Climate change is having a big impact on the coffee supply chain—making high-quality production more difficult and threatening the livelihoods of coffee farmers and the biologically diverse areas where coffee grows. The greenhouse gases causing climate change are in large part being produced at the other end of the supply chain: in the roasting, shipping, and brewing of coffee.As a business on that greenhouse-gas-production end, our goal is to continuously reduce our use of energy and to purchase offsets to account for the rest. To this end, we’ve calculated our carbon footprint since 2010 and purchased offsets. For our 2014 footprint, we made some big steps forward in the way we collect data that will help us formulate our first ever comprehensive reduction strategy.

Our biggest source of direct emissions was transportation in company-owned vehicles (172.76 tonnes CO2e)

The majority of our shipping emissions came from long-distance air shipments (300.8 CO2e)

Our offset purchase will go towards planting trees and sustainably managing existing forests on about 10 hectares



As the earth warms, coffee farms are forced higher and higher up mountains, decreasing available land use for growing. (Narino, Colombia)

Climate change is affecting weather patterns worldwide, challenging existing agricultural practices predicated on predictable seasonality, temperatures, and rainfall patterns.

As a crop that grows best in specific microclimates, coffee farms are particularly susceptible to even small changes in weather patterns.

These small changes, in rainfall for example, affect not only the flowering and fruiting of coffee trees, they can also interfere with the drying processes that take place post-harvest.

According to academic research , as well as Counter Culture’s research into our supply chain, the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions—primarily carbon dioxide—occur at the roasting and retail end of the coffee supply chain.

Though roasting is an inevitable part of our greenhouse gas footprint, we minimize the impact by diverting the waste chaff and burlap bags into our recycling and compost waste streams. (Durham Headquarters + Roastery)
This disparity is especially large when the coffee is grown organically, without the use of chemical fertilizers. In other words, the majority of climate change impacts are being generated on one end of the supply chain and felt on the other end. Although roasting is a relatively small part of these consumption-based emissions, as an actor in the coffee supply chain we have a responsibility to reduce our own impact as much as possible.

As the old adage goes, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Five years in, and with good measurement systems now in place, we plan to begin implementing strategies to reduce our footprint while continuing to grow as a company.



In 2014 we redesigned our packaging and moved to compostable bags. Our packaging will continue to evolve to be as sustainable as possible while maintaining quality standards. (Catalog cupping, Durham Training Center)

We continue to improve our systems of measurement to gather the necessary data for this carbon footprint assessment each year. We made a few significant changes in our methodology this year that helped us get more-accurate data points. This level of accuracy means some of the metrics in our footprint have changed significantly from past years and that those changes are more attributable to this refinement in data collection than any large reduction or increase in emissions.

The biggest area of increase in our carbon footprint this year was in the transportation of goods—the result of including more-extensive data about UPS shipping from our headquarters.

We have included UPS shipping information in some of our past footprints, but this year we got more-detailed data from UPS, leading to a much-more-accurate emissions estimate.

Our other large area of increase was in the transportation of people, especially in our company-owned vehicles. This increase is also at least partially attributable to more-accurate data collection.

The emissions from both our staff commuting and landfilled garbage decreased, largely due to more-accurate data collection methods.



Heating and powering the equipment used to brew coffee is a large contributor to consumption-based emissions and we’re working on developing best practices at our training centers to help minimize this portion of our footprint. (Charleston, SC Training Center)

In general, carbon footprints consist of three different areas of emissions, called scopes. Scope 1 emissions are the greenhouse gases generated directly by Counter Culture-owned equipment. Scope 2 emissions are indirectly generated from the purchase of energy. And scope 3 are all other indirect emissions from sources not owned by Counter Culture.We count the following in our footprint:

  • Natural gas used for heating buildings
  • Propane used for roasting
  • Gas used in company-owned vehicles

  • Electricity for all buildings

  • Fuel used in shipping of roasted coffee
  • Gas used in employee commuting
  • Fuel used in employee air travel
  • Landfilled garbage
  • Office paper consumption

Overall Emissions by Type

Overall Emissions by Type Metric Tons
Electricity 146.88
Heat 122.51
Transporting People:
CCC Owned Vehicles
Transporting People:
Air Travel
Staff Commuting 112.68
Transporting Goods:
UPS Shipping
Garbage 3.48
Paper 0.22

Emissions by Shipping Method

Emissions by Shipping Method Metric Tons
Truck 89.82
Air Short Haul 33.19
Air Medium Haul 12.33
Air Long Haul 165.46

Overall Emissions by Scope

Scope 1 Scope 2 Scope 3
Heat 122.51
Transporting People:
CCC Owned Vehicles
Electricty 146.88
Transporting People:
Air Travel
Staff Commuting 112.68
Transporting Goods:
UPS Shipping
Garbage 3.48
Paper 0.22

Compare between 2013 and 2014

Emissions by Type 2013 2014
Electricity 136.44 146.88
Heat 105.01 122.51
Transporting People:
CCC Owned Vehicles
74.05 172.76
Transporting People:
Air Travel
170.3 168.34
Staff Commuting 119.24 112.68
Transporting Goods:
UPS Shipping
122.33 300.8
Garbage 8.81 3.48
Paper 0.99 0.22



Counter Culture roasted about 12% more coffee in 2014 compared to 2013. In the context of this growth, the most-significant sources of growth in our emissions were in the shipping of roasted coffee and the transportation of people in company owned vehicles. As noted above, some of the growth in these sources is the result of more-accurate data collection. Otherwise, the growth in shipping emissions is mostly the result of a significant increase in our west coast customer base who had their coffee shipped from Durham until our Emeryville roastery opened in June of 2015. The increase in company vehicle emissions is from a combination of a larger vehicle fleet and a new customer service strategy that resulted in more frequent visits to accounts.

As part of Sustainable Spring, our entire staff volunteered in our local communities earlier this year. (SEEDS Garden, Durham, NC)
In the context of our 12% growth, a few of our emissions sources still decreased in 2014, albeit only slightly. Our electricity use, emissions from air travel, and staff commuting mileage all went down—a great indicator for our future reduction efforts.
Our waste sent to landfills, although only a small part of our overall footprint, decreased by more than half in 2014.

This was mostly due to better data collection, but also reflects the work that’s been done to decrease production waste and to compost at all of our training centers.

The majority of our emissions are scope 3: emissions from sources that are essential to our operations, but not company-owned and not under our direct control. Reducing these emissions will be more challenging because, while we’ll need to continue making use of these sources like UPS shipping, we need to figure out how to use them more efficiently. Successful reduction strategies for our scope 3 emissions will therefore require good communication and teamwork with our supply chain partners and our employees.

We did a breakdown of our emissions from shipping this year because we made a big change in the way we gathered this data. For the first time, we requested a list of all of our 2014 shipments from UPS—broken down by mileage, weight, and type of shipping vehicle. Previously, we’d only estimated shipping emissions based on our own data and assumed all shipments were made via truck.

Based on a new level of data, we were able to see that the majority of our shipping emissions came from long-distance air shipments.

This isn’t surprising given the jump in our west coast customer base in 2014 and will likely go down next year since we started roasting and shipping, via truck, from our Emeryville roastery in June 2015. While it’s unfortunate that this new data-collection method resulted in us reporting more emissions, the big step forward in accuracy will help us figure out the best reduction strategies.



From coffee blossoms to the coffee in your cup, there are opportunities at every step for us to improve how we work in the context of sustainability.
Counter Culture has purchased carbon offsets in the amount of our emissions since we started calculating our footprint in 2010.

Given the amount of time it takes us to collect data, finalize our footprint, and purchase offsets, we will always be reporting on the offsets purchased for the previous footprint. For this 2014 report, we combined the 2012 and 2013 emissions and pooled them together into one offset purchase.

We purchased offsets for our 2012 and 2013 emissions through Cooperative AMBIO, a non-profit organization that works with indigenous communities in Mexico to develop verified carbon offset credits through forestry projects.

Counter Culture’s credits will be allocated to coffee farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, who live within the buffer zone of the Selva El Ocote Biosphere Reserve. The Reserve is home to 90 species of mammals and provides an important habitat for migratory birds. Our offset purchase, equivalent to 1,387 tonnes of carbon, will go towards planting trees and sustainably managing existing forests on about 10 hectares (10 hectares= 18.5 american football fields) and directly impact six coffee farming families.


While we’ve purchased offsets for each of these years of measurement, we’ve never made a concentrated effort to reduce our emissions. This isn’t to say we haven’t made any progress— our emissions have gone down 8% per employee and 15% per 1,000lbs of coffee sold since our 2010 baseline year—we’ve just never had a comprehensive reduction plan. That’s going to change. With the refinement of our data-collection processes and more-accurate measurement, our next step is to establish that plan.

We have a lot of opportunities to reduce our impact as we move into our new facility next year and we look forward to exploring those new projects. (Boulted Bread, Raleigh, NC)
Since we don’t anticipate any major changes to the physical aspects of our operation, our biggest opportunity is to help our employees make small behavior changes that collectively add up to big reductions.
In order to figure out the most feasible changes to make, we’re forming an employee sustainability committee that will bring together environmentally-minded thinkers from each of our departments.

With the input of this committee, we’re going to take a look at every aspect of our internal operations—from the materials we bring into the waste we generate—to examine where we can make the biggest reductions.

As Counter Culture grows, our impact will inevitably grow as well, driving both the need and the ability to become more efficient in our use of natural resources. Our responsibility does not begin or end with Counter Culture’s activities. We value the interconnectedness of our coffee supply chains and we recognize that our coffees come from some of the most ecologically important and economically challenging places in the world. We look forward to the challenge of reducing our emissions—making use of our engaged staff and supply chain relationships to minimize our contribution to climate change.