Sharon Avnon Reuveni, Purple Waves

Sharon Avnon Reuveni is the founder of Purple Waves, a practically zero-waste café in NYC.

Bianca Piazza - Author

Feb. 27 2024, Published 9:12 a.m. ET

Background photo of a table with several plates of food with a smaller photo of Purple Waves founder Sharon Avnon Reuveni and the Green Matters "Greenovation" logo
Source: Sam Golin of Goldinprojects, Bochun Cheng

As put by the founder of Purple Waves — aka the Upper West Side's single-use plastic-free café, wine bar, and coffee shop — when it comes to saving our planet, "what we need to change are the systems, not the people."

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Sharon Avnon Reuveni set her sights on Manhattan's wasteful restaurant industry, opening Purple Waves in early 2024. Patrons won't find single-use cups or utensils anywhere in the establishment; instead, dishware is reusable, and designed to be returned to the café.

"As far as I know, we're the only café and wine bar to work exclusively with reusables in the city," she says.

In conversation with Green Matters, Sharon Avnon Reuveni discussed her professional background, Purple Waves' mission, and how the coffee shop operates.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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Photo of two patrons eating at NYC's café, coffee shop, and wine bar Purple Waves.
Source: Sam Golin of Goldinprojects

Purple Waves is located at 285 West 110th Street in Manhattan.

GREEN MATTERS: How did your experience in the sustainability/circularity space lead you to open Purple Waves?

SHARON AVNON REUVENI: I got my bachelor's in sustainability, public policy, and economics. And I got my master's in sustainability management. I also interned for the Parks Department's energy and sustainability team. I got a lot out of these experiences, but I always wanted something more hands-on.

After working in cafés and restaurants throughout my twenties, seeing how wasteful that world can be, but also how much potential there is for change, I brought those two worlds together.

The mission is not only about being sustainable, but also being able to educate guests and other business owners on how it's possible to do this the way I think every café should be doing it.

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Overhead photo of two people sitting at a table covered in pastries and mugs of coffee in Purple Waves café
Source: Sam Golin of Goldinprojects

You won't find any single-use cups or utensils at Purple Waves.

GM: What makes Purple Waves a unique café on the Upper West Side? Can patrons take anything to go?

SAR: We encourage our customers to hang out, but we do offer a to-go option in reusables only. We partnered with DeliverZero. Basically, you get your food or coffee in reusable containers, the customer just needs to provide their first name and phone number. Then they have three weeks to return the containers to us or any other participating DeliverZero location.

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GM: Are there any single-use items in Purple Waves?

SAR: There are things that we still get from our suppliers in single-use containers. We're trying to change this.

We're working with a company that delivers our dairy milk in glass bottles. When they drop off full bottles, they pick up empty ones. And we blend our plant-based milks in house using Joi concentrate pastes. There's still some packaging, but it's much less than if we were to buy containers of the milks.

Photo of the main space interior of Purple Waves café
Source: Sam Golin of Goldinprojects

Purple Waves' tables were made by NYCitySlab with reclaimed wood.

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GM: Can you tell us about your secondhand furnishing journey for Purple Waves?

SAR: I sourced most of my kitchen equipment used; I went to a lot of restaurant closing auctions and used restaurant equipment stores. All the dishware was used as well. For the furniture, my husband and I went all over the Hudson Valley and Connecticut, hitting flea markets, thrift stores, and used furniture warehouses.

For our tables, I found an amazing carpenter, Robert Rising, who works exclusively with reclaimed wood. The closet doors are also made of reclaimed wood.

The systems that we currently have in place aren't geared towards people buying used. So, the chairs in the main space are from a local shop in the Bowery. If I buy new, I at least wanted it to be from a local, small family business.

Photo of the interior of Purple Waves café
Source: Sam Golin of Goldinprojects

Purple Waves is filled with secondhand furniture, sourced by Sharon Avnon Reuveni.

GM: How does sustainability weave its way into the Purple Waves menu?

SAR: We wanted our coffee to be ethically-sourced and grown in a sustainable way. So, I'm working with Coffee of Grace, a small woman-owned company local to New York. Their roastery is in Connecticut and they source beans directly from small farmers in Rwanda.

Our cheeses and milk are from local New York State farms. Most of our menu is vegetarian and vegan, but my dream is that every menu item will eventually be veganized.

We decided to have an all-local wine, beer, and cider list. We even have a sake from Brooklyn! Keeping it local is a big part of sustainability.

Find Purple Waves at 285 West 110th Street, New York, N.Y.

Greenovation” is a series from Green Matters that invites founders of companies that are not only disrupting industries, but also trying to change the planet for the better.

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