Eco-curmudgeon greener than he thinks

By Mary Rose Roberts
Coffee shop owner Andrew Whaley isn’t anti-green. However, he is cynical of the industry and happy to pontificate about it to no end. Maybe that zest for argument comes from his philosophical and theological training at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif. Or maybe it was living in California that subconsciously put his sustainable hab­­its into place. Either way, to him sustainability is about doing business with people over entities, accessing the best quality foods and saving money in the process.

Whaley owns Calix Coffeebar located in southeast Missouri, where he deploys sustainable practices starting with how he purchases coffee. He’s not a fan of fair trade but direct trade coffee. Direct trade is a form of fair trade sourcing practiced by some coffee roasters. It refers to direct sourcing from farmers and was pioneered by Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea around 2006.

Advocates of direct trade practices promote direct communication and price negotiation between the purveyor and farmer—a person-to-person discussion. In addition, customers educate farmers about the types of beans in demand in the U.S. market to reduce overdevelopment of less attractive crops and increase the growth of high-quality products.

Whaley also supports the local economy, therefore reducing the business’ environmental footprint. At Calix, mixed greens used in salads are bought nearby at Laughing Stalk Farmstead.  In addition, he purchases local raised, grass-fed, grass-finished beef because “it tastes better.” Grass-fed beef also has one-half to one-third less fat as a comparable cut from a grain-fed animal. In addition, it is lower in calories and higher in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce the risk of cancer, lower high blood pressure and make people less susceptible to depression.

Whaley’s also nice to neighbors. After coffee grounds are used at the coffee shop, he sets up a bucket and a strainer, dumps the grinds into the strainer and waits for a local couple to come pick them up and use them as nutrients in their urban garden.

In the end, eco-curmudgeons are essential to society—especially when they help the rest of us become more eco- and sustainably aware.


  1. I would be remiss if I didn't make a minor correction and point out that my alma mater is Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA. Much thanks for the article and for the fairly accurate description of me as an eco-curmudgeon. I love nature and find it quite natural to love nature, but am fairly pragmatic about and already have a religion. Drink real coffee and eat real food. Pax. Andrew.

  2. Thanks for being a good sport! Can't wait to stop by for some of your curry chicken salad on a bed of greens! Yumyum!(=