In the second of our Sustainable Champions series with KeepCup, we talk to Lisa Lawson, founder of Dear Green Coffee Roasters and Glasgow Coffee Festival
How did Dear Green become a Scottish speciality pioneer?
I really wanted to work in coffee but I couldn’t find a job within the industry, so in 2011 I started my own roastery. No one else was solely roasting speciality-standard coffee in Glasgow at the time so the company grew (organically) quite quickly.
Eight years later, we’re now a team of eight with a third roaster arriving soon. We supply ethically-sourced beans to businesses and subscribers across the UK and train people who want to get into the industry. We’ve also hosted lots of events at our HQ (including the UKBC heats and roasting champs) and launched the first Glasgow Coffee Festival in 2014.
What does sustainability mean in a roastery environment?
I’ve always reused, repurposed and recycled – when I launched the business the budget only stretched to the roasting operation, so my first desk was made of breezeblocks and a bit of plywood.
As Dear Green has grown, we’ve maintained this reuse and upcycle philosophy. Every hessian sack that’s landed in the roastery has gone to a new home, chaff from the roasting process is used for chicken coops or allotments, and used grounds are picked up by Revive which turns them into fertiliser. As a business it makes sense to work this way as it means we pay less to have our refuse collected.
We had a carbon audit done recently and we were surprised to learn that how our members of staff get to work could potentially have a larger impact than our trips to origin.
How much pressure is on the business to be green?
It’s what we’ve done since day one, so we haven’t had to change the way we do things in response to a shift in popular culture or heightened media interest in sustainability. When I lived in Australia, recycling was the norm so when I came back to the UK in 2002 I was quite repulsed by our ignorance. We’ve always made small steps which add to the bigger picture.
We work in an industry which centres around traceability and ethical practice so having the same outlook when it comes to the rest of your business makes sense. It’s worked for us so I can’t see why it couldn’t work for other roasters and cafes.
KeepCup has a vision of a disposable-cup free word. Is it possible?
You’ve got to think big – and positively; there’s already been a culture shift to heightened awareness and now it’s about continuing that momentum. We made Glasgow Coffee Festival the first to ban single-use coffee cups last year and now other festivals are following suit.