Blue Sparrow Coffee publishes sustainability report

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“When we started this journey, it was a mess,” says Jeffrey Knott, co-founder of Blue Sparrow Coffee — and he means that both literally and figuratively. Two years ago, Blue Sparrow, which has two locations (3070 Blake Street and 1615 Platte Street), released its first stock report, detailing employee demographics, wages, benefits and the company’s impact on the community.

The now-annual report, which will be updated again in the middle of the summer, provides a transparent view of the company and is a way of accountability.

But beyond prioritizing its employees, Blue Sparrow wanted to do more with regard to sustainability and understand its company’s environmental impact. It started with a single-use cup initiative launched on January 1. “We read about consumer behavior and found that in some scenarios it has been proven that reusable cups are charged for one-time use rather than discounting reusable cups,” says Blue. Sparrow says on his website.

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It now charges $0.10 a single-use cup — an approach coffee giant Starbucks is also testing this year. The entire amount of that fee goes to a sustainability fund that the company uses for projects it couldn’t have done otherwise, such as installing more efficient HVAC units and increasing composting. “We can use less and reinvest from those who choose to pay the fee,” notes Knott.

Blue Sparrow also began work on a sustainability report to better understand its company’s environmental impact and create goals to guide its next steps. “Most of us have been living this way for a very long time,” says Knott, who has been a vegetarian for nearly a decade. “Our team is really excited.”

So excited, in fact, that when the idea of ​​compiling the sustainability report was born, volunteers were on hand to dig into the waste and count the waste — most notably Sara Van Hatten, the sustainability analyst for Blue Sparrow’s parent company, Mainspring.

After a year of work, the report came out on April 4; it includes a design and story element from Philip Hua-Pham, Mainspring’s brand experience manager. The report data webpage also has a winding map showing the “frantic,” as Knott puts it, process the team went through to put this project together. “What we’ve really accomplished is that we now have a lot of basic information.”

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The data is broken down into waste, energy and water. “It’s impossible to get good data on energy and water,” admits Knott. “Our goal for next year is to get better data.” For the time being, the focus is on waste. What the team found while searching the recycle bin was that “so much that should be in the bin isn’t and vice versa.”

To address that problem, Blue Sparrow changed its offering and went from 80 percent of its customer-facing stationery to 100 percent recyclable or compostable. It also takes a swing at “sustainability” itself. “We stamped the cups with ‘Sustainability is dead’,” explains Knott. “The best way I can describe it is that the word ‘sustainable’ is such a weak word. When you’re in a relationship and someone asks how you’re doing, the last word you want to use is ‘sustainable’. “We want to do better than that. Our goal is not to do good enough. We want to be net positive.”

This year’s goals include partnering with Scraps Mile High to compost 100 percent of the coffee grounds at both sites and continuing to reduce waste pollution by ensuring that recyclables actually end up in a recycling center. “These are things we care about, and we’re going to hold ourselves accountable publicly,” Knott noted.

The sustainability report is also updated annually. “We’ve moved from quiet concern and doing our own thing to now. It’s a bit of playing with fire. We could be accused of greenwashing for publicity,” Knott acknowledged. “But hopefully over time people will see that we’ve really invested and will follow these changes over the years. … It’s so important.”

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