As Aldea Coffee prepares to open its cafe at 794 Pine St. in downtown Muskegon, the team behind the business is not only busy getting their new venue up and running—they’re also hitting our local beaches to remove hundreds of pounds of trash.
During the five beach cleanups Aldea Coffee has helped to organize in Muskegon and Grand Haven this year, hundreds of people have gotten involved and collected more than 300 pounds of trash—including 2,000 cigarette butts, 6,000 plastic pieces, and 700 cigar tips.
And with a recent cleanup they held in the streets of downtown Muskegon, more than 10 pounds of trash were picked up—including 819 cigarette butts.
“One of our main goals as a business is community development, and we are engaged here,” Aldea’s Brittany Goode said when explaining the inspiration behind the cleanups in Muskegon. Alongside Aldea’s Elly Bollweg, Goode is helping to spearhead her company’s sustainability efforts.
Now, Aldea in partnership with representatives from several local organizations—Rake Beer Project, Padnos, My Barefoot Wedding, the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and the Michigami Collective, to name a few—are prepared to increase those trash pickup numbers even more: they’re holding their sixth and final beach cleanup of the year this Sunday, Sept 15 from 3-5pm at Pere Marquette Beach.
Supplies will be provided (though you’re also encouraged to bring your own garden gloves or five-gallon buckets), and local vendors will be on site to discuss zero-waste and sustainable living. Participating vendors will include: LivelyUp Kombucha, Clean Ocean Clothing, My Lovely Muse, Padnos Recycling Center, and, of course, Aldea Coffee. Additionally, an instructor from Yoga Fever will be at the event to lead short meditations.
“I really love the cleanups because they bring together like-minded people who want to create change,” Goode said. “It also preserves the earth, which is a central part of our mission statement. We want to create a business that is about community and specialty coffee, but also about being sustainable and preserving the earth.”
As part of their dedication to sustainability, Aldea is working on becoming a Benefit Corporation—more frequently referred to as a B Corporation. The distinguished designation is awarded to companies—about 3,023 in 64 countries—that use their business to creatively solve social and environmental problems. To receive the certification, companies must consistently demonstrate and meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Additionally, companies must complete a thorough audit of their social and environmental practices every two years to maintain the accreditation.
For Aldea, the designation coincides with what they’re been trying to do since day one: leave the earth a little (or a lot) better than they found it.
Launched as a nonprofit—Aldea Development—in 2009, Aldea (which means “community” in Spanish) debuted its first cafe at the century-old armory building in Grand Haven in 2015. A development organization that works to empower the farmers and families of La Unión, Lempira, Honduras through microloans, market access, community partnership projects, and more, the nonprofit partners with Honduran farmers to bring their coffee to West Michigan. Here, the coffee is roasted in Aldea’s facility in Muskegon Heights and sold throughout the region. Aldea Coffee too has sold its goods at the Muskegon Farmers Market for nearly a decade.
“We don’t consider ourselves a coffee company,” Jeremy Miller, who co-owns Aldea Coffee with Andrew Boyd, told us in a previous interview. “We look at ourselves as a community development organization. Our coffee company that grew out of our nonprofit stays with that root of Aldea, meaning community. That’s why we’re excited about being present here in downtown Muskegon. It will allow us to have a permanent presence here and give a place for people to come and share their lives with us.”
When it comes to the environment, Goode explained Aldea wants to be as sustainable as possible: they compost all of their coffee grounds and cold brew waste (in Muskegon, they’ll be working with McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm to compost), they make their own syrups from scratch, and their cups are compostable. In addition to the beach cleanups, they also provide workshops, trainings and other events to educate employees, customers and the general public about zero-waste living.
“We’d really like to be able to bring commercial composting to the Lakeshore; we’d like to see all our downtown businesses between Grand Haven and Muskegon using zero waste products,” Goode said. “If we could eliminate single-use plastics from Muskegon and Grand Haven, we could take the model and transfer it to the rest of the state.”
These are big goals, Goode knows, but she’s inspired: after all, she said, this is about taking care of our community and our earth.
“We love doing this,” Goode said, referring to the cleanups and sustainability efforts. “Like our mission statement says, ‘We believe the earth to be an inspiring place, and we empower each other to explore, enjoy and preserve it.’”
For those interested in attending the beach cleanup this Sunday, Sept. 15 from 3-5pm at Pere Marquette, you can see more information and connect with Aldea Coffee by clicking here. The cleanup is free to attend and open to everyone.