Since Day 1 in 2007, sustainability has been a core focus at OZO Coffee Company. From our sourcing methods, roasting practices, and cafe service to how we engage in our local and global communities, OZO has been committed to environmental responsibility every step of the way.
One of the initial steps we took, aside from being a forerunner in serving organic and ethically sourced coffee, was offering a discount for anyone that brought a reusable cup. It’s incredible that today in 2023, we see customers come in with their OZO travel mug that they have been using for 5-10 years! While this may seem like a menial environmental impact, considering how this looks over a 5-10 year period paints a different picture. If that customer brings their reusable cup into a cafe at least 3 times a week, that’s 156 times a year, and 1,560 times over ten years. Now imagine if that customer is a daily regular who visits the cafe twice a day, which is not unheard of in our cafes.
Considering that 16 billion paper coffee cups are used every year, effectively causing 6.5 million trees to be cut down, 4 billion gallons of water wasted, and enough energy used in production to power roughly 54,000 homes for a year, any steps taken to reduce this footprint is well worth it. Understanding the environmental impact of something as small as a paper cup was another reason behind our determination to use compostables early on, despite the additional cost before compostable cups were widely available. We continuously strive to increasingly be a zero-waste company in as many ways as we possibly can.
Every year, we assess the progress we’ve made towards our zero-waste goals, and we are always looking for ways to improve. Unfortunately, we have had some recent set-backs. Our city, Boulder, CO, a city known for its progressive environmental policies, has decided to end its city-wide, single stream compost program due to too many mixed materials being included in compost bins. As of February of this year, the city is only accepting food waste and yard waste.
Sadly, our compostables – paper cups, plastic cups, lids, silverware, and bags, are no longer accepted in the compost bins and thus now have to go into the landfill. This decision came shortly after OZO decided to transition away from the use of plastic to-go cups to using a double walled compostable paper cup for our hot and iced drinks in an effort to further reduce our carbon footprint. While we as a company will always continue to use compostables, whether it goes into a compost bin or not, it was disheartening to hear of the City’s new policy. But, in truth, it actually raises a bigger conversation around our cultural priorities as a country and society.
On a recent trip to Barcelona, it was refreshing to see compostables being used all over the city, in the rare case that someone took their coffee to go and did not have it in a ceramic cup at the cafe. Our hotel was neighboring two very well known American companies; one a fast food chain, the other a coffee chain. And even at both of these establishments, when you walk by the patios outside, you see compost bins, compostable cups and lids, and customers enjoying their coffee at a table in either ceramic or glassware.
A stark contrast to our culture in the U.S., where almost all of our orders are placed in to-go cups and bags, with a small percentage of those being compostable. Our fast paced culture and lifestyle at times can see environmental responsibility as an “inconvenience,” but when we look at the statistics we have to question what the “trade off” is for the convenience of so much single use plastic, to-go paper products, and non-biodegradable items at use in our everyday lives. These are questions that have come to the table for us at Ozo in light of the recent policy change in our city and with Earth Day upon us. A day of environmental awareness, appreciation, action, and reflection. Yes, it can be seen as a small action with little impact, but as the statistics point out, if we can influence small personal actions carried out on a daily basis, we can create a large impact over a long period of time.