Tea Room Achieves Zero Waste

Many establishments claim to be environmentally friendly but the Tea Room, located in Beamish Munro Hall, takes the cake. In November 2011 it became the first zero consumer waste coffee shop in Canada.

The Tea Room, a student run coffee shop under the Queen's Engineering Society, opened in 2006 with the objective of proving business model could operate sustainably. Five years later, they have made their point.

"The first three years the Tea Room did well. Then, after the second Common Ground opened, there was a drop in sales. But this year, after some improvements, the Tea Room is doing much better." says Head Manager Andrew Dean. Dean started working at the Tea Room in March 2010 as an Assistant Manager and was hired in March 2011 as Head Manager.

This past year the Tea Room went through a business restructuring to better meet the demands of the market including an earlier closing time and fewer baristas. The usual 70 baristas were reduced to 46, and closing time was switched from 10:30 pm to 7:30pm.

"There wasn't enough business that late at night to justify keeping the Tea Room open," says Dean. Another change from past years is now Managers also take a shift behind the counter. Everyone, including baristas have one shift a week and, with the shorter hours, this works out perfectly. With these adjustments the Tea Room has seen a marked increase in profits this year.

The Tea Room uses local suppliers such as Reid's Dairy in Belleville and Card's Bakery in Kingston. Card's supports the Tea Room's environmental goals and has started using new, biodegradable plastic wrap. This was the last step in The Tea Room achieving 100% zero consumer waste. The Tea Room sources their biodegradable cutlery, cups and napkins from the Toronto-based company Green Shift.

Stressed out at exam time? Tea Room customers get a free espresso shot with any purchase during exams. Another Tea Room perk is the 20% discount you get for bringing your own mug.

With its environmental goal of 100% zero waste achieved, the Tea Room is looking to the future. The staff is divided up into "pod groups" such as Marketing and Environmental Innovation, and these groups are used to brainstorm ideas for improvements. We're eager to see what the Tea Room has in store!