Schow coffee bar will have local, organic, and fair-trade products

The Eco-Cafe, a new coffee bar featuring local, organic and fair-trade food and beverages, is slated to open in the atrium of the Schow Science Library during the week of March 4. The new cafe is the product of a joint effort between College administrators, members of the Campus Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC), Greensense and Students for Social Justice (SSJ).

“The Eco-Cafe is aimed at providing a venue to encourage the continuation of the faculty [and] student contact that begins in classes and labs in the science center,” said Helen Ouellette, vice president and treasurer of the College.

The Eco-Cafe will be serviced and managed by Dining Services. The hours of operation have yet to be finalized, but will most likely be from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in order to accommodate the College’s class schedule and allow for one eight-hour employee work shift.

“Due to current program scope and storage conditions,” said Alexandre da Silva, associate director of dining services for operations, “[the coffee bar] will feature a limited and different menu mix that will compliment instead of detract from snack bar sales.”

The menu will consist of fair trade coffee and organic teas provided by Dean’s Beans, various pastries and organic desserts.

Daniel Shearer ’04, a member of Greensense, said that the coffee bar will serve to raise awareness of organic and fair-trade foods. Organic foods are produced through environmentally sustainable methods without the use of pesticides.

“[The Eco-Cafe] will have information available on the cart for people to learn more about where their food comes from,” Shearer said. “It’s pretty hard to know where your food is grown as well as who and what has been involved in its production. We’re trying to break those barriers by giving people more information and choice about what they buy. This also provides and option on campus for people that are adamant about supporting just causes.”

Until recently, Ouellette and science faculty members were unsure of how to effectively use the atrium of Schow Science Library in manner that, in da Silva’s words, “[encourages and] enhance[s] staff, faculty and student interaction within the science center complex.”

Ouellette proposed the initial idea for the Eco-Cafe. “At the time she was trying to figure out what to do with [the unoccupied space in the Science Quad],” said Brian Burke ’02. “[Ouellette] wanted something different, something that did [not] overlap with other options at the College or on Spring St.”

“We expect the coffee bar will foster casual interactions among the whole community – students, faculty, and staff – outside of the classroom,” said Charles Lovett, Jr., Philip and Dorothy Schein professor of chemistry and director of the science center. “Such interactions are particularly effective in the sciences at Williams, where collaborations between faculty and students and between faculty from different departments are hallmarks of the enterprise.”

Organizers hope that the Eco-Cafe will serve to facilitate interaction between student, faculty and staff within the Science Quad, formulate new opportunities for students and highlight the significance behind decisions of societal and environmental importance.

“It basically comes down to the need to educate people about the social and environmental effects of their choices and to provide high-quality alternatives to destructive choices,” Burke said. “The educational aspect should be a key part of the Eco-Café. We do not want it to be just another trendy, no-guilt, feel-good coffee bar. We want something that is going to make people think.”

Da Silva believes that the efforts of college administrators, members of the CEAC, Greensense, SSJ, and dining services epitomize the didactic nature of the College by providing forums for education beyond the classroom.

“Developing the Eco-Cafe business plan has given us backbone to what our vision is for this particular program,” da Silva said. “I certainly hope that this joint venture will enhance the value of the Williams educational experience for those involved in the project.”

In sum, said Burke, “I am just excited to see [this] happening and I hope that it will fit in with the general goal of promoting more discussion among students and faculty. But, in the long run, I would love for Williams to switch entirely to fair-trade and organic coffee, to use more organic and locally-produced food throughout the school and to help students recognize the impacts of their decisions and the viable (and often higher quality) alternatives that exist.”

The Eco-Cafe’s business could pose some competition for the student-run Goodrich Coffee Bar. Both establishments’ hours will coincide and the Eco-Café, with its situation in the Science Quad, might be more conveniently situated for easy access. Despite the possible competition, Goodrich personnel are not extremely worried.

While Jen Cahill ’02, personnel manager at the Goodrich Coffee Bar was unaware about the details concerning the Eco-Cafe’s operation, she was enthusiastic about its opening in the science quad.

“Basically, I think it will be nice to have coffee available in Schow and maybe some snacks because so many people study there and it would make things a lot more convenient for them,” Cahill said. “If they do plan on having a full-scale coffee bar like Goodrich, I would be a little worried just in the sense that Schow is a more accessible location, but it will also depend on the prices that they offer.”