“When we started this journey, it was a mess,” says Blue Sparrow Coffee co-founder Jeffrey Knott — and he says it literally and figuratively. Two years ago, Blue Sparrow, which has two locations (3070 Blake Street and 1615 Platte Street), released its first Equity Report which included data on its employee demographics, salaries, benefits and the company’s community impact.
The now annual report, which will be updated again in mid-summer, provides a transparent insight into the inside of the company and is a way for it to hold itself accountable.
But in addition to putting its employees first, Blue Sparrow wanted to do more when it comes to sustainability and understanding the environmental impact of its business. It started with a single-use cup initiative that launched on January 1. “We read about consumer behaviors and found that charging for single-use cups instead of reducing reusable cups was found to increase reusables by 126.8% in some scenarios,” Blue said. says Sparrow on his website.
It now charges $0.10 per single-serve cup — an approach coffee giant Starbucks is also testing this year. The full amount of these fees goes into a sustainability fund that the company uses for projects it wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise, like installing more efficient HVAC units and increasing composting. . “We are able to use less and reinvest with those who choose to pay the fees,” Knott notes.
Blue Sparrow has also begun work on a sustainability report to better understand the environmental impact of its business and create goals to guide its next steps. “Most of us have been living this way for a long time,” says Knott, who has been a vegetarian for nearly a decade. “Our team is really, really excited.”
So excited, in fact, that when the idea to write the sustainability report came up, there were volunteers ready to dig and count the trash – especially Sara Van Hatten, sustainability analyst for parent company from Blue Sparrow, Mainspring.
After a year of work, the report was published on April 4; it includes a design and storytelling element from Philip Hua-Pham, Head of Brand Experience at Mainspring. The webpage with the report data also contains a winding map that shows the “hitty pace” process, as Knott puts it, that the team went through to put this project together. “What we’ve really accomplished is that we now have a lot of baseline information.”
The data is broken down into waste, energy and water. “Getting good energy and water data is incredibly difficult,” Knott admits. “Our goal for next year is to get better data.” For now, the focus is on waste. What the team discovered while digging through the bins was that “so many things that should be in the bin aren’t and vice versa.”
To combat this issue, Blue Sparrow changed its offerings from 80% of its customer-facing paper items to be recyclable or compostable to 100%. It is also about looking at “sustainability” itself. “We stamped the cups with ‘Sustainability is Dead,'” Knott explains. “The best way I can describe it is just that ‘sustainable’ is such a weak word. If you’re in a relationship and someone asks how it’s going, the last word that you want to use is, it’s ‘sustainable.’ We want to do better than that. Our goal is not to do well enough. We want to be net positive.”
Goals for this year include working with Scraps Mile High to compost 100% of coffee grounds at both sites and continue to reduce waste contamination by ensuring recyclables do indeed reach a recycling center. “These are things we care about, and we will hold ourselves publicly accountable,” Knott notes.
The sustainability report will also be updated annually. “We’ve gone from low-key attention and doing our own thing to now. It’s kind of playing with fire. We could be accused of greenwashing for publicity,” Knott acknowledges. “But hopefully people will see over time that we’re really invested and that we follow these changes over the years. … It’s so important.”