Almost two years have passed since Counter Culture Coffee undertook to measure the seed-to-cup carbon footprint of one pound of coffee from Finca Mauritania in Santa Ana, El Salvador. For that project, I relied heavily on our exceptionally responsive and communicative partners along the supply chain – from farm owner Aida Batlle to the exporter, the shipping company, the warehouse, the trucking company, and even the coffee shop customer – to supply energy-use data, which I then crunched using free resources like Carbonfund.org.
When we arrived at a figure of approximately 11 lbs. CO2 equivalent – which includes the energy used to prepare coffee at Peregrine Espresso in Washington, DC – per pound of Finca Mauritania coffee, Counter Culture and Peregrine committed to plant trees in El Salvador that would capture the equivalent of the CO2 emissions that we had collectively generated in the growing, transporting, roasting, and brewing of the coffee.
One of the benefits of our self-directed supply-chain audit was that it familiarized us with the vocabulary, methodologies, and definitions of carbon footprints and greenhouse gas inventories. We talked to organizations that made it sound easy to do a quick audit and purchase offsets, but, having developed a pretty deep understanding of carbon and coffee, we recognized that taking our time to measure our footprint, strategize about reductions, and to find meaningful offset projects was the approach that best suited our dedication to real environmental sustainability. Our internal Sustainability Committee decided that, by 2015, the company would be carbon neutral and we have just achieved the first step toward that goal by completing a greenhouse gas inventory for the year 2010.
Working with Climate Smart, a Vancouver, BC-based auditing firm, we collected data on many aspects of our business, including the gas we burn roasting, electricity powering our espresso machines, fuel we use to commute, and the weight of paper we recycle (or don’t!) and determined that we produced 576 metric tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) last year, or 1.2 lbs. of CO2e per pound of coffee we roast.
The roasting process accounts for a fair portion of our total footprint and our employee commuting does, as well, but our largest impact comes from air travel (and, wouldn’t you know, I’m writing this from an airplane as I make my way to visit our partner co-op in Colombia). While our business model may make it hard to reduce our air travel, the good news is that we have lots of room for improvement in other areas of our operations – from electricity consumption to waste generated – and we are ready to work to reduce our footprint per pound of coffee for 2011 and beyond!
Stay tuned to the Sustainability section of our website for updates on our progress and check out Climate Smart for great information about carbon and resources for businesses and individuals.