At Bodhi, a newly zero
At Bodhi Coffee's two Philadelphia cafes, when you order a hot coffee to go, you have two choices: Give the barista your own cup, or buy a mason jar with a lid.
A third option — getting the drink in a single-use paper cup — is not possible.
Owner Bob Logue wants Bodhi to become a zero-waste coffee shop, freeing the environment of the thousands of disposables that his shops would generate every year.
Logue began the process recently at his Bodhi location at 410 S. Second St., across from Head House Square, and he extended it this week to the new Bodhi at 263 S. 10th St. in Washington Square West.
Customers who choose to stay in the cafes get their drinks served in porcelain or glass, the M.O. at many coffee shops.
"I’m old enough to remember when there wasn't disposable everything, and I’ve never been comfortable with it," said Logue, 59.
About a year ago, Logue said, he began experimenting with the elimination of all single-use paper and plastic. This, of course, created a learning curve for him and his customers. He got some pushback. "I think it's a little bit of a shock to folks when they walk in and realize that they’re not going to get a paper cup to go," he said. "But was a surprisingly smooth transition," he said.
"I would just get mason jars and give them a good rinse," he said. "We bought a sewing machine and started making little hand clutches so that folks wouldn't burn their hands on a hot cup of coffee or tea." (Bodhi has since switched to mason jars with handles.)
"We do it purely as a flow-through," he said. "We provide the jar to the customer at cost [typically, $1 to $1.50] and hope that they come back with it or with a vessel that they can use moving forward, just to eliminate the whole idea of needing to grab something that will end up in a trash can."
Besides the obvious savings to Bodhi — about 25 cents per paper cup and lid — Logue said the policy tacitly encourages customers to drink most beverages in the cafe.
"There's a lot of love, dedication, care, and compassion put into the idea of espresso to be consumed in-house," he said. "I’m not trying to reinvent any wheels, because really there's an entire coffee culture on the continent of Europe that already operates that way. Now if you’re going to get a latte or something large and you do want to shuffle off to wherever you’re going next, we’ve got a jar for you."
Baristas add cream and sugar and provide stainless-steel spoons to eliminate disposable stirrers and "that messy self-serve station," he said. There are no straws. Like many shops, Bodhi composts its coffee grounds. He is looking into bringing in his milk in glass to eliminate plastic.
"The reality is we’re comfortable with the concept, and we believe in the idea," he said. "I would say over the course of the last year [at Head House Square], I only lost one customer. That doesn't mean that I don't get reactions — surprised, mostly. Sometimes, the surprise starts a little bit on the negative side of the conversation, but then it grows." Customers realize that they can return with their empty jar or repurpose it.
Logue started in the coffee business in 2010 with his friend Tom Henneman by opening Bodhi's Head House Square location. A year later, they joined with Mike Solomonov, Steve Cook, and Felicia D’Ambrosia on the creation of Federal Donuts, the doughnuts-and-chicken juggernaut.
Logue and Henneman opened the Bodhi location on 10th Street near Spruce in 2014. Four years later, with Henneman devoting more time to Federal Donuts — where he is now chief operating officer — he and Logue ceded the 10th Street shop to coffee-industry veteran Thane Wright, who renamed it Bower Cafe.
Wright grew Bower into a second shop at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and is now about a month from opening a larger Bower Cafe at 1213 Walnut St.
Meanwhile, Logue and D’Ambrosia left Federal Donuts to do their own thing as the company took on private equity.
Logue's own thing was taking back the 10th Street location, and Wright handed the keys back to Logue, who reopened Bodhi.