New York City, New York, USA

2:18 PM Lovebirds! I am so excited to share today's "New York Story" with y'all!
You know my passion for the oceans and anything which deals with it. I am fighting for it with all my heart. 
Everytime I am back home in NYC, I am shocked and hurt to see so much ignorance and trash in total. I am not saying that all New Yorkers love trash and massive plastic consume, but New York is the perfect example for needed education about ocean pollution and a greener everyday life. 

I love New York with all my heart and so I always take the challenge to talk to certain people to create a greener NYC for future generations who shall experience the NYC I experience(d). What I do? Well, next time I'm in NYC, I will definitely do a clean up session - maybe I will create a little event out of it... but until then, I reach out to many people, companies, even the Mayor. I wrote letters, emails, created graphics to show how bad we treat our planet. Eye-opening scenarios... 
And then, I found a person whom I'd like to hug and give high fives to forever! Kerry Diamond! The owner of Smith Canteen in Brooklyn and co-founder of Cherry Bombe is a true green soul, fighting for a greener Brooklyn! 

On Instagram, I stumbled across Smith Canteen's project to eliminate plastic from January 2019 and I also saw their great engagement to motivate their customers to bring their own tumblers. I was in love. Smith Canteen's plan to create a greener Brooklyn intrigued me to get to know more and so I asked Kerry if I could ask her a couple of questions! Here we are... let's get inspired by this beautiful woman! 

For the people who don't know you or Smith Canteen, can you tell us about yourself and the beginning of Smith Canteen? 
I’ve had a fun, crazy career that’s brought me from media to beauty to fashion to food. I had no intention of getting into the food business, but I started dating a chef. We opened Smith Canteen seven years ago, but I took over ownership a few months ago. It’s located in a pharmacy that opened in 1901 and still has the original floors, mirrors, and woodwork. The canteen has become a popular hub for the neighborhood and it’s one of my favorite places on the planet. 

You want to be the first "green coffee shop" in Brooklyn — how did the "Green Canteen " project start? 
The credit really goes to my brother, who is an avid surfer and environmentalist. He’s been educating my family about environmental matters for a few years. When I took over ownership of the Canteen and got more involved in the day-to-day operations, I could see firsthand how much we were contributing to the waste stream. I couldn’t handle the guilt anymore, so I launched the "Green Canteen" project. 

Did you have many customers before the "Green Canteen" project who were interested in consuming their coffee in a more sustainable way? 
I don’t know, to be honest. It wasn’t a conversation we were having with our customers. We had a few people bringing in reusable coffee cups, but not enough to make a real impact. I’m sure our customers care; we just need to make it easier for them to put their feelings about sustainability into action. 

Privatly or personally, how do you feel about sustainability? 
Privately, I think anyone my age (I’m a Gen Xer) or older should be ashamed about what we’re leaving for the younger generations. Publicly, I think it comes down to education and letting people know there’s a different way and how to pursue that path.

New York is the city of trash — yet, in my eyes a real pearl... but let's face it: in this city plastic consume is super high! Aren't you scared or worried that NYC doesn't really care?
Yes! We could easily lose business, or become that place that people avoid because they don’t want to feel guilty about their single-use plastic habit. But people like you and all the other people who have reached out to me give me hope! And someone in America has to nudge the coffee culture in a better direction. Other countries are way ahead of us, like Australia. 

How can we, not only you, motivate NYCers to consume more green? 
Education. It’s similar to canvas totes. Very few people in NYC carried them a decade ago. Now it’s commonplace and inconveniences no one--except for the plastic bag manufacturers. 

Tell us more about the "Green Canteen" — what are the actions you are planning? 
It’s multi-pronged and we’re in the midst of figuring it out! It's very much a work in progress. We’ve set ourselves a goal of Jan. 1st to stop offering plastic cups, lids, and to-go containers. We’ll also be looking at all of our front and back of house practices to make sure they’re as green as possible. And we’ll be sharing everything we learn. Most of the people who have reached out to me are looking for best practices. 

Currently you are already testing plastic free months — how's the feedback so far? 
We made the switch to paper straws. We have been promoting our 10 percent BYOC (bring your own cup) discount a lot more. We now have sturdy glass Mason jars for when you get your iced drinks to stay (previously we only had single-use plastic). And you can leave a $5 refundable deposit if you want to take the Mason jar with you. Feedback has been fine, and we’ve moved the needle a little. We still have a lot of work to do in terms of encouraging our customers to bring in their reusable cups. 

Brooklyn is a very inspiring neighborhood! As soon as you are Brooklyn's first green coffee shop do you think people will follow your lead, since everything that comes from Brooklyn is just super cool and needs to be copied?
I think people will follow the easy aspects of it, like getting rid of plastic straws. But I can’t believe how many places still have plastic straws with all the publicity around that subject. If I can prove being green won’t destroy your bottom line, people will follow. It’s so hard being a small business person in New York and single-use plastics are easy. That’s why they’re so popular. But easy doesn’t mean right, or good for the planet. 

How green would you describe the current Brooklyn?
Not green. 

What do you think is the problem why NYC can't let go of the beloved plastic? 
Most people are so rushed and on the go in NYC. The to-go coffee cup is part of our culture! Do you know the old paper cups with the Greek imagery on them? They’re as much a part of New York as the subways. It’s hard to let go of the old ways sometimes. 

What do you wish NYC for the future? 
A cleaner, more humane place with great public transportation and lots of green public spaces! 

What will Smith Canteen offer in the "Green Canteen" project? Or let's do this simple with a couple of keywords.  What can you say about: Cups, Straws, Cutlery, Bags + Packaging. 
We’ll have paper cups, but I’m looking for ones that don’t have plastic linings (as most do). Paper straws (but we do have positionable plastic straws upon request for those with mobility issues.) Cutlery I need to figure out. Bags we already use paper. Packaging figuring it out. 
A lot of people/businesses think composting is the answer, but compostable cups/straws/glasses/to-go containers/cutlery/etc. Isn’t an option in a place like New York. Those items need to be industrially composted and most people don’t know that. You can’t throw them in the trash. They need to go in proper composting bins, which NYC doesn’t even have. 

 ...And I can always bring my own tumbler and cups? 
Yes!! Please do! My office is across the street and we even bring our own bowls for salads. 

As a last question — what do I need to order when I visit Smith Canteen for the first time? 
We have two signature drinks that people love. One is the Thunderbolt. It’s espresso and lemonade. Personally, it’s not my thing, but we tried to take it off the menu once and people got mad. Second, we have a caffeine-free chicory latte. It’s so beautiful, it’s like a toasted marshmallow without the sweetness. I think you should just stay and have an espresso. We don’t have wifi or outlets. So come by, relax, people watch, and enjoy your drink.  

Kerry, you are my hero! What an inspiring conversation! 
I wish every New York person would think like Kerry! Her ideas are so simple, and yet it's so essential for starting the first green wave! Straws, cups, bags - it's nothing big, but we can all make a huge impact with thinking about our daily habits. Rituals which are simple and easy - a more comfortable thing of us humans, but we can get used to new structure as well! Things are always changing around us - adapting is what we are actually pros in! 

I hope many New Yorkers read this post here today and I want you to share this with everyone you know!
Do you have a favorite coffee shop and they still offer plastic straws? Tell them the alternatives and educate the people who might not think about issues and consequences of our comfort zone living.

Kerry, I can't wait to enjoy my coffee soon in Brooklyn! I will definitely come by with my tumbler and I can't wait seeing you make Brooklyn beyond green ~ 

Thanks for the little chat, Kerry! 

Visit Smith Canteen (343 Smith St, Brooklyn) and help make Brooklyn a green community!