As we Singaporean foodies constantly seek out good food and the next hip cafe on this sunny island, we are often unaware of the amount of effort and thought put in by restaurant owners behind the scenes. In fact, there is a growing community of eatery owners who are on a mission to save the earth and to nudge the F&B industry towards sustainability, starting with their own restaurants. Plastic-Lite Singapore aims to uncover these eateries and bring to light this movement that has been shaking up the F&B scene.
In the first of our series on Green Eateries in Singapore, we met up with Foreword Coffee Roasters to find out more about their mission to be sustainable at the core.
Who is Foreword Coffee Roasters?
Foreword Coffee Roasters is no stranger to the Singaporean consciousness, with countless features on food review websites and IG stories. That comes as no surprise, with their amazingly smooth coffees and velvety lattes in minimalistic packaging.
But they’re not just about coffee. When we made a visit to the outlet at Temasek Shophouse, we found that our hearts were won over by its people. Sitting around the table, sipping fresh coffee, we listened to Wei Jie and Nadi, the founders, sharing about how they have built up a community of conscious consumers that gravitate around Foreword Coffee Roasters, which spans four coffee shops across Singapore.
Foreword Coffee Roasters was founded with a very clear and noble purpose: to realize the potential of every individual. To fulfill this, Foreword hires and trains persons with disabilities in its four cafes around Singapore.
Moreover, it is clear that the two founders were committed to making a positive environmental impact from the very beginning. Realizing how much waste is created in the coffee industry, Wei Jie & Nadi began their journey with sustainability in mind, factoring it in all decisions in all stages of the coffee supply chain, from the farm all the way down to the consumer, especially in their daily operations.
Foreword’s coffee beans are purchased from Asia only. They see a lot of potential in the region and believe that there is no reason to purchase coffee beans from across the world when there is so much in terms of flavour and growth in our own region. Furthermore, purchasing beans from the region helps reduce “food miles,” thus decreasing carbon emissions and pollution.
In addition to sustainable and responsible sourcing, Foreword also strives to reduce its own waste and that of its consumers.
Plastics and Waste Reduction in a Café
Alongside the popularity of Starbucks and the emergence of the coffee-to-go trend, the consumption of single-use coffee cups has increased at alarming rates globally. As such disposable paper coffee cups are lined with 5% polyurethane plastic, they are extremely difficult to compost or recycle. Hence, the majority of paper cups produced is incinerated or sent to the landfill. In Singapore alone, NEA reported in 2018 that approximately 164,500 tonnes of waste (or about 300 Olympic-size swimming pools!) were disposables comprising items such as plastic bags and takeaway containers.
In a bid to reduce waste, Foreword Coffee Roasters incentivizes consumers to bring their own cups and containers by offering a 10% discount off the bill. Drinks are also served without cup lids unless requested by customers who need them. These small steps help customers to think twice about whether they need to use disposables.
In addition to reducing waste, Foreword Coffee Roasters is also looking at reusing/recycling its own plastic waste. They collect blue milk blue bottle caps, with the hopes of creating them into new products in the future.
As part of a campaign to help customers reduce waste, Foreword Coffee Roasters started the RETURN & REUSE initiative, where regular customers can collect their coffee bottles for the next purchase. This has been well-received by a loyal group of customers.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the problem of single-use disposable waste due to hygiene concerns. “There is a lot more waste. We must pack every single pastry and dispose of the cups. However, these steps have to be taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19 ”, Nadi explained.
Thankfully, there is a social conscience about the waste problem, which is growing in Singapore. For example, companies were initially apprehensive about using single-use disposables for beverages, but when Nadi and Wei Jie shared with them about their eco-friendly supplier, Biopak, they became more willing to partner with the cafe for events, meetings, etc.
The harsh truth, however, is that sustainable living is a choice – one that we should take, although it doesn’t always come easy. With the support and encouragement of its customers, Foreword Coffee Roasters strives to be increasingly green.
The key challenges faced in the process are cost and environmental awareness. Eco-friendly packaging comes at a premium compared to conventional packaging, which affects profitability. However, Foreword Coffee Roasters chooses to use it as it remains sustainable at its core.
Secondly, some customers may not understand the heart behind some initiatives, for instance, not serving drinks with lids. The environmental and social consciousness should continue to be raised for both employees and the customers so that customers can play their part in reducing waste, and employees can sustain and communicate Foreword Coffee Roaster’s environmental and social practices and mission. Wei Jie and Nadi hope to work together with customers to embark on more initiatives and further imbue sustainability at its core and realise the potential of every individual.
Tips to businesses
Foreword Coffee Roasters’ founders listed a few precious tips for other F&B establishments who are looking to go green:
- Use suppliers who are reputed for sustainability – With this, you can easily communicate your efforts to consumers. In time, consumers will appreciate it and support you even more!
- Communicate your sustainability mission to customers – Putting out posters, for example, helps convey the importance of sustainability, our mission to the customer, and the heart behind our initiatives, e.g., serving coffee without lids. It also helps the barista by saving him the trouble of repeatedly explaining to customers why they do not receive coffee lids.
Loaded with delicious coffees, soft pastries, and conscious spirits, Foreword Coffee Roasters’ mission to raise awareness on sustainability and realise the potential in every individual hit not only on Plastic-Lite hearts but also on those of a coffee-loving crowd.
For those who are looking to visit Foreword Coffee Roasters, we do recommend their signature Timeless Yuan Yang: a ristretto shot of their Yunnan Ouyang coffee blend with an Earl Grey Tea ice ball and a drop of milk. Mouth-watering!
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