By Dawn Schuett
Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN
NORTHFIELD -- By the time Melanie Ewald became the owner of a small business, she was already in the habit of recycling everything possible.
Although Melanie Ewald has worked on her own to make her small business more sustainable, resources are available to guide small businesses with steps they can take.
Small Business Gateway
"It's the way I live my life," Ewald said. These days, it's also how she manages her business, the James Gang Coffeehouse and Eatery in Northfield.
Ewald and her husband, Jeff, bought the independent coffeehouse about a year ago. To "green" up the place, Ewald, who once worked at a food cooperative and still has a coaching business, made a lot of earth-conscious changes.
The interior was given a fresh coat of paint, the kind with low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds), and the lighting was updated with compact fluorescent bulbs.
Ewald serves only fair-trade, organic coffee supplied by a roaster in Brooklyn Center, Minn. She switched to cups that are biodegradable and non-petroleum based, although she encourages customers to bring in their own travel mugs for coffee. To-go boxes made from corn are available to carry out breakfast items and lunch sandwiches, salads and paninis.
The specialty products are more expensive than less environmentally friendly versions, Ewald said, believing good business isn't necessarily about making the most amount of money.
"You have to be very committed to this to make the investment," she said.
There's a receptacle where customers can recycle their Java Jackets, the insulating sleeves that fit over cups, so they can be reused. Plastic bags in which bread comes are taken back to the grocery store for recycling. A magazine and book exchange at the coffeehouse lets patrons share their favorite reads instead of tossing them aside at home.
If a customer doesn't want a receipt, one isn't printed so paper waste is reduced.
"It's so small but you have no idea what kind of impact it would make if everybody did that," Ewald said.
A local church gets the empty tea storage tins for one of its youth projects. Coffee grounds are saved from the spring into the fall to give away to people who use them in compost bins. Cardboard boxes are given to a local artist, and five-gallon buckets that pickles come in are also saved for other purposes.
Ewald said she's more than happy to share those items with those who want them.
"Anything to keep it out of the landfill," she said.
Lettuce served at the coffeehouse is grown locally in Faribault without the use of chemicals. Ewald buys other locally grown produce in season and plans to incorporate more organic or natural foods into the menu.
She'd like to purchase a more energy-efficient refrigerator, put a bike rack outside and continue looking for ways to conserve and reuse resources.
Whether intentional living is done at home or in the workplace, Ewald said, it is "good for us and good for the community."