Planetary Design partners with coffee roasters to promote reusable whole bean containers.
BY EMILY JOY MENESES
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Planetary Design
In an industry riddled with single-use products, it can be difficult to find a place as both a coffee lover and an environmentalist. Every day, huge numbers of to-go cups and coffee bags make their way into landfills, adding to the food and beverage industry’s growing problem of waste. In response, coffee professionals around the world are stepping up and presenting ways in which both coffee companies and consumers can be more sustainable and future-oriented.
In Barista Magazine’s April + May 2021 print issue, we discussed the hard-to-recycle nature of coffee packaging. Coffee packaging requires an aluminum barrier to properly protect the coffee, and that thin layer of aluminum is adhered onto polyester film, making the packaging difficult to recycle. One solution that a company made to mediate this problem is Planetary Design’s Airscape coffee storage canister, which now comes in a cotton bag that is also reusable.
Planetary Design has begun partnering with cafés and roasteries around the U.S. to start coffee bean refill programs, in which customers can buy an Airscape from a café or roaster, fill it with coffee beans, take it home, then bring it back to refill when empty. Because all stainless-steel and ceramic Airscapes now come with a cotton bag, customers also have the option to bring the cotton bag to the store for refilling, while leaving the bulkier Airscape at home. Cafés, roasters, and coffee retailers can also have their Airscape canisters and reusable cotton bags co-branded with their logo.
One café that has signed onto this initiative is L.A.’s Muddy Paw Coffee, a company that also raises awareness and funds for animals in need. “We’ve always felt that the Airscape was a perfect addition to our coffee roasting company—to our mission and the local communities we serve,” shares the café’s co-founder, Darren La Borie. “We work locally to better the lives of animals, and one of those ways is making our environment more sustainable.”
To incentivize customers to utilize the Airscape, Muddy Paw gives an extra four ounces of coffee beans to anyone who brings in their Airscape canister or cotton bag—their way of expressing gratitude to anyone who helps prevent another bag from going into a landfill.
Based in Indian Trail, N.C., Sugar Creek Coffee Roasters is another partner that uses the Airscape, and like Muddy Paw, Sugar Creek offers an extra four ounces of free coffee beans to anyone who participates in the refill program. “The cotton bags and canisters remove the waste of a 12-ounce coffee bag, and customers get a full pound for the same price (as a 12-ounce bag)—while I save on costs associated with paper bags, printing, and labels,” Sugar Creek’s owner, Chris Berger, shares. “The coffee refill program has exceeded expectations since we started it last year … we’re looking at scaling this model and using it alongside bulk dispensers in new and existing retail outlets in the future.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has taken a step back in its fight against single-use waste, but the team at Planetary Design hopes that the Airscape will be just one of many waste-reducing solutions going forward. “Like so many companies in the coffee space, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce waste,” states the company’s CEO, Jess Nepstad. “With COVID and necessary precautions put in place, refilling bags (or canisters) inside coffee shops was not practical … but as we move towards normalcy, we hope all eyes and minds are focused again on reducing single-use plastics.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Los Angeles, Emily Joy Meneses (she/her) is a writer and musician passionate about culture and collective care. You can regularly find her at Echo Park Lake, drinking a cortado and journaling about astrology, art, Animal Crossing, and her dreams. Explore her poetry, short stories, and soundscapes on her website.