The Way We See It: Clearer consciences

by Beacon Staff • March 18, 2009

On every environmentally guilty Emersonian's shoulders, the devil on the right says to buy cheap, convenient coffee while the angel on the left says to go with the more judicious joe. At the Clear Conscience Cafeacute;, the little cherub in everyone's minds can breath easy while still indulging the horned bugger with a great-tasting cup of coffee.

Co-owner Daniel Geolstin, 44, said he opened the cafeacute; with an agenda of environmentalism and social responsibility.

"In my lifetime the world's population has increased by 2.6 billion people," he said. "When you think about very fundamental questions like, 'How will these people be sheltered and fed?' And 'How will they be provided with drinking water?' then the obvious issue of sustainability becomes a big deal."

A winner at the 2008 Cambridge Go Green Awards in the energy and small businesses categories, this independently owned cafeacute; serves a strong free trade coffee, good either black for a natural bitterness or with any type of dairy or soy product to tone down the taste. At C3, all of the coffee they buy is made herbicide-, deforestation- and slave labor-free. Geolstin said it is with simple decisions like this that a change in the environment may occur.

"People can come in because they are conscious, they want to make a difference-this is where they can make that incremental change by buying a coffee cup or an organic sandwich," he said. "That is the mentality of what has to happen across the American culture to facilitate a paradigm shift."

Sunlight and the restaurant's message immediately saturate the customer. A mirror by the carafe and condiment station suggests an air of self-reflection with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world," as the consumer pours soy milk into his or her mug of fair trade coffee.

Even the furniture is in compliance with the earth. With countertops made from recycled glass and tables made of sunflower seed husks and bamboo, there is little room for waste in the deacute;cor.

The cafeacute; offers everything natural from organic apple cider to Blue Sky Soda. The menu appears to put on airs, but even for the less hippie-happy, C3 makes a mean sandwich.

Geolstin met his business partner, Jack Kutner, while working for American Express and decided to jump ship for a greener venture. The two share the business responsibilities of the cafeacute; as well as a non-toxic conventional drycleaners, a wind company and a solar garbage can company.

Take a step off of C3's eco-friendly Marmoleum floor with a cup o' joe in hand and enter The Harvest, a co-op and separate partner with the cafeacute;. The store, owned by Michael St. Claire, is a proponent of buying local and organic, a principle Geolstin said goes hand-in-hand with his adjoining coffee shop.

For those who enjoy a soundtrack while contemplating maintenance of the world's resources, Clear Conscience hosts the Sustaining Music Series every Thursday night from 8 to 10 p.m. Local artists perform at the front of the cafe while listeners nibble organic sandwiches and vegan cookies.

Geolstin said changing one's ecological footprint is not as difficult as it seems; education and awareness is all it takes.

"That action may not happen next week, it may not happen next month, or next year. However, you're aware and at some point something is going to tip you," he said. "So you're left with the opportunity to be a cheerleader for people who are making incremental changes in their lives."

iThe Clear Conscience Cafeacute; is open Monday through Saturday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. For more information about the Sustaining Music Series, a href=""visit the C3 Web site/a./i