The sisters behind the Pinpoint Café coffee cart, at 7855 Ivanhoe Ave. are making great strides toward going green. Since opening in 2016, they have made the switch from non-biodegradable PET plastic to plant-based PLA plastic, recently added organic ingredients and will continue to encourage reusable dishware.
Caroline and Aline Comenale call this approach “planet before profit.”
Aline said: “We started offering a reusable mug our patrons could purchase and get a discount every time they use it. Last year, we started offering more organic items. But we decided to not make a big announcement about it.”
Carolina added: “We didn’t want to scare customers, because people often associate organic with being expensive and we want to be accessible to as many people as possible.”
To increase their prices in accordance with the increase in costs, Aline said they calculated how much more they were paying per ounce of (for example) organic milk and adjusted costs in line.
“So it was like a 20-cent increase,” she said. “We didn’t want to charge a lot more for that.”
This year, they are reducing their plastic usage and focusing on reusables.
They no longer offer single-use plastic straws that are not compostable, PET plastic cups for cold drinks or hot cups that are lined with PET plastic (which cannot be decomposed, but can be recycled). Instead, they are phasing in plant-based PLA plastic cups for to-go drinks and snacks.
“For us, the challenge is that we serve grab-and-go items, which come in plastic containers so people can see what they are getting,” Aline said. “PET plastic is the easiest to recycle right now, because everybody knows to recycle it, but it still does not decompose.”
She added: “I don’t think plastic is our enemy, it’s just the way we use it. Although there are strides being made, we still think reusable items are the more environmentally friendly approach. The three Rs are: reuse, recycle, reduce. But recycling is not as easy as you think. People think it goes in the blue bin and that’s it, but there are different recycling processes for different items. Some landfills are not ready for PLA plastic, which decomposes in 90 days if the conditions are right.”
That’s why they are encouraging patrons to bring in their own mugs and bowls for Pinpoint offerings. They are also looking at selling a hot/cold Mason jar-type container that could hold hot and cold items or liquids. “You can have an acai bowl, a salad or soup in there, and can do something good and not have to remember to grab a cup and bowl, some are all-in-one,” Aline said.
She pointed out that this approach is “less less profitable, which I think is why more places don’t go this route” and that “Small businesses like us count the coins to make sure we have enough to cover what comes out to almost twice the price. But we see it as taking that percentage of our profits and giving it to the planet rather than ourselves.”
And they aren’t the only coffee shops around town going green.
At the Pannikin Coffee & Tea house at 7467 Girard Ave., a discount is given for bringing in a patron’s own mug.
At Brick & Bell’s La Jolla location at 928 Silverado St., manager Nicole Silva said reusable straws are available for sale at 50 cents apiece, and they are no longer offering single-use plastic straws. “People like the idea. We started it just to try it, but we sell them like crazy,” she said. “Our hot cups are paper cups that are recyclable, but the cold cups are still plastic.”