Most customers who visit Bear Coast Coffee will often take their coffee to-go and walk along the San Clemente Pier, located just across the street. So when they show up without their reusable mugs, owner Jeff Clinard doesn’t sweat it. Instead, he gives them a ceramic mug to borrow, “if they break it, it’s fine. It’s worth the money to me to avoid a to go coffee cup.” It’s with this unyielding devotion to sustainability and environmental responsibility that Jeff runs his business.
His actions benefit us two-fold. “All these things that are ‘environmental’ are also better for humans and create better tasting food and drinks.” That’s why Jeff sources his milk from Straus Family Farms, where they put time and care into raising their animals and processing the milk correctly. Knowing full well the environmental impacts of dairy, and taking into account his customer’s dietary needs, Jeff also makes his own almond milk. “I like that when we run out of something, no one’s running to the store to get more. No, they’re going into the back to make more in our own kitchen.” Jeff and his team also make their own oat milk, an alternative to almond milk that uses less water and creates less waste.
When it comes to coffee, Jeff has a lot to say. There are certain buzzwords that have caught on in the coffee industry, namely: “fair trade” and “organic”. These are great certifications, but Jeff’s focus lies in a term you may not be as familiar with: direct trade. Some small farms simply can’t afford to get certified organic, and Jeff fears that fair trade has lost its meaning as it’s become so heavily marketed. By focusing on direct trade, Jeff ensures that the coffee he uses is being bought and sourced directly from the farmer, no third parties, nothing lost in translation. So while most of the coffee Bear Coast sources is fair trade and organic, it’s all direct trade – which benefits the farmer and the consumer.
Q+A with Jeff Clinard
What keeps you optimistic and hopeful?
Jeff Clinard: My kids for sure. No matter my challenges, their excitement and silliness fuel my optimism. Also, coffee helps.
What are important skills for humans on planet Earth?
JC: Empathy, and the ability to embrace/balance both a wide view and focused effort on how to be a part of the world. How do your small choices affect large systems?
What does community mean to you?
JC: Joyfully coming together to do more and enjoy more around us. I know Bear Coast has been that for me. As soon as it grew beyond just me and involved more staff and regulars… it took on a momentum and personality all its own.
Where’s your oasis? What’s Eden? Where do you go to recharge?
JC: Definitely walking my dog in the hills around San Clemente. It combines exercise, with being in nature, and spending time with my awesome dog. Some of my best ideas of usually come from those walks.
Who’s your inspiration?
JC: My wife. In business, in life, as a parent… she is my biggest inspiration for sure.
What’s your favorite meal to eat? To make?
JC: Ohhhh man. Hard question. But I’ll have to say pizza for both. I’ve been making homemade dough with local ingredients for years. But it got really fun when I started involving my kids. It gets so messy, but the process is rad.
What does sustainability mean to you?
JC: It means the same thing I learned when I earned my Eagle Scout, it means leaving things better than when you found it. And that sounds simplistic, but can be applied everywhere. Are your decisions helping things grow and better the world and systems and community around you? If so, you’re leaving things better than when you found it.
When do you feel most hopeful about our Planet Earth?
JC: When I see my kids look at nature in awe, and take joy in it. This happens at the beach and on hikes. Seeing more young people taking joy in nature means that environmentalism isn’t a buzz word but a natural part of keeping something around they’ve loved since being a kid.
What’s one simple solution that does a whole lot’a good?
JC: Using a reusable mug/water bottle. Think of all the coffee cups we’d keep out of the dump by doing that!?
How do you inspire our future generation?
JC: By encouraging them to take joy in doing good.