All of us at Alterra Coffee are aware of the impact we have on the environment. This awareness informs many of our decisions- from our café locations to the cups in which we serve drinks. We also hope that, in some ways, it helps us to create stronger ties to our community. Not everything we do is on a grand scale, but the old saying is true, "Every little bit helps." So, whether it's indoor bike racks for our employees, or our involvement in renewable energy programs, we hope that we are leaving the smallest ecological footprint possible.

Wind-Powered Coffee

You already know that our coffee fuels you... but what fuels our coffee?
Wind power! Well, not exclusively, but wind turbines are one of the primary renewable energy sources used to run our cafes. From the coffee grinders to the espresso machines, lighting and refrigeration, every gizmo and gadget in Alterra's Cafes is powered by the We Energies "Energy for Tomorrow" program. Our total participation ensures that all of the energy our cafes consume originates from clean, renewable sources like biomass decomposition, small hydroelectric plants, solar energy, and wind power. Alterra Coffee was one of the first businesses to enroll in the program back in 2002. Since then, we have opened five new facilities and now operate twelve cafes running on 100% renewable energy.

All of us at Alterra Coffee are aware of the impact we have on the environment. This awareness influences many of our decisions - from our café locations and their aesthetics to the cups in which we serve drinks. Not everything we do is on a grand scale, but the old saying is true, "every little bit helps." So, whether it's indoor bike racks for our employees or our involvement in renewable energy programs, we believe in leaving the smallest ecological footprint possible.

Green Building

One of the best ways to ensure eco-friendly practices is to implement them from the very beginning. With the opening of Alterra at the Lake we were able to take our environmental philosophy and incorporate it into the renovation of the Milwaukee River Flushing Station, a beautiful building with a rich history. When we renovated the station to meet the needs of our café, we used the building's original purpose as our guide- to create a cleaner Milwaukee through improved water quality. In that spirit, Alterra on the Lake was constructed using many green building practices:

+ Parking lot runoff redirected to an in-ground filtration system.
+ Pervious paving in seating areas reduces stormwater load on sewers
+ Geothermal cooling systems, super high-efficiency heating systems
+ Native-plant rain garden, irrigated using a whiskey-barrel water collection system, tied into gutter downspouts
+ Recycled materials used for structural steel and to construct stair treads, flooring in mezzanine area, cabinets, and countertops. (Some of these materials came from items salvaged from the original station interior.)

Our green building practices extend beyond Alterra on the Lake. From our use of recycled materials at the Foundry Café to employee bike racks at our location on Prospect Avenue, we try to show respect for our neighbors, the environment, and the areas we bring our coffee to. Soon, we'll be bringing this appreciation and environmental concern to our building in Riverwest. We'll keep you posted on progress at that location, so check back!

Homegrown Plastic

Take one part technology and one part environmental awareness and mix. The result? Plastic made from corn. Known as PLA (polylactide), this new style of plastic was introduced to our cafes in early 2006 in the form of utensils, coldcups, and lids. Because it is composed of natural plant polymers, it breaks down more quickly than its petroleum-based counterpart, which can take well over 1000 years to decompose. Now when you toss out the cup from your iced latte, you can consider the benefits of corn-based plastic:
+ Decomposition in as little as 45 days at commercial compost facilities.
+ Requires 20 to 50 percent less fossil fuels to produce.
+ Will not create toxic fumes when incinerated.
We are always looking for new innovations in the world of eco-friendly (or friendlier) products, so stay tuned.

Vermiculture (Worm Farming)

Hey, worms like coffee too! Since 2000, Alterra has delivered the used coffee grounds from our Prospect Avenue café to the vermicomposting bins at Growing Power Food Center and Training Facility. The grounds assist in creating nutrient-rich fertilizer, achieved by placing worms into a series of special composting bins. Lucky for us, the worms love old coffee grounds, and the end result of this happy arrangement is worm castings (yes, that's right...worm poop.) The folks at Growing Power then sell this natural fertilizer for a profit, helping them to fund programs that promote sustainable agriculture and education. In the end, it's a win-win situation for everyone. We are able to divert some of our discarded coffee grounds from the solid waste stream, help a great organization, and keep a nice group of earthworms fat and productive.

If you would like to take a tour of the Growing Power Community Food Center and Training Facility or learn more about their programs, visit them at www.growingpower.org or call (414) 527-1546.