For Reunion Island Coffee Roasters, sustainability is just good business.
The company has led the charge with its green sourcing program, gathering coffee beans from around the world in a sustainable way and developing a reputation for a high-quality product. Its team has also made smart choices at home in Ontario to ensure a bright – and profitable – future.
“For the last 12 years, we’ve been working on making coffee more sustainable,” says Adam Pesce, Reunion Island’s director of coffee. “We needed to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
That passion for sustainability extends to its Oakville operations, where Reunion’s been taking steps to make its 46,000-square-foot roastery, shipping and distribution facility more energy efficient.
In late 2015, with the help of financial incentives from Oakville Hydro and other local hydro companies, Reunion Island updated the lighting in the plant with new energy-efficient commercial LED lighting. It used to take up to half an hour for the old lighting to reach full brightness, Pesce says. The new LEDs, on the other hand, have created a brighter environment that has Reunion Island’s 75 employees feeling safer.
They also installed six ceiling-mounted, motion-activated occupancy sensors that turn on the lights in different sections of the plant only when people are working or passing through the area. That reduces the number of hours the lights are on which, in turn, means energy saved, and cost savings for Reunion Island. “The part of the bill associated with the lights has come down about 25 per cent with the LEDs,” says Pesce.
It’s easy to look at the big, expensive projects and see how they can make a big impact, but the small things add up in a significant way too.
Reunion Island’s goal to reduce its energy usage and lessen its environmental impact doesn’t end with lighting.
For example, they installed five smart thermostats to better manage the facility’s temperature – keeping the heat low when no one is using the building.
The team also applied reflective tint to the facility’s windows to reduce the need for air conditioning during the warmer months.
Reunion Island’s upgrades also apply to its coffee. Its owners invested in an energy-efficient roasting machine, which uses 80 per cent less energy than larger machines, for all of its whole-bean, specialty coffee.
That’s meant Reunion Island can test out new roasting theories in a more efficient way, wasting less coffee in the process and, enabling them to provide better products to coffee lovers.
“It’s easy to look at the big, expensive projects and see how they can make a big impact, but the small things add up in a significant way too,” says Pesce. “Much of what we have done from an energy-efficiency standpoint goes unnoticed, but when we can talk about the changes and show the results, it instills a sense of pride, not just with our customers but with our employees too.”
Those results are positive. Each year, Reunion Island measures its success against the pounds of beans it produces. By that measure, the electricity needed for each pound of coffee decreased almost five per cent between 2015 and 2016 even as its business was growing.
“Our commitment to shrinking our carbon footprint is just one piece of the sustainability puzzle,” says Pesce. “What we are able to accomplish is limited only by our willingness to put in the effort. The same goes for every business, big, small and in-between.”
Changing Reunion Island's lights translated to 197,000 kWh saved per year – that's enough energy to brew almost 10 million cups of espresso.