Achieving the goals of a zero waste lifestyle
Sisters Brooke Norsworthy and Lindsey Burnett had zero experience running a coffee shop, or running any business for that matter, when they decided to open their Cactus Coffee Shop in Wimberley with a zero waste philosophy in mind. Like many millennials, they were already used to recycling, but it wasn’t until Brooke graduated from Baylor, got married, and returned to Wimberley that she noticed herself growing intensely aware of the impact she and her family were having on the environment.
Brooke’s journey to living a zero waste lifestyle began simply enough as she began focusing on the kinds of meals she was preparing for her husband and infant daughter.
“I wanted to make sure we were eating organic, healthy food, so I started a garden and learned the importance of composting,” Brooke explains. After getting in the habit of composting and recycling, Brooke naturally progressed to embracing the five guiding principles of the zero waste movement: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot (compost), commonly referred to as the “five R’s.”
The popularity of the zero waste movement can be traced back to 1998 when several cities in California and Colorado began implementing public policies that would do more to reduce the amount of garbage accumulating in city landfills. Flash forward nearly twenty years: now thousands of how-to videos and websites populate the Internet, allowing zero waste adherents around the globe to share their ideas about how easy it is to live more sustainably by practicing the five R’s.
In 2016, while pregnant with her third child, Brooke decided to share her family’s ecofriendly lifestyle with the wider community; with help from her sister, Lindsey, she opened Cactus Coffee Shop as a zero waste business.
“To start with, everything about our shop is connected to the five R’s. Our furniture and equipment was donated or bought secondhand—reused, and I built all the tables and displays myself with reused wood,” she explains. To decrease paper usage, Cactus Coffee Shop offers email or text receipts, or customers can opt out entirely—refuse and reduce. Brooke adds, “Our coffee to-go comes in biodegradable cups with compostable sleeves and lids. Even our straws and cutlery are made from biodegradable corn PLA instead of regular plastic.”
Corn-based polylactic acid (PLA), a popular alternative to regular petroleum-based plastic, is nontoxic and compostable. It’s one reason Cactus Coffee produces only ten pounds of landfill trash per month, an impressive number when considering that the average American throws away roughly 132 pounds of trash each month, or about 4.4 pounds of trash a day, according to National Geographic.
“Early on we had a supplier who shipped products in over-the-top packaging that included Styrofoam peanuts and plastic wrap,” Brooke says. She decided against doing business with that supplier and instead found someone local who could ship the same organic syrup in reused cardboard containers.
Brooke made another mindful decision in 2016 to partner with local Wimberley coffee roaster Darrell Vasquez, of D’s Roastery. Darrell and his wife, Sandy, learned the coffee roasting trade while they were living and teaching in the Dominican Republic. In 2014 they returned to the states to settle in Wimberley, bought a coffee roasting machine of their own, and began a fresh, organic coffee roasting business that uses compostable bags with biodegradable labels. Brooke also found a locally-sourced baker who could provide the shop with fresh breakfast and lunch menu items, including gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options.
“Our real goal here is to show our community how easy it is to make simple changes that can have a big impact,” Brooke says. “We’re just trying to save the planet one drink at a time.”
Visit www.cactuscoffeeshop.com for daily updates, and follow www.facebook.com/cactuscoffeeshop for Earth Day specials and activities.
9595 RR12 Suite 4, Wimberley, Texas
Hours of operation: Mon–Fri 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sat 9 a.m to 5 p.m.