Name: Kristen Royal
Title: Sustainability Program Director
Company: Tayst Coffee
Years in Current Position: 1+ years
Primary Responsibilities: “I do a lot of outreach and communication on sustainability. I am in constant communication with other sustainability directors. I research lifecycle reports. I analyze our product and compare it with others. I analyze the machines themselves and the complexities and differences between plastic pods and a compostable one like ours.”
Organization’s most significant sustainability-related accomplishment: “Our pod return service. Our clients are demanding this. We are hoping to scale up the service nationwide in January 2020.”
Organization’s most significant sustainability-related challenge moving forward: “Making sure we do our due diligence and that we are prepared to offer our customers the most sustainable coffee options moving forward.”
OCEANSIDE, N.Y.—It is estimated that tens of billions of single-use coffee pods have ended up in landfills so far. The company primarily responsible for this waste flow plans to convert to 100 percent recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025. Meanwhile, the mountains of plastic waste continue to accumulate.
Kristen Royal, Sustainability Program Director for Tayst Coffee, is helping to shift the single-use coffee pod paradigm. She and her company are proving that the landfill does not have to be the final home of a coffee pod. In fact, Tayst Coffee already has established solutions. Its coffee pods for Keurig machines are 100 percent compostable and Royal is leading an effort to launch a take-back program for Tayst coffee pods. That program could launch nationwide as early as next month. A customer would pay a small fee—a little less than 5 cents per pod—to return a reused box filled with 400 pods. That fee could go down as the program grows. “It opens up an opportunity to solve a problem now,” Royal says.
The take-back program already has proven to be successful at the University of Pennsylvania where more than 5,000 pods were sent back for composting in the first few months, diverting hundreds of pounds of waste.
Company’s First Sustainability Director
Royal is Tayst Coffee’s first Sustainability Program Director. On one day she may be researching industrial compost facilities, on another she may be meeting with environmental lawyers. “I wear many hats here,” she says. She helps Tayst build partnerships and manages many stakeholders across the United States. Royal works with the U.S. Composting Council and the U.S. Green Building Council at the national and regional level.
In her role Royal researches single-use systems as well as drip-brew systems. She believes drip-brew systems can be made much more sustainable as well.
Royal, who obtained her Master of Science in Environmental Sustainability from Long Island University, makes sure all her company’s emissions related to take-back shipping are carbon neutral. “I am constantly working on procurement,” she says.
Challenging the mindset of those who consume single serve coffee is high on her “to do” list. “We have a viable solution for a major problem,” she says.
In the coming year she will continue to work on partnership building and identifying opportunities in social, corporate and environmental responsibility.
Proud of Take-Back Program
When asked if there is a company initiative of which she is most proud, Royal said Tayst’s take-back program. She adds, “I am proud when our product is implemented and really valued. When I see our product implemented into the culture of an organization.”
While growing up, Royal said her family recycled everything they had. “It was ingrained in our family dynamics,” she says. At the time she says she did not realize how passionate she was about sustainability.
“My ‘a ha’ moment came when in Italy and living with a host family—teaching English using artistic ways. They introduced me to Al Gore’s writings. I immediately felt defensive but listened. It started a deep level of curiosity. When I entered the master’s program, it became a purpose.”
Glenn Hasek can be reached at email@example.com.