Sustainability in coffee is an economic, social and environmental necessity. Let's delve a little deeper on overwhelming impacts and let's choose to make the difference every day.
We are the choices we make
“Sustainability” is a word becoming used more and more often… but how sustainable have our daily habits and actions become?
Small Actions = Big Changes
The simpler and smaller everyday actions repeated every day can really make the difference!
Let’s start with the simplest and most daily action: our coffee
As the second most tradable commodity after oil, coffee has become big business and shows no signs of slowing down.
But unfortunately the world’s increasing appetite for coffee, as well as for many other products, has taken a devastating toll on our environment.
As it stands, the global coffee trade is far from sustainable and has directly led to mass deforestation.
There are also other problems to consider, like human and labor rights issues for workers in developing countries, colossal amounts of non-biodegradable waste (produced and ending up in landfills) and the widespread emission of harmful greenhouse gases.
How can we make a difference as consumers?
As consumers we are participants in the coffee trade and it is vitally important for all of us to take responsibility for the planet and “do our bit” to protect it.
“Small Actions = Big Changes” by making just a few modest changes in our daily practices, it is entirely possible to dramatically slash our environmental impact.
The situation is more complicated and less obvious than we might expect: in the balance of environmental impacts, packaging and preparation count less than the variety of coffee.
The cultivation of the varieties present contributes to the footprint of a cup of coffee for a percentage that ranges between 1 and 70%.
This has been demonstrated by:
– carefully analyzing the whole life cycle of some of the most widespread coffee methods of preparation (from automatic machines to those based on filtration to coffee makers);
– drawing up a list of the different qualities of coffee present in the most common products;
– then drawing from the literature to understand how much energy, fuels, water, pesticides, fertilizers and soil are consumed to obtain the main varieties (for example, in Brazil a study was carried out that considered these aspects in 56 large coffee plantations);
– assuming as reference values the average ones (not being able to know exactly the different proportions present in all the blends sold) but also some extreme data;
up to elaborate a complex map of sustainability.
If you love your brew, here are some guidelines for making sure it’s eco-friendly, sustainable and responsibly sourced.
1. Get ready to follow the frog!
And here is the first indication: it would be good to choose a certified sustainable coffee, just because it is the method of cultivation that makes a coffee more or less eco-friendly, with huge differences.
Check for Rainforest Alliance Certification
The Rainforest Alliance certification confirms compliance with social, environmental and economic criteria in the cultivation of agricultural products.
The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal is granted to farms that meet rigorous environmental, social and economic standards.
What is the Rainforest Alliance?
The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization (NGO) with over 30 years’ experience that works in more than 80 countries around the globe to help protect the environment, conserve biodiversity and promote the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities.
The Rainforest Alliance helps create a world in which people and nature thrive together in harmony. To learn more about the Rainforest Alliance, visit www.rainforest-alliance.org
Consumers want it
91% of global consumers expect companies to do more than make a profit. They want to see companies operate responsibly to address social and environmental issues.
Coffee according to SpecialCoffee
In each of our choices, we are committed to transmitting our experience, our expertise, our passion and our care about sustainability.
The planet deserves it
Consumers expect businesses to take action to protect the planet, but they must also be reminded that they too have a responsibility.
Through every day actions and conscientious decisions, consumers also have a positive impact on the environment and by joining together we can make a difference for a better future.
How can we do our bit every day?
#FollowtheFrog means choosing Rainforest Alliance Certified products with the Green Frog seal.
Take the pledge to Follow the Frog and to shout about our commitment to sustainability.
#FOLLOWTHEFROG FOR A BETTER FUTURE
It’s simple: as enjoying a coffee!
Every day, choosing a Rainforest Alliance Certified sustainable coffee, we can help prevent deforestation, curb climate change, protect wildlife, alleviate poverty and transform business practices.
Following the frog…
Look for the sustainable quality of SpecialCoffee’s blend, Verdadero.
A cup of Verdadero provides an extraordinary experience and at the same time creates value for the society and the environment.
Verdadero has more aroma, sustainably!
2. Warning to packaging
but not just to the material
Quality and freshness for a sustainable future… how?
Finding a balance with packaging that helps reduce waste without creating an excess of packaging that will lead to increased economic and environmental costs!
Good practices: it’s always advisable to buy small amounts of coffee so to preserve quality and freshness and to avoid having a package open for months since that will inevitably cause the coffee to lose its flavor and taste.
The right and mindful packaging contributes to the elimination of food waste.
Cutting down on food waste along the entire chain is one of the easiest ways to “think green”.
Start buying only what we (and/or our business) need calibrating our purchasing choices (and therefore savings) on the amount of product we are actually able to consume.
And keep it in the best possible way.
Let’s not forget that food requires energy, land, water, fuel, natural resources, human labor and money to be produced, transported, processed, packaged, stored, sold, purchased, re-transported and stored at home.
Food production has an impact on the environment as it emits CO2 emissions in the atmosphere which contribute to change.
Reduction in food waste is also a demonstration of transparency and commitment to sustainability which is something that we appreciate as modern consumers.
What about the single-serving?
In general, referring to a cup of coffee, the plastic capsules contribute to the total impression for about a quarter. On average each contains between 6 and 9 grams of ground coffee and the environmental impact increases with the weight of coffee.
Being able to choose, better still prefer the pods packaged with the filter card because more ecofriendly and less harmful to the environment.
3. On the coffee brew methods… it depends
As for the methods of preparation there are various distinctions.
In general, more than the type of preparation, even in this case the amount of coffee used to obtain each cup is counted.
Have you ever thought that bar machines can be worse from an ecological point of view than those with pods precisely because they often need a greater quantity of coffee, with the same final liquid obtained, and this could affect sustainability more than packaging?
So what is the recipe for sustainability?!?
Those who want to feel conscientious must prefer filtered coffee carafes and drink all the prepared coffee. Alternatively, the attentive consumer can choose the coffee maker, provided that he uses, in that case, the same amount of coffee that he would put in the filter to have the same amount of final liquid that is prepared as a very light coffee (certainly not an easy rule to accept for espresso lovers).
Above all, let’s try to give up old habits.
For the most part, the single-serve coffee in pods or capsules is not so necessary.
A good coffee can be made with an espresso machine, a moka pot or a reusable filter. A quality coffee machine can last a lifetime… but if we do not know how to give up the convenience of portioned coffee, we look for at least the filter paper pods.
4. The cup: reusable!
Disposable products and consumers not worried about their environmental impact clog up landfills and waterways.
If the environmental problems inherent with plastic capsules are well-known, even takeaway and disposable cups, recyclable though it may be, often isn’t as good of a choice as a reusable cup and/or thermos.
For a more sustainable coffee, the cup is essential!
It is undoubtedly even more pleasant to sip coffee from a reusable cup than from a paper or plastic cup.
In this way, we can replace a large number of disposable cups, plastic containers and anything else that is thrown away after use.
According to the BBC, 99.75% of takeaway coffee cups are not recycled.
Let’s make a quick calculation of how many disposable coffee cups we use in a month… yes, they will probably be too many!
5. And after enjoying our sustainable coffee?
A sustainable coffee can be “even more sustainable”?
With a little more ingenuity, we can give coffee grounds a “second life” as seen referenced here and with the right information and a little cleverness, new and smart uses can be created.
For example, coffee grounds can create outdoor fertilizer. The high nitrogen content in coffee makes it a first choice fertilizer since ancient times. Creating fertilizer with leaves and coffee grounds helps reduce a small percentage of organic waste, makes soil excellent and keeps dry waste bins. If we do not have a container in which to throw them, then spread the coffee grounds on the soil of the plants in the pots.
Hey Barista, what can you do today to “green” your café?
In “greening” and making your coffee shop more sustainable not only can you help the planet but you can also save money and at the same time boost sales too.
Research has revealed that many consumers prefer to purchase from green businesses.
According to one study, 50% of consumers are willing to pay more for goods and services if they are kinder to the environment. What’s more, a staggering 71% of consumers say that they would help promote products and services with a good cause behind them.
If you would like to do your bit for the planet, there are a lot of things you can do today as well as practical guidance on how your business can show more love for the environment. Responsible sourcing of your beans, thoughtful brewing methods, wise choices of coffee equipment more suitable for you and your cafè, packaging and waste management plus much, much more.