‘Physically distant, socially united’: Aldea Coffee asks public to join them in week-long Earth Day cleanups

The Aldea Coffee team at a previous cleanup. Photo courtesy of Aldea Coffee

Every year, Aldea Coffee’s owners and employees look forward to Earth Day. They plan sustainability workshops, host beach cleanups, and participate in the Earth Day Lakeshore Celebration

But this year is different. This year, the world feels quieter, more isolated, often lonely. Many of us are in our homes, watching the outside world bloom as we wonder how a global pandemic will end.

This year, there can be no sustainability workshops, large gatherings for beach cleanups, or the Earth Day Lakeshore Celebration. But that doesn’t mean we have to abandon Earth Day—a day that was born on April 22, 1970, when 20 million Americans participated in protests, festivals and rallies across the country for an event that helped to birth the modern environmental movement and paved the way for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency that year.

To continue their focus on our environment, the folks at Aldea Coffee wanted to figure out a way to clean up our local beaches, parks, neighborhoods, and hiking trails at a time when we can’t physically be together. So, they’ve announced that, during the week of April 19 to April 25, they’re inviting anyone and everyone to do their own cleanups—such as during a walk on the beach or around a neighborhood.

“It is crucial in this moment we find ways to remain socially united despite practicing physical distancing,” Brittany Goode of Aldea Coffee wrote to us.

“During this time of physical isolation we are helping people find community through virtual events, such as the recent concert series as well as our upcoming Earth Day cleanup event,” Goode continued. “It is especially important to do cleanups this year with water levels remaining incredibly high, causing our beaches to be filled with an excess of debris after the winter.”

Image courtesy of Aldea Coffee

For those who are able, Aldea is asking participants to count the pieces of trash as they put them in a bag or bucket and take a photo of themselves collecting the trash or with the final pile. Share the photos on social media and tag your location and Aldea Coffee, which will be awarding prizes for the most unique trash found, the most creative photo, and who picks up the most trash. Prizes will include a “zero waste gift set,” gift cards, and more.

To see all the details about the event, click here.

More than the prizes, of course, the week-long Earth Day event is one that’s meant to connect us, to remind us that, while our own worlds can feel very limited right now, we’re still part of something much larger than us. We’re part of a world that’s hurting, but, when and where we’re able, we can tend to those wounds. We can still connect with our community; we can still pick up those cigarette butts and wrappers and cans littering our beaches, waterways and neighborhood streets.

“There is a lot of trash in our local parks from the wintertime and rising water levels,” Goode wrote. “This is typically the time of year when many groups are doing cleanups around the state. It is important we always clean up while enjoying nature, and a good spring sweep is very helpful.”

In addition to individuals’ efforts, Aldea is looking to partner with other local businesses that are interested in providing sponsorships for the event and spreading the word about it through their networks. To connect with Aldea, click here for their website and here for their Facebook page.

Trash from a previous cleanup hosted by Aldea Coffee. Photo courtesy of Aldea Coffee

A longtime proponent of sustainability and community engagement, Aldea Coffee has centered its business plan, cafes in Muskegon and Grand Haven, and other interactions around the idea that we must be good stewards of the world, and of each other. Last year, for example, the company organized clean-ups that picked up hundreds of pounds of trash in Muskegon and Grand Haven; plus, Aldea composts its coffee grounds and cold brew waste, makes its own syrups from scratch, and provides workshops, trainings and other events to educate employees, customers and the general public about zero-waste living.

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 about a decade.

All of which is to say: for those at Aldea, and throughout our community, this year’s Earth Day event is, of course, about picking up trash and keeping our public spaces clean and safe. But it’s also a powerful reminder that, even when things seem very out of our control, even when a global pandemic has come to our world and uncertainty permeates so much of our lives, we can put on a pair of gloves, step outside and say, “Today, I can be part of the answer.”

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. Photos courtesy of Aldea Coffee. Connect with Anna by emailing MuskegonTimes@gmail.com or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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