When Food & Wine named Salt Lake City’s Publik Coffee Roasters the best coffee roaster in Utah this year, it was also a score for local sustainability.
Since its founding in 2014, Publik has become something of a model of environmentally friendly roasting, boasting a catalytic oxidizer (afterburner) attached to its Diedrich IR-12 production roaster to reduce smoke and VOCs, while the roasting operation is 100% offset by solar energy captured on-site.
In addition to quality coffee, sustainability has always been important to Publik Owner and Founder Missy Greis.
“We’re just trying to build a culture that is conscientious about the work that we’re doing and the product that we’re providing,” Greis recently told DCN. “Our tagline is, ‘Planet over profit, community over corporate, quality over quantity.’”
Publik Coffee Roasters initially opened as a coffee shop, roastery, and event and meeting space. The flagship location has two stories with ample seating and meeting rooms. The roastery can be seen behind glass, with full green coffee sacks lining the space.
Currently, 65 solar panels in a 15-kilowatt system blanket the Publik Coffee roastery roof, representing a significant cost for a small business.
“It’s the cost of investing in your own infrastructure,” Greis said. “I think the best thing you can do is invest ahead of the game and do things that help.”
Greis told DCN that a company-wide commitment to environmental sustainability naturally requires a certain level of social commitment from all employees. She said Publik is concerned with “building that sense of culture about caring, hiring and training people that actually believe in that culture and have that sense of the world, and how their own individual impact makes a difference.”
“I feel good about what we’re doing for Salt Lake City,” said Greis. “Especially with our air quality.”
Silvana Elguera, Publik’s director of coffee and head roaster, echoed that sentiment, especially as it relates to hyper-local conditions.
“It’s important for us to consider the environmental impact that comes from roasting coffee in our community,” she said via email. “We want to contribute to the health of the environment we operate in.”
The roastery currently supplies beans to all three Salt Lake City Publik cafes, while the company’s sibling restaurant, Publik Kitchen, is scheduled to reopen in about 10 months following a remodel that will include more solar panels and a green roof that will house beehives.
Packaged coffees also flow to numerous wholesale clients and Whole Foods locations in Utah and Kansas, while more destinations may be on the horizon.
“If anything we’re just looking for more growth out of the roastery directly to the consumer or different wholesale accounts,” Greis said. “We’ve been so lucky in our partnerships here, where we’ve really never had a salesperson.”
As Publik continues to grow, Greis said she hopes the regional coffee landscape will also come more clearly into view for coffee drinkers throughout the country.
Said Greis, “We need to get the Rocky Mountains on the map!”
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Libby Allnatt is a writer with a passion for trying new coffee shops. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.