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Coffee with a side of sunshine: How Joe Van Gogh embraces solar power

joe van gogh

Joe Van Gogh is adding solar panels to the roof of its roasting facility to create clean energy. Photo courtesy of Cindy Sellars. 

Joe Van Gogh is adding solar energy to the creation of their coffee.

Kevin Swenk, director of coffee for Joe Van Gogh, said the business is adding panels on the roof to collect solar rays that are transformed into clean energy for use at their Roasting Facility. 

“We’ve been roasting on the most energy-efficient coffee roasters on the market for years,” he said. “This was the next logical step.”

President and Founder of Joe Van Gogh Robbie Roberts said he had been interested in adding solar energy for many years. He said the business felt it was the responsible thing to do to be better neighbors and partners in the community.

"Last year we moved to compostable items for all of our single-use service wares in our Triangle-area cafes," Lane Mitchell, marketing director of Joe Van Gogh, said. "This includes cups, lids, napkins, stir sticks and to-go containers.”

Noah Kittner, assistant professor in the UNC Gillings School of Public Health, said the addition of solar panels is a step in the right direction for reducing emissions from the business.

“This is good news, good for the environment and an important step to thinking about how to reduce the carbon footprint of our food system in addition to producing clean electricity," he said.

Kittner said he believes by leading on solar and sustainability, Joe Van Gogh may take the opportunity to demonstrate to other coffee roasters the cost savings that are possible by investing in solar electricity and the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Coffee roasteries could use a significant amount of electricity, so by using solar panels to generate electricity, they may have more price certainty going forward into their cost calculations,” Kittner said.

Swenk said it is hard to tell if this will set a trend among other coffee roasters, but many in the industry have been focused on renewable energy for quite some time.

“Most in the coffee industry are sensitive to sustainability issues already," he said. "It’s really up to each individual company to make the decisions and changes that make sense for them."

Swenk said he hopes their efforts inspire others to make sustainability-based decisions in their own lives. 

“We would be bad neighbors if we didn’t reduce our environmental impact whenever we can,” Roberts said.

Mitchell said she hopes they have set a precedent that will encourage every coffee roaster to continually and proactively assess their operations in the context of being good environmental citizens.

“This will make a meaningful difference in our environmental footprint at our roasting facility. Combined with our efforts in our seven area cafes, we are glad to be able to work towards an environmentally sound future for all of us,” she said.

The business said it is constantly looking for ways to make decisions that are good on more than one level.

“I think it’s one of the single most important issues of our day,” Swenk said. “Saving the planet isn’t free, but it’s the right thing to do.”

@DTHCityState |

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