Most people throughout Maine understand the importance of a healthy environment and the connection that health has to our economic well being. That’s certainly true of Brad McCurtain, owner and operator of Others!, a coffee shop located in Portland’s Monument Square.
During a trip to Portland this summer, I stopped by Others! to grab an organic, fair-trade coffee and meet Brad, who founded Others! in 2005. While I was there, I began to get an understanding of the positive changes, big and small, he is making in Maine.
Most coffee shops these days almost seem to be designed around ensuring you waste something—or several somethings. Packets of sugar, individual creamer packets, or those ubiquitous little stirrers. Everything about that little table that holds all these items is like an altar paying homage to a single-use society. Not at Others!
Take those little stirring sticks, for instance. Most places use either plastic or wood. At Others!, Brad has chosen to use uncooked spaghetti. It’s simple but brilliant! The spaghetti retains its shape long enough for a customer to stir his or her coffee, but doesn’t last thousands of years, like those little plastic stirrers.
In addition to little things like spaghetti stirrers, Brad has made an effort to ensure the coffee he sells is grown in a socially responsible way, choosing organic and fair trade for Others! He also doesn’t have a garbage can. If you can’t recycle or compost your waste, you have to take it away with you or, better yet, not generate it in the first place!
Brad and Others! also work to ensure Portland (and Maine) is a more sustainable place by contributing to community events and organizations. In fact, Brad seeks out these opportunities, suggesting ideas and providing things to make such events more successful. Such was the case for Feeding the 5000, a delicious feast for thousands made entirely out of healthy food that would have otherwise gone to waste.
NRCM was a lead co-organizer of Feeding the 5000 in Portland on October 7. To create a meal for thousands, volunteers gleaned thousands of pounds of food from local Maine farms. NRCM and our partners organized gleaning events and a disco chop (preparing all the ingredients with music and a festive atmosphere) at Fork Food Lab, which generously offered its kitchen space for the purpose. Maine farmers contributed carrots, beets, kale and many other types of vegetables, all of which were transformed into a delicious soup. But Maine farms in late September and early October are bursting with fresh fruit, too. What to do with that?
Making a smoothie on a bike blender!
While visiting the shops around Monument Square to fill them in on the details of the event, we met Brad, who instantly wanted to be a part of the effort to raise awareness about the need to reduce food waste in Maine. His suggestion for the fruit? Gelato.
And it was a big hit!
Brad and his staff began at 8 am on the morning of the Feeding the 5000 event using fruit gleaned from farms and stores to make fresh gelato and sorbetto. Part of the deal with Feeding the 5000 events is that none of the food that’s used would have otherwise been donated, ensuring the event doesn’t keep food from folks who need it. In this case, Brad used squash that a local food bank couldn’t distribute. Volunteers sorted the squash and cut away any damaged portions before washing and cutting the squash and other fruit. Others! took over from there and produced pan after pan of fresh gelato. Demand was so high throughout the day at Feeding the 5000 that Brad made gelato from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 pm. Volunteers came in to get the pans almost faster than he could make them, and the line was still going strong at 3:30 as the event began to wind down!
From the coffee it serves to the spaghetti stirrers, Others! is another great example of a small Maine business focused on positive social and environmental change. Brad understands how integral a clean, healthy environment is to our economy, especially in Maine, and he is working hard to make sure both are thriving. Cheers!
Our sustainability radar is always on, and we love to share. Do you have information about a great project helping to make Maine a more sustainable place to call home that you would like to see featured on NRCM’s blog? Guest posts and alerts about interesting sustainability stories are always welcome! If it is good news for our environment and involves Maine or Mainers, it belongs in the spotlight. Please contact Sarah Nichols, NRCM Sustainable Maine Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or (207) 430-0170 or Chrissy Adamowicz, NRCM Sustainable Maine Outreach Coordinator at email@example.com or (207) 430-0144.