Tell us about your love for coffee, when did it start and what inspired you to open an espresso bar?
The idea for the shop came from travels in Tokyo, where coffee shops have other lives in addition to coffee. My favorites also had clothing, face cream, indigo beads and home products and are neighborhood meeting places. Also coffee breaks are my favorite part of any day, a moment to pause, breathe and re-assess what you are doing. This way I’m pretty sure I will get one every afternoon. I’ve always loved the smell of coffee, but go in and out on the effects of caffeine, which can be life-giving but also jitter-inducing, which is why we’ll have lots of delicious alternatives like fresh mint, ginger and matcha.
Before taking on your zero waste coffee bar project, how were you spending your time?
I was the women’s sweater designer at J.Crew since 2000 and in 2007 we started crewcuts, as an antidote to the boring kid's clothes that were the only option at the time. I learned a lot, mainly about the importance of design, but didn’t feel I could go back to a corporate job making clothes that are mainly destined for a landfill.
Do you remember the moment you decided to commit to an eco-conscious, zero waste lifestyle? What was your “last straw”?
I was always a little twitchy around trash. I brought my salad everyday in a stainless bin for as long as I can remember and started showing up at La Colombe with my reusable takeaway cup around 2010. The baristas were encouraging and enjoyed my little macchiato cup, which kept up the spirit. That was the “last straw” moment. When I was standing in a line of 20 to 25 people, and everyone walked out the door with a piece of trash that would be with us pretty much forever, and they would do it again the next morning. And the next and the next and the next. My brain exploded. I extrapolated the number of coffee cups NYC uses based on use in Melbourne, from the War on Waste series, and it is 100,000 every half hour. It makes me dizzy.
Has it been challenging to design a space using all reusable, reclaimed materials?
Not at all! There is so much gorgeous stuff out there that people don’t recognize as gorgeous or have just moved on from. My stunning white marble counters are bathroom stall dividers from the reclamation of an Atlantic City hotel. Olde Good Things in NY gets some of the most amazing artifacts that are just dying to come back to life. It’s also been really gratifying to see how much money I've saved, almost accidentally, by shopping re-use sources. Etsy and Ebay have really high quality faucets and I got never-been-used sinks and tiles at The Big Re-use, as well as giant old wood beams from local demos that we are using to build the counters.
How does living in Brooklyn, New York influence your mission?
We are so lucky in Brooklyn to have robust trash services. We have industrial composting, which can handle the new crop of “compostable” plastics and I can google most things and find a disposal point for them not too far away. That’s been the most eye-opening about this, that we do a lot of “wish-cycling”. In other words, we throw things in the recycling bin thinking they will be turned into a new bottle or a yogurt cup but surprisingly little actually makes it to a new life. Most plastics end up in landfills or floating in the ocean. The other thing that is great about Brooklyn is that people are so open to new things and no one has ever said no or even looked at me funny when I’ve asked them to fill a jar or a stainless container from home. I believe Brooklyn is ready to change its habits and nobody anywhere wants to trash the world.
What’s the most unusual “trash becoming treasure” example you’ve encountered?
Such a good question!! I probably shouldn't say “I don’t see trash” but it's kind of true. One of the key takeaways for me from the Sustainable Development Goals Study Hall at the UN was that we have extracted enough from the earth. We need to use what we already have, we need to treat trash as a valuable resource. Orange Fiber is making fabric out of discarded orange peels and Econyl is making nylon out of abandoned fishing nets. Adidas has committed to using 100% recycled fabrics by 2024. So I would say trash transformation into treasure is actually not unusual and should be common practice.
We’d love to hear your tips! What are the 5 first steps towards a zero-waste lifestyle?
Bring your own coffee cup, bring your own lunch, stick a couple of Baggus or mini re-usable bags in each handbag and gym bag, and if you have room left, a small stainless water bottle. Actually super simple and easier than you think. Start one thing a week and before you know it you’re a hero! You can also just be aware of what you are doing in the grocery store and look for ways to dodge plastic. It’s crept into our lives (our use has fully doubled in just the past 13 years) so just ask yourself if you need one of those plastic bags for your apples or lemons and is there a place you can take a container to get sushi or prepared foods?
What are your top five CAP Beauty favorites and why?
My favorite question! As a former beauty junkie I’m always on the lookout for the good stuff! I’m a huge fan of Odacité, love their Synergie Immediate Skin Perfecting Beauty Masque and Eye Contour serum and their packaging is so chic I wish everything on my counter was from them. RMS Living Luminizer has been a staple for years and I’m psyched to find the Master Mixer golden version. I can’t wait to get through some mascara samples, (which I will never take again!) so I can get the Kjaer Weis mascara, which is refillable and the last time I was in, a fellow shopper was raving about. I also love the CAP Grocery, with the Countertop Golden Honey with turmeric. I’m a honey junkie and put a little with fresh ginger, lime and the CAP Beauty The 8 AM O'Clocks blend in boiling water after my macchiato to finish waking up.