Sitting at a cafe, have you ever noticed the large number of straws, to-go cups, and plastic utensils that steadily flow from the counter to the trash can? In a culture of convenience and disposable goods, it can be easy to pass off this waste as trivial. However, these little pieces of waste add up quickly. With growing concerns over plastics in our environment, we need fresh ideas and actions that reduce our footprints on this limited planet. A local coffeehouse is taking a new approach to the ways we use our resources. Serving coffee in our community since 2004, Nossa Familia (“our family” in Portuguese) has envisioned a sustainable business practice from the very beginning. Augusto Carneiro, the founder of Nossa Familia, was born in Brazil into a family of coffee growers who had been cultivating highland coffee since the 1890s. When Carneiro began his coffee roasting endeavor in Portland, he started out by sourcing beans directly from his grandparents’ farm – talk about fair trade! Since then, Nossa Familia has opened three locations in Portland and one in Los Angeles. Here or there, Nossa Familia is committed to core values that highlight a dedication to the environment, community building, and accessibility.
In late 2018, Nossa Familia opened their newest cafe in the Seven Corners Collaborative, a community space home to several non-profits offering services and resources to those experiencing disability. The building itself is designed using universal design methods to increase accessibility to services and technology. Invited by the Collaborative, Nossa Familia thoughtfully planned out their space to ensure that their cafe was likewise accessible to a variable community with a variety of needs. Indeed, their menu states: “All Are Welcome Here.” By designing the space in an inclusive way, they are making this message a reality and supporting one of the UN’s proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs #10 and 11).
Another of these goals that Nossa Familia is contributing towards is SDG #12, Responsible Production and Consumption. Utilizing a Loring coffee roaster, Nossa Familia is able to roast their beans with 80% less energy and 80% less emissions than standard roasters. Furthermore, not only do they source beans from organic and fair trade origins, the company recently adopted an initiative to incorporate Zero Waste practices into their business model. For example, after a trial run charging customers for to-go cups at their Seven Corners location, the company extended this practice to their other Portland locations in April of this year. This simple change has resulted in less waste generation, but also prompted a behavioral shift in their customers. Within a short period of time, many customers were bringing in their own mugs. To build on this movement, Nossa Familia has incorporated other initiatives into their Seven Corners location, such as reusable straws (for in-store use and purchase). In-store and while hosting events, the company offers metal silverware versus plastic utensils. By shifting a paradigm around the ways we consume and use resources, Nossa Familia is inspiring us to ask how we can establish other sustainable habits in our lives.
Away from the coffeeshops, the roaster partners with various community organizations to build relationships that foster togetherness and inclusion (SDG #17). In 2016, Nossa Familia’s Community Giveback program donated 15% of all profits to community organizations, in Portland and abroad. Some of the beneficiaries have included the Community Cycling Center, The Street Trust, De la Gente, p:ear, and Central City Coffee. The latter two organizations are community-based efforts to mentor people out of homelessness and supplying them with training and skills to foster productive lives off of the streets (SDG #8). With a lack of solutions to address the needs of Portland’s homeless population, such innovative programs and partnerships are essential to creating a more inclusive community.
Through community involvement, sustainable practices, and workplace empowerment, Nossa Familia became Oregon’s first Certified B Corp coffee roaster. This designation indicates that the company is performing above average in meaningful ways beyond net profits. This is in part due to the adherence to a Triple Bottom Line, in which the company factors in “People, Planet, Profit.” Recognizing that money is not the sole force in our world, Nossa Familia is embodying sustainable practices that encourage us to reconsider the ways in which we consume and relate to our surroundings. Innovation (SDG #9) is definitely among the company’s characteristics, as they seek to adapt to our changing environmental and social climates. In light of their impressive feats and aspirations, GPSEN chose Nossa Familia as one of three local businesses committed to sustainable leadership. Though the world may be full of challenges, Nossa Familia models an important message for a sustainable world: when we work together, great things are possible. Looking to the future!
Nossa Familia has three locations in Portland: 1350 NW Lovejoy St, 1633 SE 3rd Ave, and 2007 SE Division St. To learn more about their story and their community impact, visit their website: https://www.nossacoffee.com/.
Jeremiah Graff is an independent writer and full-time student; this blog was completed as part of a community-based learning component at PCC. He is passionate about sustainability, indigenous movements and ways of living, and working for a brighter future for all living beings. In his free time, he enjoys long walks in the forest, plant-based cooking, and gardening. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.