Peet’s Green Brew

Sustainable design never tasted so good

Peet's headquarters in Alameda. Upper left: Jim Grimes, Vice President of Operations for Peet's coffee.

Photographs by Kyle Chesser

For most people, coffee is all about feeling good. On most mornings, only a strong cup of coffee will fulfill our perceived need for an eye-opening elixir. At Peet’s Coffee headquarters in Alameda, supplying coffee-lovers with a satisfying fix requires more than just quality roasting and brewing. It also requires an eye to sustainability and environmental consciousness.

Since 1966, when Peet’s Coffee and Tea was founded by Alfred Peet, the company’s philosophy has been that “true quality cannot be achieved without social, environmental, and economic sustainability.” That mission has landed Peet’s at the head of the class of corporate coffee roasters for their environmental endeavors.

In the mid-1990s, in response to sustained growth, the company decided it was time to build a larger roasting facility. In 2006, Peet’s broke ground on their 138,000-square-foot construction project in Alameda. In March of the following year, they celebrated their first roast in the nation’s first LEED gold-certified coffee roasting facility.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a green building rating system that sets standards for environmentally sustainable construction. Managed by the United States Green Building Council, LEED currently has four levels of certification, the highest of which is “platinum,” followed by “gold,” “silver,” and simply “certified.”

Jim Grimes, Vice President of Operations for Peet’s, was a key player in the planning and building of the new roasting facility. “We knew we wanted to do something sustainable at the time,” says Grimes. “When we started building, we said, ‘We’re gonna get LEED certified.’ We didn’t know if we could be silver or gold or platinum. We knew platinum might require us to plant grass on the roof…” he laughs. “Maybe we couldn’t do that, but we knew we wanted that LEED certification.”

“I’m a believer in LEED,” Grimes says. “I think it sets a level playing field for how to think about green. What are the important factors and areas? It doesn’t mean you have to use them all.”

At the new Peet’s roasting facility, the LEED standards translate into buildings that are located close to all major lines of public transportation, and that provide bicycle storage and ample designated parking for fuel-efficient vehicles and carpools. The landscaping utilizes a bio-filtration swale system, no-mow grass, stormwater interceptors, and mulch made from coffee chaff. Inside the building, employees use locker rooms with low-flow faucets and showerheads, dual-flush toilets, and waterless urinals. The carpet and paint are made from low- or no-VOC materials. An abundance of skylights and sidelights bring in the natural light. LEED-certified cubicles line the offices. The facility’s most unusual feature is that it reuses “waste heat” created during the roasting process through the aid of a heat exchanger, resulting in 40 percent less natural gas usage.

“What I like about LEED [is that] it takes a more holistic view; it’s not only looking at carbon usage. It’s looking at water usage, it’s looking at employee satisfaction, it’s looking at natural gas and electric,” Grimes says. “It’s more than just a carbon footprint.”