sleeve. It is a coffee-wearable that can be used on hot and cold beverages, and can also be converted into a bag-tag, a laptop wire tie, a snap-on to your bike or pet’s leash, or just smushed inside your pocket. It’s a coffee buddy that is always with you. It’s designed for intuitive reuse and smart portability so busy people won’t forget to carry it. The Freedom Sleeve can be used for at least one year. At the end of its life, the parent company pays a shipping back fee to the user of the Freedom Sleeve. The used sleeves are collected in the company’s U.S-based manufacturing facilities and up-cycled to make other inventions so nothing is wasted. Folks who take home composting seriously can also compost the Freedom Sleeve in their backyard composter.

As café owners, baristas and trendsetters in the specialty coffee world, this is relevant because we need ingenious methods to invite our patrons to take action too. Incisive calls to action like the Freedom Sleeve give patrons an opportunity to build use and re-use behaviors from the ground up. In a country where 98% of coffee drinkers don’t bring their personal mugs into cafes, inventions like the Freedom Sleeve offer the opportunity to build impressionable and deep-rooted mindsets towards waste reduction and shifting the conversation on climate action. For people who have never taken climate action seriously, the Freedom Sleeve is a very real first step on a broader journey to earth’s recovery. 

Zero Waste Champions

The changing climate, our global trash crisis and America’s silent waste epidemic need voices and champions. Coffee shops, baristas and café owners can play a far-reaching role in advancing solutions. Should you choose to act on either or all of the steps above, please report them via Instagram or Email. We will even be able to provide customized impact reports to you just like the one on this live dashboard.

In recognition of your efforts, we will exclusively customize the “Champion of Zero Waste” badge for your café.  The “Champion of Zero Waste” badge recognizes leadership on climate action in the coffee industry. Our mascot, The Fat Finch, is a sassy bird that inspires collective action while bringing smiles to even the stiffest of upper lips.

To showcase your leadership, we invite you to join the Zero Waste Café Collective. The Zero Waste Café Collective is a coalition of the most progressive cafes in the country. With members in 22+ cities across 14 states in the United States, the Zero Waste Café Collective is a group of baristas and coffee shop owners that are committed to driving ingenious design to eliminate the need to create trash and take some real action to save the planet.

We hope you can join us to be a part of the solution. ​


Anukampa Freedom Gupta-Fonner (Freedom) is the Chief Imagineer at Design By Freedom. Design By Freedom is an invention company on a mission to move the United States to zero waste, starting with coffee. Design By Freedom achieves Zero Waste by redesigning one-time-use disposables, packaging and lifestyle products into highly functional, fashionable and portable zero waste solutions. Design By Freedom is on a quest to reinvent 100 lifestyle products and disposables by 2025, with the goal of transitioning the everyday American to a zero waste future.

As the organization’s Chief Imagineer, Freedom drives industrial design to eliminate the very need to create trash. She also builds partnerships and coalitions, while defining zero waste values. Freedom is an avid outdoors-woman, cyclist and wilderness explorer. In addition to eliminating trash from public lands and water bodies, Freedom is passionate about helping to preserve endangered wildlife and marine life.