Sustainable Stories: Chameleon Cold-Brew

EDITOR’S NOTE: We want to learn how other organizations approach sustainability, so we’ve decided to publish a series of posts featuring innovative companies and people who are doing their part to support our planet. See below to read a guest blog from Rachel Fagan, Director of Marketing at Chameleon Cold-Brew in Austin, Texas. 

Tell us a little bit more about Chameleon Cold-Brew….what’s your company’s mission?

Chameleon Cold-Brew was founded in 2010 when two neighbors who shared a deep passion for coffee (our co-founders, Chris and Steve) set out to brew the best coffee they’d ever tasted. They experimented for months until they felt they had succeeded…and Chameleon was born.

In the early days, we sold our product at some of Austin’s favorite iconic institutions, like the Whip In, and natural food retailers – Wheatsville Co-Op and Whole Foods. Word got around quickly, though, and in a few short years we’ve gone from a homegrown Austin start-up to a national player on the cold-brew coffee scene. Chameleon Cold-Brew is now available across the country in major natural and conventional retail outlets, smaller neighborhood bodegas and even at Target in the Central and Western U.S.

It has been quite a ride and a lot has changed as we’ve grown so quickly – but Chameleon remains fully committed to our uncompromising standards and producing the highest quality, consciously-crafted cold-brew around!

Our mission is kind of hefty, but it covers all of the integral pieces of Chameleon Cold-Brew’s DNA:

To be the leading maker of cold-brewed coffees by procuring the world’s best sustainably farmed coffees, roasting them with artisanship, brewing them with care and sharing them with pride while going home each day believing that we've made the best decisions for the health of our business, people, communities and planet.

Could you explain Chameleon Cold Brew’s sustainability efforts and goals?

We’re fully committed to operating as a socially-responsible company, and sustainability efforts play a big role in that. We've got a fair number of efforts in play today, and we aspire to do much more in the near future. Some current examples of our sustainability efforts include:

  • We use only 100% organic, Fair Trade Certified™ coffee beans. Also, our post-brewed coffee grounds are composted and used as garden soil.
  • Our cold-brew is packaged in recyclable glass bottles (which also supports our commitment to quality since glass best preserves the coffee’s freshness and flavor).
  • We also get some fun ideas and photos from customers who have found creative ways to reuse their empty Chameleon bottles!
  • When we ship product from our online store, we try to use the most eco-friendly packaging, such as biodegradable packing peanuts.
  • We’ve just started implementing an “eco-friendly” filter when we purchase durable goods, such as t-shirts and other swag. We’re still very much a start-up with a start-up budget, so it’s not always financially viable to implement this, but we do try and our goal is to continue to increase the percentage of eco-friendly goods we purchase every year.
  • Of course, we recycle at the office!

In terms of goals, we’re actually in the process of setting those right now. We’ve experienced such tremendous growth in the last few years that the focus has been on running the business and just trying to keep up. But since sustainability and social responsibility are so important to the culture of Chameleon, we are working to document some specific goals before we get even bigger. We feel good about what we’re doing today, but fully recognize there is MUCH more that could be done, and we’re just trying to tackle it step by step.

chameleon-cold-brew2.png What advice would you give other companies who are trying to get their sustainability initiatives off the ground?

For start-ups (like us), our advice would be to figure out very early on what role you feel sustainability will play in the company you’re creating – especially if you’re producing a tangible product. It will force you to run your business decisions through a specific filter. For example, if Chameleon had not decided from day one that we were committed to sourcing our product responsibility, our coffee beans would likely not be 100% organic and Fair Trade certified. It costs more to do business this way, but our founders felt it was critical to the DNA of the kind of company they wanted to create – they had a commitment to not only producing a high quality product, but also to doing business the right way. If you don’t make those decisions from the get-go, it’s much harder to go back and retrofit, change product formulations, etc.

One other piece of advice: we think it’s okay to start wherever you can. Meaning, even if your sustainability strategy has just a few elements, go ahead and start there and enhance your efforts as you’re able to. That’s totally how we’re playing it at Chameleon and, as a start-up, it’s just what you have to do. It’s okay to not be at 100% right out of the gate – but whatever you can do to be more sustainable as a business is a good thing.

Which ways can people support your company and where can they learn more?

Well, that’s easy – go buy some Chameleon Cold-Brew! We actually just launched three new ready-to-drink flavors that are exclusive to Whole Foods Market (in most regions) – Espresso, Mexican and Chicory. They are delicious and we are getting tons of positive feedback already. But so are all of our other flavors, too!

To read about more businesses and people focused on sustainability, visit our “Sustainability Stories” archive by clicking here.

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