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Since 2004, employees at Vermont-based coffee roasters Green Mountain Coffee Roasters have spent a week in August floating on the Winooski River. It’s team-building, but team-building in a way familiar to many coffee roasting companies. While the company’s employees will tell you they’re having fun, they’re putting that fun to excellent use fishing trash out of the river. August 2011 was no different than the last six summers — employees of the coffee company volunteered hours each day to collect trash from the river coming up with tons — literal tons, that is — of trash. Their finds included shopping carts, tires and bikes, all of which will be sorted and sent to recycling centers or landfills.
This kind of community service isn’t unique to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, which gives its employees paid time off to volunteer for community organizations. In fact, giving back seems to be part of the gourmet coffee culture in many coffee roasting companies. Green Mountain, though, as one of the largest and most visible coffee roasters in the country, seems to make giving back to the community one of their biggest priorities. Here’s just a sampling of the community service projects that the company has launched in the past few years.
Community Gardens and Sustainable Food
While many other coffee roasters focus their sustainable farming efforts in coffee growing countries — and with good reason and full hearts — Green Mountain Coffee has made it part of their mission to help support community gardening and sustainable agriculture in urban settings. In 2009, the company committed over $250,000 in operating support to organizations that support community gardening and food access projects in Vermont, Massachusetts and New York. This was only part of the nearly $1 million Green Mountain Coffee contributed in many other ways. In 2011, the Vermont coffee roasters expects to top that figure substantially as they expand their community service activities to the communities around their processing and packaging plants.
Supported Employee Volunteerism
When you work for a coffee company, it’s not unusual for volunteering to be part of your mission, but GMCR takes it above and beyond. Every employee can spend 2.5% of their annual scheduled work hours volunteering in a community organization. In 2009, Green Mountain Coffee employees put in over 9,300 volunteer hours in a wide variety of community charities, churches and organizations.
In addition to the supported employee volunteerism, Green Mountain Coffee also gives to community organizations when its employees volunteer their time outside work time. Any employee who volunteers at least 25 hours to a non-profit organization can apply to Green Mountain to make a $250 matching donation to the organization.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is far from unique, though they are far more public than many other companies because of their size. The coffee culture, including roasters, importers and coffeehouse owners, is filled with people who believe that doing right and doing good is a natural extension of spreading the goodness of coffee.