Growing up, Saturday mornings in Patricia Acheson’s house weren’t for eating banana pancakes or watching reruns of Saved by the Bell. They were intended for morning outings at local garage sales. “We used to get a lot of our furniture there for our bedrooms and so on, and then we would spray paint it and give it new life,” says Acheson, owner of Fox Den No Waste Cafe and Roastery in Fort Collins, remembering when she and her mother bought a ratty four-piece wicker bedroom set for $40. At age eight, her outlook on life changed after reviving the furniture with a fresh coat of white paint. “It was my first realization of how we could turn something old and weathered into something beautiful,” she says.
Over the past year, Acheson has leveraged her deeply instilled penchant for sustainable practices such as upcycling, not to mention her background as a coffee roaster, as she prepared to open her first cafe. by retail. In March, the Fox Den No Waste Cafe and Roastery welcomed customers to what is one of the first U.S. cafes to completely eliminate single-use disposable items like take-out cups and napkins, according to Acheson research. . “And I stepped up from there,” she says, adding that “everything in my shop was recycled, found at an estate sale or on Facebook Marketplace, or it was scrap materials. Was bought new unless the health department made me buy it new.
Acheson has been roasting coffee professionally since 2019, but she always dreamed of opening her own retail cafe. Moving to Fort Collins in July 2021, she decided the time and place was finally right. There was only one last obstacle in his way: the waste and expense of purchasing single-use materials. “It drove me crazy knowing that I was buying products over and over again only to throw them away after using them for 20 minutes,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you try to recycle them; they most likely get thrown in a landfill anyway. It was a huge revelation for me.
So Acheson decided to do things differently. Customers can wander over to the wall of mugs – an eclectic collection scavenged from thrift stores and donated by members of the community – and choose from coffee pipes with flowery hearts, teal geometries and “Dad” on the side . Those taking their java on the run should either remember to bring their own mug or plan to put a deposit of $1-1.50 (depending on the type of drink) on a glass jar to go. (Customers can return the pot and get the deposit back.) The cafe serves baked goods from its partners at Pastry I of Eclair on scraps of fabric left by local artists’ projects.
The furniture, of course, also fits into the café’s anti-waste credo. Folding laundry tables inherited when Acheson purchased the building (formerly a laundromat) have been sanded down, spray painted, and turned into retail shelving. When the old soap dispenser couldn’t be removed, Acheson added shelves and turned it into a free mini bookcase. Old Victorian furniture purchased at an estate sale became seating for customers. “When I look around me, I don’t see just a sofa,” she says. “I see this woman’s mother’s sofa, and she sat there all night and knitted their clothes when they grew up. I see the stories behind the furniture. It’s humiliating.
Acheson’s sustainability-focused efforts continue at the back of its business with carbon offsets for all of their emissions, composting of all coffee grounds, and partnerships with Fair Trade, Organic, and Rainforest Alliance certified coffee producers. . The store also makes its syrups in-house (essential for disposing of extra container waste) and will start making its own oat milk any day now. “I better write this recipe quickly, or I might be a single woman!” Acheson jokes, noting that she’s kept all the oat milk containers in her garage for the past three months, determined to find a way to reuse them, much to her fiancé’s annoyance.
Thanks to all these efforts, Fox Den has no actual waste bags when it closes at the end of the day – just a small bag of compostable food scraps (most of which goes to a local farm) and some materials recyclable.
There’s no doubt that Acheson is proud of the litter-free niche she’s carved out for herself, but she hopes the idea will eventually spread beyond Fox Den. “My goal here is not to be the only litter-free store in town,” she says. “It’s to inspire other companies, start-ups and restaurants to have roughly the same business model.”