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Each week throughout August, via a Sustainable Summer Facebook group, we'll offer suggestions for little things we can all do to challenge climate change and conserve resources.Part of what we love most about summer is the time we get to relax outdoors, slow down from life's hectic pace, and reflect on the months gone by. This August we invite you to put that relaxed, reflective mood to good use by making small, positive changes to your everyday habits, and living a little greener before the leaves turn brown.

Each week throughout August, via a Sustainable Summer Facebook group, we'll offer suggestions for little things we can all do to challenge climate change and preserve our natural resources. By tackling habits in the areas of Home, Work, Leisure, Transportation, and Food, we'll see firsthand how big an impact even small actions can make.

Participants will have the chance to enter raffles for great prizes (including coffee, tea, and chocolate) as a reward for green deeds done well; together, we'll end the month by celebrating sustainability with organic snacks, lively conversation, and a panel discussion about climate change and the future. (Of course, there will also be plenty of coffee.)

Join us, as well as our friends at Rishi Tea, Taza Chocolate, King Arthur Flour, and TS Designs, as we send this summer out with a sustainable bang! Take the pledge at on Facebook or e-mail us for more information.

Thanks,
Meister
Roberto Salazar of Finca Pashapa in Honduras heard about our cookstove project and wanted to.
You may recall what a big hit our carbon footprint reduction project in Honduras was at the end of 2012. Not only were we excited about the offsets, but the excitement sparked a good deal of interest within producer communities, as well. For us, this is the ideal way for good work to get done: groups recognize a timely, valuable, well-organized project and non-governmental organization (NGO) when they see one and want to be a part of it all without us saying a word!
 
For weeks, after Roberto Salazar – a member of the cooperative COLCAFELOL, which has provided us with delicious Honduran coffees in years past – heard about the clean cookstove project that we did with the COMSA cooperative in Marcala, he was emailing us asking how he could get in on the fun. We put Salazar's cooperative in touch with the contact at COMSA and with Trees, Water, and People – the NGO responsible for training on the construction of the stoves – and let the magic happen from there.
 
We recently received news from Roberto Salazar that they successfully made a partnership with Trees, Water, and People to build clean cookstoves. June 18 marked their first day of construction on 85 stoves with members of their cooperative.
 
Thanks to all for generating the enthusiasm, making connections, and getting it done!
 
-Hannah
 
Members of the La Voz que Clama en el Desierto co-op in Guatemala learning aout.
We received news a few weeks back from La Voz que Clama en el Desierto, the cooperative in Guatemala from which we purchase coffee that brings delicious flavors to Farmhouse part of the year. The cooperative manager, Andres, wrote to let us know that they started their project with Seeds funding in earnest. As a quick reminder, they were one of two projects selected for this funding cycle,, and their goal was to offer training to coffee producers on how to prevent and combat leaf rust with organic methods.
 
So, far they have contracted the appropriate agronomist to lead the trainings, and they have already held eight days of workshops with the producers. The topics included at the workshops have covered methods for effective pruning and renovation of coffee plants. They have also started discussing fertilizers and effective treatments to protect plants from leaf rust.
 
In the coming months, they will continue the series and touch on more specific application of the techniques, as well as a broader discussion of how to strengthen the cooperative associations as a whole through these types of efforts.
 
Coffee from La Voz arrived and will be available as Farmhouse starting Tuesday.
 
Thanks,
Hannah
 
POSTED IN: sustainability
Growers in Ethiopia at our compost workshop in March 2013.At the end of March, coffee buyers Kim Elena Ionescu and Tim Hill traveled together – which they almost never get to do; with so much Coffee Department travel, they usually travel separately – to Ethiopia for a compost workshop funded by our $1-per-pound allocation from our 2012 Holiday Blend and attended by 30 farmers from Haru, Idido, and Biloya.

"I was really excited about this trip!" acknowledged Kim Elena. "I was also really nervous, however, because I had committed Counter Culture to hosting a workshop in a place I had never been, in a language I didn't speak, on a subject outside my area of expertise."

Read Kim Elena's full trip report on Flickr offering annotated photos offer an overview of the two-day workshop, as well as a few glimpses into the activities at these cooperatives this time of year.

Takele Mammo, manager of Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union.
A week remains before our organic composting workshop in Ethiopia! What workshop? You know, the one that we're sponsoring with the $1-per-pound donation from our Holiday Blend sales! You had forgotten? Well, I suppose I can't blame you, because a lot has happened since the holidays!
 
Every year we create a unique product for the winter holidays and choose an environmental or social cause to benefit from the sales of that coffee, which we refer to as the Holiday Blend even when it's not a blend – more on that in a second. Historically, we have sought to link the cause to one of the coffees in the blend. For the past two years, that blend has consisted of coffees from a single cooperative, the Yirgacheffe Coffee Farmer Cooperative Union, based in Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia.
 
Nine thousand dollars raised by our 2011 seasonal promotion went to support the building of a school in Idido, which is a small village on the outskirts of the somewhat-less-small town of Yirgacheffe – and the provenance of two of our favorite coffees, Idido washed and Idido sundried natural.
 
In anticipation of the 2012 holiday season, we decided to feature YCFCU's coffee for a second year and identified supporting organic agriculture as the cause we wanted to advance. The focus on teaching organic composting to coffee growers and co-op managers grew out of conversations with YCFCU's general manager, Takele Mammo, who expressed great enthusiasm for Counter Culture's (then-newly–installed) worm composting bins when he visited our operations in April and mentioned that the Ethiopian government had been encouraging co-ops to put more resources toward making compost. We had just launched our first advocacy campaign, Save Our Soil, to raise awareness about the benefits of organic agriculture, and it felt like the stars were aligning for a collaboration around environmental health and soil building through compost with one of our most important producer partners.
 
The Haru washing station near Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia.
With all of that context in mind, I'm excited to tell you a little bit about what we're planning. March 28-30, between 30 and 40 members and managers of YCFCU will assemble at a hotel in Yirgacheffe to listen to lectures on the philosophy and benefits of organic agriculture, share their experiences, and participate in hands-on training on composting led by a local expert. Attendees will include managers of co-op mills like Idido, Haru, and Biloya – our coffees are so called after the mills where growers bring their coffee for processing in towns of those names – as well as coffee growers, with a particular focus on members of the Haru cooperative. In discussions with the umbrella co-op, YCFCU, we agreed that Counter Culture has a firmer partnership with Haru than with any of the other farmer groups and that focusing on them would deepen the impact of the information.
 
As we developed this program, I thought often of the success of La Serie Profesional: Organic Agriculture and Quality Experimentation, the event that we hosted for all of our Central American suppliers in the summer of 2011 in Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras. That event was definitely part of the inspiration for this one, but a key difference in Ethiopia will be the level of knowledge brought to the topic. Instead of relying on Coffee Buyer & Quality Manager Tim Hill and me to create, deliver, and translate all of the material as we did in Honduras, this time we have hired professionals to speak on conditions particular to Yirgacheffe, conduct the training with materials in Amharic as well as English, and lay the groundwork for a compost operation at Haru.
 
It is exciting to be working as a part of what feels like a direct collaboration between customers who so faithfully supported the Holiday Blend and one of our strongest producer partners, YCFCU, to address an issue that we all recognize as crucial to coffee and quality despite the fact that we aren't compost experts ourselves. Tim and I will be attending the workshop, but I imagine we have as much to learn as any of the growers, if not more!
 
Thanks,
Kim Elena
 
POSTED IN: organic, sustainability
Our carbon nuetrality off-sets in action. Photo by Trees, Water, and People.
After a fascinating and surprising first foray into carbon-footprint measurement at the end of 2009 – a project to track the carbon footprint of Finca Mauritania's coffee from seed to cup – Counter Culture decided to commit wholeheartedly to carbon neutrality for the company. We set a target date of 2015 because, to tell the truth, we weren't entirely sure what we were signing ourselves up to do.
 
In a serendipitous turn of events, we were able to reach our five-year goal in only two years and achieved carbon neutrality at the end of 2011 by offsetting our 576-tonne greenhouse gas footprint through tree-planting and fuel-efficient stove construction in Central America.
 
We arrived at that 576-tonnes-of-greenhouse-gas figure with the help of Vancouver-based Climate Smart, a foot printing organization that takes a unique approach to auditing by empowering businesses to measure themselves.
 
Having established a baseline, we turned our attention to potential areas of reduction. We started reaching out to providers of offsets and reconnected with Trees, Water, and People (TWP), which manages offset projects ranging from tree-planting and stove construction in Central America and Haiti to wind power in the American west. They distinguished themselves from other offset providers by offering to implement a project building fuel-efficient stoves with Organic Coffee of Marcala, S.A. de C.V. (COMSA), a cooperative that Counter Culture works with in Marcala, Honduras. After enthusiastic planning with TWP, AHDESA – a development organization in Honduras – and COMSA, the team built and installed 86 clean cookstoves in 2 weeks, impacting a total of 626 family members! We are grateful for this successful partnership!
 
-Hannah and Kim
POSTED IN: sustainability
Reducing our paper use by 41, 000 pieces starting here.
Starting today, we are significantly reducing the amount of paper we print / recycle each day in our Durham production facility.
 
For the last two years, we've been printing multiple pieces of paper for each wholesale order to get the right coffee into the right box – all but one of which got recycled every day. With a newly implemented bin system, we are now printing only one page per order! That's a big reduction!!
 
To put this into context, for production wholesale orders in 2011, we printed close to 63,000 pieces of paper. That's 126 reams of paper! And, while we recycled 41,000 pages of that, we no longer print extra pages that need to be recycled.
 
I'd like to point out all the hard work that Tom Burns, Ryan Stickles, and Jeff McArthur have done to make this happen. I'm really excited we're not using so much paper now!
 
-Thomas Nickles
IT Manager
POSTED IN: sustainability
"I am not a gardener," admits Atlanta Wholesale Regional Representative David LaMont. "At best, my thumbs are the pale green of dead grass."
 
That lack of aptitude didn't stop David from applying for Counter Culture's employee matching "Green Fund" program to build raised garden beds in the yard of his Sugar Hill, GA, home with the goals of spending more time outdoors with his kids and growing a bit of their own food.
 
In 2011, our Sustainability Committee introduced the Counter Culture Employee Green Fund, which offers each employee the opportunity to apply for up to $500 a year in matching funds toward a personal sustainability-related project. Other projects have included gym memberships, a high-efficiency washing machine, a rain-water garden irrigation system, home fitness equipment, and more. In its first year, the Green Fund contributed $2,266.01 in matching funds.
 
Read about David's Raised Garden Bed project on facebook and look for more Green Fund stories coming soon.
 
Thanks,
Nathan
POSTED IN: sustainability

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