Sustainable Learning

 

Lake City High School’s Outdoor Studies Program comes to DOMA

In April, the Coffee Lab filled with high schoolers who were signed up for an hour-long tour of a sustainable business. Surprising, perhaps, to a bystander, was the intent interest these students showed. Not only did they pay attention; they asked questions. They asked how much it cost to put in an irrigation system on a coffee farm. They asked what DOMA did to reduce their carbon footprint. They asked which part of the coffee cherry was compostable.

The high schoolers were partially primed for such questions; they were part of Lake City High School’s Outdoor Studies Program, a program that focuses on real-world environmental issues relating to common subjects like English and History. Students had already spent time with teachers who were passionate about spreading a single philosophy: that the outdoors is fun. So fun it’s worth fighting for. Like the environment. DOMA was on the same page.

Scott, our coffee educator, gave them a quick intro to the challenges of sustainable coffee production. He talked about the specialty coffees that came from high elevations, areas that were increasingly threatened by a warming climate. He talked about great co-ops who were working toward sustainable methods. He talked about the difference between Robusta and Arabica coffees, explaining that one was gas-station coffee, the other what DOMA was interested in, earning a laugh.

As students listened, they looked at the found objects in the Coffee Lab around them. The repurposed barn wood from the Palouse used as décor. The LED, Edison-style lightbulbs wrapped through bike tires for artful lighting. They began, perhaps, to see how a good business strived for sustainability in the professional realm and the personal.

The students moved to the roasting room. They noticed the strong, rich smell of fresh-roasting coffee. They muttered against the noise of the eco-friendly Loring roaster. They watched beans whir behind a glass panel as Scott talked about the art of creating flavor profiles. He continued to talk about gas emissions and air flow. He mentioned how beans were green before they hit the roaster. Students clustered around burlap bags of green beans from Brazil and passed around a handful. They asked if a green bean would taste funny. One of them tried one.

At the final tour stop of the production room, Scott preached the good word on compostable coffee bags and nitrogen-flushing to preserve flavor. Students pointed out a “Fuck Trump” sticker just above the doorframe. Scott talked about the process of small-batch—how things were packaged to order, how each bag was carefully heat sealed before it was stamped with the roast date. How this coffee business was an art. The students noticed an image of Nicholas Cage with the body of baby that the Prod Squad had taped to the heat sealer. The image spun in quick, tight circles. In the production room that afternoon, Nicholas Cage > Scott. In other words, the tour ended just as the students’ capacity for listening to a presentation did.

Scott asked loudly if anyone had questions. No one in the group replied, but a girl leaned over and whispered to her friend: “Can I work here?”

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