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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

Let There Be Latte: Sustainable Coffee Shops in Phoenix: Local coffee shops help generate a more sustainable community, writes Natalia Trulsson

Jan 02, 2015 12:49PM ● By Natalia Trulsson and Kena Fedorschak

Could it be that the rise of hipster culture in downtown Phoenix is an unknown proxy that promotes locally owned coffee shops, or vice versa? Coffee is the second most valuable commodity, after oil, in the United States and is the largest food import to our western shores, according to the Global Exchange. Brewing this steaming-hot commodity provides an opportunity for sustainable development at locally owned coffee shops downtown—both knowingly and unknowingly. These businesses act in ways that promote the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social and economic responsibility.

Every day, artists, working professionals and students converge around unique coffeehouses boasting fair trade coffee and eco-friendly products. Following the principles of sustainability, locally owned coffee houses strengthen communities by bringing people together to discuss topics important to their daily lives in a relaxed environment. Additionally, these establishments generally purchase coffee that has been produced in an environmentally friendly manner.

Perry Czopp, a community organizer in the Arizona coffee circuit, explains, “There are more than 20 roasters in Arizona, and they each provide coffee for about 200 to 300 different cafés, which leads to many potential hiring opportunities.” However, local coffee houses do more for the local economy than just provide jobs; their establishment sometimes correlate with neighborhood revitalization efforts.


Copper Star Coffee is an old automobile transmission shop transformed into an eloquently furnished and welcoming coffee house in the heart of the once-blighted Melrose district downtown. Revitalization efforts within the district have begun in earnest in recent years; according to Phoenix City Councilman Tom Simplot, “The Melrose District and Seventh Avenue as a whole are two of the most vibrant, growing areas of central Phoenix.” However, the economic resurgence has not changed Copper Star’s fan base, which is still primarily local—90 percent of their customers are residents of the area. This is not surprising, as the inviting atmosphere created by Copper Star seems to strengthen community resolve; the optimistic, high-energy environment is empowering and facilitates long-lasting, sustainable social ties for locals and nonlocals alike.

Location: 4220 N. 7th Ave., Phoenix. 602-266-2136.


Songbird Coffee & Tea House is the perfect place to grab a latte and learn about the downtown Phoenix community. Locally produced artwork covers the walls, and the entrances and exits are teeming with fliers advertising local events, exhibits and shows. Further, the artisanal Third Wave coffee that Songbird sells is produced by growers that aspire to create the highest quality coffee while maintaining strong connections with each establishment that sells their product. Erin Carroll, the founder and co-owner of Songbird, states, “We are helping out the economy by hiring people.” The coffee trade employs more people than we might think, because hands-on labor is required throughout the entire production, delivery (serving) and maintenance process.

Location:  214 E. Roosevelt St., Phoenix. 602-374-4192.


Fair Trade Café doubles as an art gallery and café. It is locally owned and strives to sell only consumables that have been produced with fair treatment of the grower and environmental preservation in mind. Given the current rate of human-induced climate change, it is heartwarming to visit establishments that make significant efforts to promote environmental sustainability. The fair trade certification of all of this café’s products ensures that coffee farmers are fairly paid for their efforts and that their working conditions are safe and clean. Also, their coffee is shade grown, a cultivation method that promotes ecological symbiosis, enhancing biodiversity, using less water and reducing soil erosion.

Locations: 424 N. Central Ave. and 1020 N. 1st Ave., both in Phoenix. 602-354-8150.


These local coffee shops are becoming a cornerstone species in an urban ecosystem that promote sustainable development through environmental, economic and social means. Take the time to find out where our coffee comes from. Help out with the local economy, participate in the community and support a grower that harvests their beans in an eco-friendly way.

Natalia Trulsson is a recent graduate of Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability. Read her blog:

Kena Fedorschak co-founded the Honor Society for Sustainability at Arizona State University. Contact him at [email protected].

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