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Smith Canteen is working toward being the greenest coffee shop in Brooklyn and beyond.

We are examining all of our practices, front and back of house, to see what can be greener.

BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup) and get 10 percent off your drink. If you are staying at the canteen, use one of our mugs or Mason jars instead of paper or plastic and get 10 percent off.

Questions, feedback or suggestions? Email us at



I came to my green awakening pretty late in life, a sad fact given that I grew up on Staten Island, home to what was once the world’s largest landfill. As an adult, I recycled, composted, avoided crappy stuff overpackaged in plastic, and thought I was doing my part for the environment. But I was doing the bare minimum. A few years ago, my baby brother started surfing and joined an organization called Surfrider. Soon, he became the head of the organization’s Rise Above Plastics program for the NYC chapter and decided that part of saving the ocean meant educating his family. We quickly learned about everything that was bad—balloons, plastic bottles, straws, cigarette butts, etc.

It became clear that I was part of the problem: I own a coffee shop with a focus on to-go drinks. Coffee shops are wonderful places, but they produce a lot of single-use plastic garbage in the form of cups, lids, straws, stirrers, and takeout containers. Let’s just talk about cups. It’s been estimated that we Earthlings go through 600 BILLION DISPOSABLE PAPER AND PLASTIC CUPS annually. (You might want to read that number again and let it sink in.) Smith Canteen alone, as tiny as it is, is responsible for tens of thousands of those cups.

Earlier this year, I decided that Smith Canteen would be part of the solution, not part of the problem, and we announced our GREEN CANTEEN initiative. By Jan. 1st, 2019, we’d have no more single-use plastic cups, lids, straws, or takeout containers, and we would take a look at all of our practices, front and back of house, to see what we could do differently.

We started promoting our Bring Your Own Cup 10-percent discount, a lot more generous than the 10-cent discount the big chains offer. By the end of 2018, the discount will have been used more than 3,000 times, a big increase over 2017 when it was used 1,240 times. We switched to paper straws this past summer, an easy move and one that our customers accepted without complaint. We use wooden stirrers, but will be replacing them soon with reusable spoons. And we’ve done a lot of homework about composting and compostables. Small businesses are not required to compost in NYC, just FYI. Those that compost do so by choice. And that compostable plastic stuff? It turns out that compostable cups and lids need to be industrially composted, and most people just toss them in the trash or in the recycling thinking they magically dissolved. Sadly, they don’t. They need to be put in dedicated commercial compost bins.

The easiest way for you to be part of the solution? Linger and get a coffee to stay in a reusable cup. Or better yet, bring your own reusable cup or container. Let’s do our part, one coffee cup at a time. Thank you to all the environmentalists out there leading the charge!

—Kerry Diamond, Owner, Smith Canteen