HECTOR CASTILLO CARVAJAL and GECILE FOJAS
As told by Hector and Gecile.
Don Carvajal used their Big Idea Grant to implement more sustainable cafe operations. Reusable bottles, composting, and solar.
WE’RE A COFFEE SHOP WITH A MAN’S NAME
The man you see on our logo is my grandfather. He was a farmer from the Dominican Republic and he did that all his life. His values made me who I am.
GRANDPA WOULD BE IMPRESSED WITH OUR RESILIENCY
Small business is a challenge. My advice is to stay the course, but be open to change. Sometimes it feels like someone doesn’t want us to serve coffee! We’ve been going for three years, but we’ve had setbacks. In the last year, we had floods in two different locations, we had a fire at a co-working space and we had a lease fall through after we had a design in place. It’s taught us to be resilient.
“Sustainability and small businesses are like driving. If you plan to get off at exit five, but you miss it, you gotta figure out what the next exit is that's closest to your destination. Be open to change.”
–Hector Castillo Carvajal
WHERE WE’RE FROM HAS A LOT TO DO WITH WHAT WE DO
We did an event with the NYC Department of Sanitation. We got to visit the main landfill on Staten Island, and that gave me a new perspective on sustainability. What was being processed. What couldn’t be processed. It showed me that small initiatives can make a big difference.
WE’RE USING OUR BIG IDEA GRANT TO MAKE OUR SPACE MORE SUSTAINABLE
The most successful sustainable thing is our cold brew bottle return program. We do a lot of farmers’ markets, and a lot of our customers are loyal. They're energetic about bringing the bottles back to be refilled so we’re not putting new bottles out into the world. We also aim to use our Big Idea Grant to add a compost tumbler, compostable packaging, and 1,000 feet of additional space for sustainable operations. And eventually, we’ll make it all happen!
RULE #1 KNOW YOUR CUSTOMERS
If you were starting a café, I’d tell you to encourage your regulars to bring their own cups. Give them a discount. Cut down on waste. To go beyond that, you have to get to know your customers. Otherwise, you might impose something on somebody that doesn't have the capability to do it. Here in the Bronx, our having fully compostable bags doesn't make a difference to some of our customers, because in their communities, there's no option to compost the bags.
THE TRUTH IS IN THE TRASH
Another simple way to be sustainable is to dump out your trash at the end of the day. What’s in there? How do you reduce that? From espresso pucks to ground coffee from the drip — and cold brew waste — instead of throwing it all in the trash, how do you repurpose it or compost it in a local garden?
HECTOR & GECILE’S 5 WAYS TOA SUCCESSFUL REUSABLE BOTTLE PROGRAM:
Call the community to action!
Working together is better than working alone. Share the vision of a circular sustainability - closing loops wherever possible. Sustainability is more fun when done in solidarity.
Make it difficult to throw away.
Provide a beautifully designed bottle that you’d be proud to rep’, repurpose, and reuse.
Create a ritual and centralize the drop-off.
Accessibility is key. We can be creatures of habit. Making it easy to fit into one’s daily routine is a great way to implement the bottle return program.
Incentivize and reward.
Small hinges swing big doors. Everyone loves being rewarded for doing something great.
Give kind reminders and gentle nudges.
Sometimes we forget and sometimes we just don’t know. Talk about the program to customers both new and old.
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