HoekHome gives furniture a sustainable makeover

September 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Eco, Green, Recycle

Putting together furniture has been rich sitcom fodder for years. People often associate this task with frustration, confusion and many lost hours. But thanks to modern furniture companies such as HoekHome, furniture assembly has changed. You can assemble HoekHome’s click-together furniture with no tools other than your hands. This sleek, stylish and modern furniture also incorporates sustainable practices for the eco-conscious consumer. Together, these features elevate HoekHome’s furniture game to a new level. It will take you longer to tell a joke than it will to put together HoekHome furniture. The click-together design means that you only need to use your hands to assemble each piece. Unclip the legs from the chassis, click it all into place, and then you’re done. Assembly may only take seconds. You won’t need a hammer, nails, screws or even that notorious furniture construction manual. You can also “unclick” HoekHome furniture to make it flat again. This process makes moving significantly easier, as the flat furniture proves easy to store and transport . While easy assembly, disassembly and storage make the brand stand out, these features only tell half of the HoekHome furniture story. HoekHome furniture is also sustainable. Made from 100% post-consumer recycled HDPE plastic and FSC certified plywood , the furniture appeals to consumers who value eco-friendly design. These pieces epitomize responsible, environmentally-conscious design practices. You can decorate your entire house in sleek, sustainable HoekHome furniture. The product line includes side tables, desks, coffee tables and dining tables. Find your favorite pieces in multiple colors, from natural wood tones to bright, vibrant shades. As a new company, HoekHome is still gaining its footing. A Kickstarter campaign planned for October aims to help the company launch so it can create more products for consumers. If successful, this campaign could represent a major shift toward making the furniture industry friendlier to both consumers and the environment . + HoekHome Images via HoekHome

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HoekHome gives furniture a sustainable makeover

Episode 234: Circularity 20 highlights, talking green chemistry

August 28, 2020 by  
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Episode 234: Circularity 20 highlights, talking green chemistry Heather Clancy Fri, 08/28/2020 – 02:00 Week in Review Stories discussed this week (6:45). The rise (and rise) of sustainability-linked finance This Israeli startup mimics mangroves, coral and oysters to create protective seawalls Amid devastating forest fires, One Trillion Trees movement puts down U.S. roots Features Mainstage highlights from Circularity 20 (19:10) This week, GreenBiz hosted Circularity 20, the largest North American conference focused on circular economy issues. We’ll be posting videos for many systems in coming weeks. Meanwhile, here are highlights from four of our mainstage speakers. (A second batch is forthcoming next week.) Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which has been instrumental in catalyzing collective corporate action to address key circular economy issues such as plastics and food waste, kicked off the conference. This outtake feature her thoughts on systems change and the link between climate change and circularity. Audrey Choi, chief marketing officer and chief sustainability officer of Morgan Stanley, gave a great presentation on ways to engage the C-suite about circular economy issues. “I can’t think of another instance in which it would be a smart business position to take a finite natural resource, turn it into a product we use on average for 12 minutes and throw it away,” she said, talking about single-use plastics.  Ovie Mughelli, the former Atlanta Falcons fullback who has dedicated his voice and resources to environmental education for children, challenged the business community to work harder on including environmental justice considerations in their strategy. Jasmine Crowe, founder and CEO of Goodr, addressed the persistent problem of food waste and made the case for why every company — no matter its industry — needs to be have a strategy for addressing it.  Reflections on circular economy progress (34:00) Lauren Phipps, director of the Circularity conference and senior analyst for GreenBiz, chats about the challenges — and opportunities — associated with taking the event online, the need to move from pilots into fully scaled projects and the imperative to prioritize concerns for equity and access in circular business processes. Green chemistry pioneer goes corporate (44:05) Chemist John Warner has joined materials company Zymergen as a research fellow, where he’ll focus on building the 12 principles of green chemistry into its work. Warner and Zymergen co-founder and CEO Josh Hoffman chat about their new mission. *Music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: “Curiosity,” “Knowing the Truth,” “4th Avenue Walkup,” “Going for a Coffee,” “Here’s the Thing” and “And So Then” *This episode was sponsored by WestRock Resources galore Greentech on the red sea. How do we innovate our way out of the climate crisis? Three professors from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology discussing promising solutions in energy and water. Join the webcast at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 8. Today’s carbon-negative fuel. Exploring the potential for fleet emissions reductions through renewable natural gas. Register here for the discussion at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 10. ESG values and a sustainable future.  Why placing environment, social and governance principles at the center of COVID-19 recovery places makes sense for resilience and the bottom line. Sign up for the interactive session at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 15. Inside The Climate Pledge. Senior executives from Amazon, Global Optimism and Verizon share insights on why collaborative corporate action on the climate crisis is more critical than ever. Join us during Climate Week at noon EDT Sept. 24. State of the Profession. Our sixth report examining the evolving role of corporate sustainability leaders. Download it here . The State of Green Business 2020. Our 13th annual analysis of key metrics and trends published here . Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce six weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday); Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday); VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday); Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday); Food Weekly by Carbon and Food Analyst Jim Giles (Thursday); and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose which you want to receive. The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here . Enrolling is free and should take two minutes. Stay connected To make sure you don’t miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes . Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at 350@greenbiz.com . Contributors Joel Makower Deonna Anderson Lauren Phipps Topics Circular Economy Podcast Chemicals & Toxics Circularity 20 Collective Insight GreenBiz 350 Podcast Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 58:00 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz Close Authorship

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Episode 234: Circularity 20 highlights, talking green chemistry

The future of organic coffee: Building a network of support for regenerative agriculture

July 30, 2020 by  
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The future of organic coffee: Building a network of support for regenerative agriculture Jean Orlowski Thu, 07/30/2020 – 02:00 Nearly a decade ago, as we took in the lush plant life, clean air and warm sunshine surrounding us during a vacation in Hawaii, my wife, Danielle, and I knew a life shift was happening. A connection to the land — this island — was built on that trip, leading us to relocate permanently to Captain Cook, Hawaii. It was there that we came across a six-acre Kona coffee farm that had fallen into neglect. Nurturing this farm back to life strengthened our relationship with the island, taught us the true meaning of sustainability and allowed us to become advocates for organic farming beyond our own acreage. Today Hala Tree Coffee Farm consists of nearly 100 acres, and we’ve built a network of like-minded coffee farmers looking to become fully organic. While organic processes may not change the taste of the coffee beans (the environment here takes the credit for that), the organic processes show respect to the land that produces them. We’re firm believers that authentic Kona coffee is organic and that shifting toward regenerative agriculture is vital. Globally, but especially on an island, just being “organic” is no longer enough.  Moving from ‘minimizing impact’ to regenerating  Our motivation to make a career out of farming stemmed from a love of the land. We wanted to work with this island, not take from it, and leave it even better than we found it. Learning the intricacies of Kona coffee farming from the ground up highlighted the need for organic practices early on. While sustainability is important no matter where you live, living on an island increases the urgency. Our soil, our trees and our water eventually connect to the ocean that surrounds Hawaii. While we want to care for the island itself, the consequences of not using organic practices can reach to the mainland United States and beyond, carried by the currents. Even small island farms leave a lasting effect — both positive and negative — on the environment globally. And because Hawaii must import large amounts of produce (resulting in 600,000 pounds of CO2 released into the atmosphere for each flight from San Francisco to Hawaii), regenerative agriculture is imperative for our state. One major way to do that is to shift the way farming is done, especially for key crops such as coffee. Until recently, Hawaii was the only U.S. state that grows coffee beans (California has just started), and Kona coffee is coveted around the world. The mix of rain, quality soil, sunshine and elevation on the island creates the perfect environment for farming coffee beans. The conditions truly can’t be reproduced elsewhere, and that’s why the Kona coffee farming community is passionate about the environment and our island. At Hala Tree, we focus on two key areas: our soil and our trees.  We focus on topsoil regeneration by using perennial peanuts as ground cover to nourish the soil and anchor it. Our farm, as with most coffee farms in Hawaii, covers sloped areas prone to runoffs. Ground cover is vital to stabilizing our soil; we focus on the regenerative piece by choosing materials that give back to the soil. During pruning and clipping seasons on the farm, everything cut from the trees is spread on top of the current soil throughout the farm. We also use natural fertilizer made from fish bones throughout the farm. Wildlife is also a consideration with ground cover; we must ensure that we are not restricting movement or harming native animals. These species are key to the land’s ability to regenerate, and we must work with them, not around or against.  New trees are continuously planted on the farm to boost carbon sequestration. We have about 100,000 trees under our management, each being carefully maintained with organic practices.  Part of our initiative to move toward regenerative agriculture is helping other local farmers obtain organic certification. This initial process can be time-consuming and cost-prohibitive for small farms; for example, the weed maintenance piece is a tall order in a wet, humid climate where plants grow at astounding speeds. By bringing more farms under our wing and helping them on the organic path, we aim to better equip the agriculture community to embrace regenerative farming.  What’s good for one is good for all  While smaller farms may have the most to gain from going organic, the upfront cost to earn that designation can be prohibitive. Materials, tools, processes and labor need to be accounted for, not to mention the cost of certification. Farms also must be fully organic for three years before a certification can be awarded, adding a time investment on top of cost. For a small farm with just a few acres, this may be impossible to achieve alone. In order to create more organic farms and better serve the planet, larger farms (and perhaps even corporate brands ) need to prioritize the sharing of resources and support. In order to create more organic farms and better serve the planet, larger farms (and perhaps even corporate brands) need to prioritize the sharing of resources and support.   Our own expansion as a company is partially fueled by mentoring other farms. The territory here can be difficult to work with, given the grades of hills and the need for special equipment. We help smaller farms by sharing resources and, in some cases, we manage their acreage to support their journey toward organic certification. Our partners either pay a fee or share a part of their harvest with us in exchange, making organic farming attainable while ensuring that they still see profit. It’s a form of regenerative agriculture itself: We’re investing in the community that invested in us, keeping everything local. Other types of agriculture are starting to use this model, and more need to follow. The wine industry is similar to coffee in terms of cultivation, harvest and processing. Established vineyards with organic certification can lift up neighboring vineyards and share their resources. When more organic wine enters the market, consumers are more likely to try it, which benefits the newly established organic farms and boosts the industry as whole. While new technology can help this process, machines can’t fully replace people or mimic the value of a strong, supportive network. That’s why we all need to work together. We hope to see farms of all kinds on the mainland and beyond consider the model we’ve created in Hawaii. We need more minds behind innovation in this area to continue growing and making regenerative practices accessible. While living on an island initially may have raised our sense of urgency for going organic, it’s no less imperative for our farming community in other U.S. states and around the world to shift their practices. While sustainability discussions can feel overwhelming and difficult, we have an opportunity in the agriculture community to show fellowship, support and positivity — and perhaps improve products and profits along the way. Pull Quote In order to create more organic farms and better serve the planet, larger farms (and perhaps even corporate brands) need to prioritize the sharing of resources and support. Topics Food & Agriculture Regenerative Agriculture Organics Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Hala Tree Coffee Farm owners Danielle and Jean Orlowski. Courtesy of Charla Photography Close Authorship

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The future of organic coffee: Building a network of support for regenerative agriculture

Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

June 10, 2020 by  
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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production Dean Cycon Wed, 06/10/2020 – 01:00 When you sit back with a good cup of coffee, you will be engulfed in the warmth, aroma, taste, acidity and body of the brew. Yet, swirling beneath the surface all of the major issues of the 21st century — climate change, globalization, immigration, women’s rights and wealth inequity — are being played out in remote coffee villages around the world.  How companies behave in the coffee trade has a direct impact not only on the lives and livelihoods of 28 million coffee farming families but on the welfare of the planet itself. Coffee companies claiming to be “ethical” or “sustainable” that refuse to pay a living wage to the farmers are fueling this longstanding human and environmental crisis.  Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature weaken coffee plants and reduce yields. Climate-enhanced fungi and bacteria decimate coffee plants, leaving families with little or no income for the next five years until new trees can be planted and mature. Larger farm owners must deforest land and plant more coffee to make up for the historically low prices they are receiving from the market. This deforestation inhibits carbon sequestration, which leads to higher temperatures. The cycle is self-fulfilling.  As a result, coffee production will be greatly limited in medium and lower elevations by 2030 to 2050. When production is reduced, farmers may use more chemicals in the growing process, which harms the soil and water sources, further degrading the planet and human health. Coffee, poverty and migration are also connected. The largest single group of migrants trying to cross the southern border are from Guatemala, and most of them are from the coffee lands of Huehuetenango province. They are unemployed and landless coffee farming families hoping for a better life.  The price per pound paid to coffee farmers is based on the “New York C price,” a commodity system that operates much like a stock market. For several years, the C price for coffee has hovered around the farmer’s cost of production ($0.80-$1.10), which means no profit for the farmers. From a high in 2014, prices paid to farmers have plummeted by 70 percent and now dance around $1 per pound. Every pound a farmer sells, and every cup we drink, pushes a farmer deeper into poverty and despair.  If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Companies are not required to base their payments to farmers on the C price, and many of us do not. Organic and Bird Friendly certifications offer a price premium to the farmer. Fair Trade provides a “living wage floor” and many committed Fair Traders pay substantially higher prices. The few real Direct Traders offer real price premiums for limited amounts of high-quality coffee. Many companies hide behind labels, such as Rainforest Alliance or Utz Kapeh, or self-created programs such as “Ethical Sourcing,” which sound good but do not guarantee higher prices.  Ironically, coffee company profits may be the highest in history. Companies such as Smuckers and Starbucks continue to raise their prices while their main cost of goods (buying coffee beans) has dropped considerably. According to the United Nations, the ratio between what the farmer was paid and what the companies sold their coffee for was 1:3 during the 1970s. Today, it is as high as 1:20, as many consumers are paying $20 a pound.  In 2012, Starbucks reported its average price for green beans was $2.56 per pound . However, that is the price it paid to the broker, not to the farmer. After backing out shipping, insurance, importer and exporter and mill costs, that price would be closer to $2.20 paid per pound to the farmer. By 2014, Starbucks was only paying $1.72 to the broker (maybe $1.36 to the farmer). By paying the lower amount, Starbucks took $387 million out of the farmers’ pockets. As green prices keep falling, Starbucks has continued to pay coffee farmers less, while charging consumers more.  So, who is winning this game? Not the farmers, not the public and not the environment. Instead of paying enough to support the farmers, large and small coffee companies contribute lesser amounts to nonprofits for clean water, health and environmental projects under the banner of “corporate sustainability.” If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. If Starbucks returned to its 2012 broker and farmer prices, it nearly would double family income on most small farms. To family farms in Nicaragua, Peru, Ethiopia and Indonesia, that $1,400 could pay for healthcare, children’s education, proper nutrition and technology to produce higher yields and reduce their need to clear land. Even a 25-cent increase in the price paid to farmers, which would get Starbucks closer to the prices paid by truly committed coffee companies, would bring $150 million back to the farms and its stock price would not even blink. As an industry, we have lived long and well by treating farmers just like coffee. We see them as fungible commodities instead of true partners in the success of our businesses who are integral to effective adaptation to climate change and other issues of the day. The days of maximizing profits without seriously incorporating farmers’ concerns that bind us all together are over. It is time to pay up. Pull Quote If coffee companies really want to fight the difficulties facing coffee farmers and the environment, they should just pay up. Topics Food & Agriculture Equity & Inclusion Environmental Justice Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Paying farmers a living wage is essential to ensuring sustainable coffee production

Can this app solve our coffee cup problem?

February 28, 2020 by  
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This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription.This week I want to talk about our coffee cup problem. Nearly two in every three Americans drink coffee, and many of us grab a cup to go. That’s a lot of cups. Because most disposable cups can’t be recycled, it’s also a lot of waste headed to landfill. And that’s just one drink in one country. Worldwide, hundreds of billions of disposable cups end up in landfills every year.

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In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

February 6, 2020 by  
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It all started with a flat tire. A man cycling through Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was charmed by the historic town but really wished it had a bike shop to fix his flat. This cycling mishap has morphed into Avant Cycle Cafe , a community hub that combines a full-service bike shop with excellent coffee and pastries. “Cyclists have a natural inclination to coffee,” managers Ann Esarco and Andrew Gruber told Inhabitat. “When the two worlds came together, it was just a natural fit.” The city of Lake Geneva sits 10 miles north of the Illinois state line in southeastern Wisconsin. Its population of about 7,700 swells in summer, when droves of people from Chicago come for boating and other warm-weather sports. The architecture is another draw. The area saw an upsurge in construction at the end of the 19th century, and many Victorian mansions still stand. This makes the town and environs a compelling place to explore on foot or by bike. Local sourcing at Avant Cycle Cafe The cafe’s menu focuses on hot drinks and treats. Avant Cycle Cafe serves cider made from locally grown apples and has a case full of baked goods. Don’t expect to just order a regular coffee. You can choose from drip, pour over or French press, plus the full range of espresso drinks. You might also be surprised to find that a cafe in a small town in the famous dairy state of Wisconsin offers almond, soy, oat and coconut milk alternatives . Related: San Francisco bike shop lets you trade in car for e-bike This is no ordinary coffee, either. Avant Cycle Cafe sources its beans from Lake Geneva Coffee Roastery . Owner Jeremiah Fox started roasting his own coffee on his stovetop in 2012. Now, the coffee entrepreneur, who is visually impaired, uses his other senses — hearing, taste and smell — to fine-tune his commercial roast profiles. Talking timers and special tactile points on the controls of his machinery allow him to adjust the air flow and temperature for his small-batch coffee. Fox uses electricity for a clean air process, versus roasting with gas, which pollutes both the beans and the air with hydrogen sulfide. According to Fox, his process also makes for coffee that’s easier on customers’ stomachs. Building a cycling community Tourism is seasonal. While some people do visit in winter, summer is high season for Lake Geneva. Avant Cycle Cafe values its summer customers and is happy when they return for more coffee and another bike rental. Both tourists and locals join a series of summer Sunday breakfast rides, where groups pedal together to area restaurants, diners and cafes . The rides are casual with a no-drop policy, meaning nobody gets left behind. Once, the group rode out to see Fox’s coffee roasting operation in the nearby town of Elkhorn. The rides are usually 12 to 15 miles each way. Avant Cycle Cafe believes in cultivating local community year-round, not just when the sun is shining and tourists fill hotel beds. “Our locals are fantastic,” Esarco and Gruber said. They even have one customer who comes in three times a day. In addition to the cafe and bike shop, an upstairs area called The Loft is a rustic, bright and cozy room open to customers for studying and relaxing. It can also be reserved for private events like engagement parties, bridal showers and youth group meetings. This year, Avant Cycle Cafe is hosting a weekly Tuesday night program called 13 Weeks of Winter. “It’s an effort to engage the community in providing entertaining and enriching activities when most people aren’t even thinking of cycling,” Esarco and Gruber explained. While some topics are very on-point, such as a talk by cycling icon Lon Haldeman, an intro to bike maintenance and learning opportunities about the history of coffee, others draw on the community’s wider expertise. Local art gallery ReVive Studio will lead a mosaic pendant class in March. Another night, people can come for Reiki healing. The Chili for Charity contest brought together 10 local restaurants and recently raised more than $1,000 for local organizations. As Esarco and Gruber put it, “Cycling and coffee is just the meeting ground. The community expands out from there.” What’s next for biking in Lake Geneva? Workers at Avant Cycle Cafe are actively making Lake Geneva a better biking town. They’ve begun working with the national Rails to Trails Conservancy, which takes disused railroad tracks and converts them to multi-use trails for hiking and cycling. They are also lobbying elected officials to incorporate bikes into urban planning . “Our aim is to include a marked bike lane on the renovations to Highway 120 from just outside Lake Geneva to the White River State Trail ,” Esarco and Gruber said. This 19-mile trail follows a former rail corridor and is only a few miles from Lake Geneva, so a marked bike lane would greatly improve safe access. Avant Cycle Cafe just started selling and servicing e-bikes , which could give some would-be cyclists an extra boost of confidence. This summer, the cafe will also be offering private, guided tours around the lake. “It’s been wonderful to be in a position to get more people on bikes, having fun and riding around beautiful Lake Geneva,” Esarco and Gruber said. “We want to make Lake Geneva the place to be for cyclists.” + Avant Cycle Cafe Photography by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

February 6, 2020 by  
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It all started with a flat tire. A man cycling through Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was charmed by the historic town but really wished it had a bike shop to fix his flat. This cycling mishap has morphed into Avant Cycle Cafe , a community hub that combines a full-service bike shop with excellent coffee and pastries. “Cyclists have a natural inclination to coffee,” managers Ann Esarco and Andrew Gruber told Inhabitat. “When the two worlds came together, it was just a natural fit.” The city of Lake Geneva sits 10 miles north of the Illinois state line in southeastern Wisconsin. Its population of about 7,700 swells in summer, when droves of people from Chicago come for boating and other warm-weather sports. The architecture is another draw. The area saw an upsurge in construction at the end of the 19th century, and many Victorian mansions still stand. This makes the town and environs a compelling place to explore on foot or by bike. Local sourcing at Avant Cycle Cafe The cafe’s menu focuses on hot drinks and treats. Avant Cycle Cafe serves cider made from locally grown apples and has a case full of baked goods. Don’t expect to just order a regular coffee. You can choose from drip, pour over or French press, plus the full range of espresso drinks. You might also be surprised to find that a cafe in a small town in the famous dairy state of Wisconsin offers almond, soy, oat and coconut milk alternatives . Related: San Francisco bike shop lets you trade in car for e-bike This is no ordinary coffee, either. Avant Cycle Cafe sources its beans from Lake Geneva Coffee Roastery . Owner Jeremiah Fox started roasting his own coffee on his stovetop in 2012. Now, the coffee entrepreneur, who is visually impaired, uses his other senses — hearing, taste and smell — to fine-tune his commercial roast profiles. Talking timers and special tactile points on the controls of his machinery allow him to adjust the air flow and temperature for his small-batch coffee. Fox uses electricity for a clean air process, versus roasting with gas, which pollutes both the beans and the air with hydrogen sulfide. According to Fox, his process also makes for coffee that’s easier on customers’ stomachs. Building a cycling community Tourism is seasonal. While some people do visit in winter, summer is high season for Lake Geneva. Avant Cycle Cafe values its summer customers and is happy when they return for more coffee and another bike rental. Both tourists and locals join a series of summer Sunday breakfast rides, where groups pedal together to area restaurants, diners and cafes . The rides are casual with a no-drop policy, meaning nobody gets left behind. Once, the group rode out to see Fox’s coffee roasting operation in the nearby town of Elkhorn. The rides are usually 12 to 15 miles each way. Avant Cycle Cafe believes in cultivating local community year-round, not just when the sun is shining and tourists fill hotel beds. “Our locals are fantastic,” Esarco and Gruber said. They even have one customer who comes in three times a day. In addition to the cafe and bike shop, an upstairs area called The Loft is a rustic, bright and cozy room open to customers for studying and relaxing. It can also be reserved for private events like engagement parties, bridal showers and youth group meetings. This year, Avant Cycle Cafe is hosting a weekly Tuesday night program called 13 Weeks of Winter. “It’s an effort to engage the community in providing entertaining and enriching activities when most people aren’t even thinking of cycling,” Esarco and Gruber explained. While some topics are very on-point, such as a talk by cycling icon Lon Haldeman, an intro to bike maintenance and learning opportunities about the history of coffee, others draw on the community’s wider expertise. Local art gallery ReVive Studio will lead a mosaic pendant class in March. Another night, people can come for Reiki healing. The Chili for Charity contest brought together 10 local restaurants and recently raised more than $1,000 for local organizations. As Esarco and Gruber put it, “Cycling and coffee is just the meeting ground. The community expands out from there.” What’s next for biking in Lake Geneva? Workers at Avant Cycle Cafe are actively making Lake Geneva a better biking town. They’ve begun working with the national Rails to Trails Conservancy, which takes disused railroad tracks and converts them to multi-use trails for hiking and cycling. They are also lobbying elected officials to incorporate bikes into urban planning . “Our aim is to include a marked bike lane on the renovations to Highway 120 from just outside Lake Geneva to the White River State Trail ,” Esarco and Gruber said. This 19-mile trail follows a former rail corridor and is only a few miles from Lake Geneva, so a marked bike lane would greatly improve safe access. Avant Cycle Cafe just started selling and servicing e-bikes , which could give some would-be cyclists an extra boost of confidence. This summer, the cafe will also be offering private, guided tours around the lake. “It’s been wonderful to be in a position to get more people on bikes, having fun and riding around beautiful Lake Geneva,” Esarco and Gruber said. “We want to make Lake Geneva the place to be for cyclists.” + Avant Cycle Cafe Photography by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

February 6, 2020 by  
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It all started with a flat tire. A man cycling through Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was charmed by the historic town but really wished it had a bike shop to fix his flat. This cycling mishap has morphed into Avant Cycle Cafe , a community hub that combines a full-service bike shop with excellent coffee and pastries. “Cyclists have a natural inclination to coffee,” managers Ann Esarco and Andrew Gruber told Inhabitat. “When the two worlds came together, it was just a natural fit.” The city of Lake Geneva sits 10 miles north of the Illinois state line in southeastern Wisconsin. Its population of about 7,700 swells in summer, when droves of people from Chicago come for boating and other warm-weather sports. The architecture is another draw. The area saw an upsurge in construction at the end of the 19th century, and many Victorian mansions still stand. This makes the town and environs a compelling place to explore on foot or by bike. Local sourcing at Avant Cycle Cafe The cafe’s menu focuses on hot drinks and treats. Avant Cycle Cafe serves cider made from locally grown apples and has a case full of baked goods. Don’t expect to just order a regular coffee. You can choose from drip, pour over or French press, plus the full range of espresso drinks. You might also be surprised to find that a cafe in a small town in the famous dairy state of Wisconsin offers almond, soy, oat and coconut milk alternatives . Related: San Francisco bike shop lets you trade in car for e-bike This is no ordinary coffee, either. Avant Cycle Cafe sources its beans from Lake Geneva Coffee Roastery . Owner Jeremiah Fox started roasting his own coffee on his stovetop in 2012. Now, the coffee entrepreneur, who is visually impaired, uses his other senses — hearing, taste and smell — to fine-tune his commercial roast profiles. Talking timers and special tactile points on the controls of his machinery allow him to adjust the air flow and temperature for his small-batch coffee. Fox uses electricity for a clean air process, versus roasting with gas, which pollutes both the beans and the air with hydrogen sulfide. According to Fox, his process also makes for coffee that’s easier on customers’ stomachs. Building a cycling community Tourism is seasonal. While some people do visit in winter, summer is high season for Lake Geneva. Avant Cycle Cafe values its summer customers and is happy when they return for more coffee and another bike rental. Both tourists and locals join a series of summer Sunday breakfast rides, where groups pedal together to area restaurants, diners and cafes . The rides are casual with a no-drop policy, meaning nobody gets left behind. Once, the group rode out to see Fox’s coffee roasting operation in the nearby town of Elkhorn. The rides are usually 12 to 15 miles each way. Avant Cycle Cafe believes in cultivating local community year-round, not just when the sun is shining and tourists fill hotel beds. “Our locals are fantastic,” Esarco and Gruber said. They even have one customer who comes in three times a day. In addition to the cafe and bike shop, an upstairs area called The Loft is a rustic, bright and cozy room open to customers for studying and relaxing. It can also be reserved for private events like engagement parties, bridal showers and youth group meetings. This year, Avant Cycle Cafe is hosting a weekly Tuesday night program called 13 Weeks of Winter. “It’s an effort to engage the community in providing entertaining and enriching activities when most people aren’t even thinking of cycling,” Esarco and Gruber explained. While some topics are very on-point, such as a talk by cycling icon Lon Haldeman, an intro to bike maintenance and learning opportunities about the history of coffee, others draw on the community’s wider expertise. Local art gallery ReVive Studio will lead a mosaic pendant class in March. Another night, people can come for Reiki healing. The Chili for Charity contest brought together 10 local restaurants and recently raised more than $1,000 for local organizations. As Esarco and Gruber put it, “Cycling and coffee is just the meeting ground. The community expands out from there.” What’s next for biking in Lake Geneva? Workers at Avant Cycle Cafe are actively making Lake Geneva a better biking town. They’ve begun working with the national Rails to Trails Conservancy, which takes disused railroad tracks and converts them to multi-use trails for hiking and cycling. They are also lobbying elected officials to incorporate bikes into urban planning . “Our aim is to include a marked bike lane on the renovations to Highway 120 from just outside Lake Geneva to the White River State Trail ,” Esarco and Gruber said. This 19-mile trail follows a former rail corridor and is only a few miles from Lake Geneva, so a marked bike lane would greatly improve safe access. Avant Cycle Cafe just started selling and servicing e-bikes , which could give some would-be cyclists an extra boost of confidence. This summer, the cafe will also be offering private, guided tours around the lake. “It’s been wonderful to be in a position to get more people on bikes, having fun and riding around beautiful Lake Geneva,” Esarco and Gruber said. “We want to make Lake Geneva the place to be for cyclists.” + Avant Cycle Cafe Photography by Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat

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In Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the Avant Cycle Cafe builds community

Starbucks commits to give more than it takes from the planet, and ditch disposable cups

January 21, 2020 by  
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To become “resource positive,” the coffee colossus seeks to shift toward circularity, including reusable packaging.

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Starbucks commits to give more than it takes from the planet, and ditch disposable cups

Impress loved ones with these homemade foods for holiday gifts

December 5, 2019 by  
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Many eco-conscious people face a quandary over the holidays. In a consumer-driven society with too much waste and houses overcrowded with stuff, shouldn’t we axe the gift-giving tradition? Then again, our inner Santa-loving child may feel neglected, unloved or just ripped off by a giftless December. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution: the gift of food . Everybody has to eat, and a food gift doesn’t hang around forever, taking up space. To make food gifts more special — and to save lots of money — consider making your own. Here’s a roundup of some ideas for handmade food gifts. Baked goods Fruitcakes are probably the most traditional holiday food gift. This recipe by Gretchen Price features lots of dried fruit chopped up into impressively small bits, and the loaf is strongly spiced with grated ginger, cloves, anise, cinnamon, allspice and cardamom. Gretchen kindly suggests subbing apple juice for rum if you happen to operate an alcohol-free kitchen. However, while fruitcakes are traditional, many people find cookies more delicious. If you’re feeling extra creative, get out your cookie cutters and decorate with frosting, sprinkles and candies. Ellie of My Healthy Dessert offers a trendy spin on rolled cookies with her recipe for crispy matcha Christmas cookies . Scones, muffins and fruit breads also make good holiday gifts , but don’t make them too far ahead, because they’re best eaten within a couple of days of baking. Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for foodies You could go a little healthier by making a fresh batch of granola for folks on your list. My basic recipe starts with preheating the oven to 450. Put about six cups of old fashioned oats in a baking pan, add a cup of raw seeds and a cup of raw nuts and mix them up. Then, combine about one-half to three-quarters of a cup of vegetable or coconut oil with the same amount of sweetener: brown sugar, coconut sugar, agave, maple syrup, molasses, etc. I might throw in ginger, cinnamon, unsweetened cocoa and/or a little cayenne pepper, too. Once that mixture melts, combine it in with the oats and nuts. Stick the pan in the oven for 8 minutes. Take it out, stir and bake for another 8 minutes. If you want it well done, continue cooking but be sure to check it every minute or two after that to prevent burning. Candy If your friends, family, office mates and other gift recipients have a sweet tooth, it’s fun to make candy for them. Peanut brittle is delicious and easy with this recipe from Loving it Vegan. Use up extra candy canes with this peppermint candy cane truffle recipe from Where Do You Get Your Protein. For friends with slightly more adventurous palates, Vegan Gastronomy offers a recipe for chocolate-covered dates stuffed with orange cream and topped with orange zest, sea salt and shredded coconut . Nutty gifts Freshly toasted and spiced nuts are simple to make and more nutritious than cookies. All you need are raw pecans, walnuts, cashews or any other nuts, some vegan butter or coconut oil, sugar and/or spices. For a sweet nut, add brown sugar and cinnamon to your skillet of nuts. For savory nuts, experiment with paprika, chili powder, cumin or turmeric. Trail mix is even easier to assemble. Just choose some nuts, seeds and dried fruits from the bulk section of a grocery store, and pour it all into an attractive, reusable jar. Tamales Native Americans ate a food similar to modern-day tamales as far back as 8,000 B.C.E. Corn was considered the substance of life, and consuming it could be a spiritual experience. The love of tamales has continued through the ages and is now tied to Christmas celebrations in Mexico and the American Southwest. Making tamales isn’t especially hard, but it takes a lot of time. Consider doing what the tamaleras , or tamale makers like to do: throw a tamalada, or tamale making party. You’ll need a tamale steamer, access to Hispanic foods like corn husks and masa and a gathering of loved ones who also want to give the gift of tamales. Check out 18 vegan tamale recipes from Dora’s Table, including red chile jackfruit, jalapeño and cactus, and sweet pineapple tamales. Coffee syrups It seems like every financial advice article highlights how much money you could save by making coffee at home. Help your friends break their high-cost habits by gifting them with homemade coffee syrups. This is an easy and unusual gift. All it takes is water, sugar, extracts, a saucepan and a stove. Check out these recipes from Royal Cup Coffee for flavors like vanilla, peppermint, blackberry and cinnamon brown sugar. Related: 10 recipes you can gift in jars Infused oils Infused oils are another easy-to-make food gift. Luci’s Morsels tells you how to infuse olive oil with lemon, garlic, chili or rosemary in less than an hour. Hot sauce For the friend who just cannot get enough spicy food, homemade chili pepper sauce is a thoughtful gift. From ghost pepper to scotch bonnets, Chili Pepper Madness answers questions about crafting hot sauce at home. You might want to have a dedicated blender or food processor for this, unless you like your smoothies spicy. Spice mixes Custom-blended spice mixes are one of the easiest handmade food gift ideas. Your friends who like to cook quick dishes will thank you when your homemade jerk seasoning blend perks up their tofu , or your barbecue seasoning breathes new life into their kale and chickpeas. Real Simple offers 10 simple spice mix ideas. Chocolate-dipped treats For those on your list who believe chocolate makes everything better, dip some snacks in chocolate and call it a gift. Strawberries, nuts, pretzels — this is easy, messy fun. Melt dairy-free dark chocolate chips for the vegans on your list, dip the snack and let it cool. Use your creative license. Have you ever wondered what ghost pepper potato chips dipped in dark chocolate would taste like? Packaging for your homemade food gifts Think about what you can reuse here. Do you have extra mason jars on hand? Bottles you can wash thoroughly and remove the commercial labels? Excess Tupperware? Scour your nearest thrift shops for secondhand festive cookie tins or pretty tea cups to fill with truffles. If you like making food gifts this year, start a collection of your old jars, bottles and garage sale finds for next year. Images via Shutterstock

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Impress loved ones with these homemade foods for holiday gifts

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