Zero-waste cafe makes big waves with small changes

Emile Diffley pours a latte at ANMLY Cafe on Oct. 17. // Photo by Alina Simone

By Alina Simone

Sleek mason jars topped off with rich, warm coffee, cloth napkins and locally sourced ingredients are all key parts to Bellingham’s environmental cafe revolution. ANMLY (a·nom·a·ly) cafe in downtown Bellingham is leading a movement for cafes and coffee shops to be more aware of their environmental impact and is encouraging their guests to do the same. 

Located on Commercial Street, the cafe is in a prime location for guests to make environmentally conscious choices on their way to work or to stop in for a peaceful study break. With wall-to-wall windows, natural light keeps ANMLY feeling fresh and open. The innovative cafe serves quality coffee and a medeteranian inspired menu, all with the goal of reducing their waste production. 

The ANMLY motto is “Deviate from the expected” and the team at ANMLY are dedicated to that mission. ANMLY is a zero-waste coffee shop with reusable to-go packaging. Customers can get their food for here, bring in their own reusable to-go packaging or they can get reusable jars and packages from the cafe. 

The tight-seal glass jars and reusable food containers are available to customers on a dollar deposit and they get a 25 cent discount when they bring the packaging back for reuse. If patrons do not want to bring the jars back for reuse, they can return the jar and get their dollar deposit back. 

“The goal is to find efficient and reasonable ways to reduce our waste in this environment and inspire others to do the same,” shop owner Emile Diffley said. 

While the cafe is known for its reusable jars, reducing waste does not stop at the food packaging. 

To cut down on restaurant food waste, nothing on the menu is premade. The team works hard to keep prep schedules tight by prepping less food more often. It takes a little more time and effort, but their mission is worth the extra work in the end. They also work to incorporate all the ingredients into a dish and compost anything left over. 

ANMLY’s menu is constantly rotating as new dishes are discovered and others are retired. 

“Our food is bright and lively and chef-driven,” Diffley said. 

New ideas are always welcome from everyone on staff, as well as suggestions from patrons. The menu is kept light and zesty to provide the community with different options.

 “I like that they have a lot of creative options,” Adam Nichols said eating breakfast with his daughter. “They have food that’s fun and delicious that we both can enjoy.” 

ANMLY keeps nutrition in mind while still prioritizing flavor. Georgi’s Banana Bread or their classic Breakfast Burrito full of rice, peppers, chorizo, chipotle-lime aioli and other ingredients are some of the most popular things on the menu said Diffley. 

While in ANMLY, patrons can grab a coffee priced around $4 or a sandwich varying from $5-7. ANMLY makes environmentally friendly choices more accessible to the average community member. 

Ingredients and food packaging are integral ways restaurants impact their waste production, but ANMLY made conscious choices to reduce and reuse even while constructing the cafe. All the furniture in the cafe is built from recycled materials, found on craigslist, from other restaurants and the ReStore. ANMLY opted to reuse as much as they could.

The ANMLY apparel merchandise is one of a kind. The team thrifts flannels and button downs for their merchandise. All of the apparel is thrifted and then rebranded for ANMLY in a unique and personal step against fast fashion.

Georgi Shillington serves Zach Clarke at ANMLY cafe on Nov. 5, 2019. // Photo by Alex Moreno

“We’re not 100% positive that we found the right answer,” Diffley said. “But it’s a step in the right direction.”

The team at ANMLY is passionate about educating and helping people handle reducing their waste production. An environmental pledge board in the shop. Customers are encouraged to make a simple, small step in reducing their waste, from bringing a reusable cup when getting their coffee to ordering takeout less. Customers can enter contests and win prizes when they commit to making a change in their life in support of protecting the environment.

While the shop received a warm response from the community, not everyone is on board with ANMLY’s mission statement. Patrons have left the store in frustration when they are offered a jar for a $1 deposit for their drink instead of a paper cup. 

“I’ve only had a couple people react negatively to our zero waste system, but for the most part everyone is at least understanding,” team member Georgi Shillington said. “Most of the time when I tell the newbies about our reusable deposits, their faces light up with hope for the environmental future, and they will opt for the reusables.” 

Sometimes it can be discouraging Diffley said, but the team at ANMLY is not backing down from their mission to bring an easy alternative to the paper cup to Bellingham’s coffee community. Holding fast and not wavering on their goals is something ANMLY prides themselves on.

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