No more to-go cups at Taos coffee shop

Coffee Apothecary begins its initiative to be waste-free

By Jesse Moya
Posted 5/9/19

While the initiative to reduce and recycle has been growing across the country, one Taos shop is determined to take the "reduce" part a little more seriously.By 2020, …

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No more to-go cups at Taos coffee shop

Coffee Apothecary begins its initiative to be waste-free


While the initiative to reduce and recycle has been growing across the country, one Taos shop is determined to take the "reduce" part a little more seriously.

By 2020, Coffee Apothecary owners Pablo Flores and Lydia McHayley are hoping to take their coffee shop into the world of waste-free business. Coffee shops generate a large amount of waste not only by the to-go cups they pour countless beverages into, but the containers and packaging their products come in as well. Due to this, both Flores and McHaley are trying to reduce their footprint and encourage others in town to do the same.

"I go through our trash and I pick out all the glass and all the recyclables," Flores said. "This is a total social experiment."

In order to be "waste free" a shop must either successfully recycle or compost every by-product of their business. To-go coffee cups, though often made out of recyclable or compostable material, are most often thrown in the trash.

After calculating their orders over a two-year period, McHaley realized the shop had gone through over 65,000 to-go cups, which she estimated to be over 2,000 pounds of waste. Realizations like this and their constant drive to reduce single use products, prompted the duo to look into waste-free alternatives.

The shop began small, hardly noticeable efforts to reduce their use of single-use items such as removing stir sticks and coffee jackets from their counters. This led to an even bigger push to ask customers to try and bring in their own cups for orders in the shop.

"There's a lot more people bringing in their own cups," McHaley said.

McHaley said they offer a 25-cent discount for customers who are bringing in their own cups to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Cups, although a big part of the waste in the coffee industry, are only a small worry in the minds of the owners of the apothecary. According to Flores, the main difficulty in going waste-free at the shop lies in the plastic milk jugs and the coffee bags their unroasted coffee beans come in.

"The coffee industry had to come clean about this," Flores said. "None of this is sustainable to package coffee."

Customers will always seek out lattes and other drinks with dairy in their coffee and tea, and milk most commonly comes in plastic jugs that need to be tossed or recycled. Flores and McHaley are trying to avoid use of plastics altogether to save a trip to the recycling center to dump plastic on which the town of Taos recycling center makes no money. In an attempt to change this, the owners are searching for companies who bottle milk in glass rather than the plastic jugs or plastic lined paper cartons.

Another issue about waste and plastic single-use items is the bags that carry the coffee. Coffee beans produce a gas once picked and that gas must be allowed to escape the bag or the beans will rot. These bags are lined with breathable plastic that keeps the beans fresh and allows the gasses to escape. This plastic creates unnecessary waste for the shop.

The goal is to be waste-free in 2020, but Flores and McHaley both said the process is going to take some work and cooperation from the community. Several of their products are already compostable, such as the cups and paper bags in which they sell their to-go pastries but the shift to waste-free is possible, they said.

"I feel like there are so many other businesses and people who are passionate about this," McHaley said.

There are other shops around the world that are trying to take the initiative to move to a waste-free operation, but one shop in Nashville, Tennessee, has been the spearhead of the American wave.

Crema coffee shop made the switch to waste-free in 2016. The Coffee Apothecary hopes to model some of their waste-free initiative off of the success of Crema.

Flores and McHaley are convinced they will be able to make the shift and are hoping other businesses can follow suit.

"Our business is just a good way of steering a way of thinking," Flores said about going waste-free.

The Coffee Apothecary at 616 Paseo del Pueblo Sur has been open for over two years. The shop serves small baked goods and roasts their own small batches of coffee before they are ground up and served in a cup. Cups at the Coffee Apothecary are currently compostable, but McHaley said they take about two years to fully break down.


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