Gastown coffee shop brews up energy-saving ideas with BC Hydro

Popular community hub The Birds & The Beets taps BC Hydro’s online tools to further minimize enviro footprint 

Over the past two years, Matt Senecal-Junkeer and Sean Cunningham have transformed the eclectic location in Gastown that their café, The Birds & The Beets, calls home.

In 2015, the two took over the spot at 55 Powell Street that previously housed two businesses.

After months of renovation, the café was transformed into a community hub where local residents can gather to enjoy specialty coffee and locally made treats in a bright, friendly atmosphere.

Since then, the pair’s drive to innovate and overcome any obstacle has remained. Today, the owners and operators are looking for new ways to improve their business practices and better serve their growing base of regulars and coffee-lovers.

Ensuring their food is healthy but also sustainable is important to the owners. “We buy about 90% of our produce from a farm in Ladner at a place called Cropthorne Farm,” Senecal-Junkeer says. “Instead of using standard flour, we buy really nice anise flour from Chilliwack.”

As Cunningham puts it, “It’s stuff you can eat every day, and stuff you feel good about eating every day.”

While not as visible, the same thoughtfulness is present in how the owners treat their power use. The business is lit up by 70 LED bulbs in the space, which are connected to a program that automatically turns them off at the end of the workday.

“Everything we do is electric – it’s not natural gas or anything like that – so being smart about when you turn espresso machines off or turn on power-saving mode and all that stuff, it does really add up and make a difference at the end of the month,” Senecal-Junkeer explains.

Small measures like this can add up to significant cost savings over time, especially in a slim-margin business like operating a restaurant.

As owners and operators, Senecal-Junkeer and Cunningham do a little bit of everything when it comes to their business, from washing dishes to bookkeeping and accounting. As a result, they have little time to think about their power use beyond the basics.

Assistance came in the form of BC Hydro’s online energy-tracking tools. The tools provide detailed information about a business’ electricity use, including how much electricity the business is using on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis, and at what cost. It’s also possible to estimate electricity costs based on usage patterns so there aren’t surprises when bills arrive.

Business owners can also subscribe to alerts to remind themselves to check their electricity use on a weekly or monthly basis. Cunningham feels these alerts, combined with the energy consumption graphs, will help her feel more in control of her business’ electricity use.

“There’s a lot of small things you need to deal with on a day-to-day basis, so being able to dive deep into something like power usage takes time that a lot of small businesses don’t have,” Senecal-Junkeer says. “Having a tool that makes it really easy to analyze [power use] is a big help.”