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We're honored to have won the 2012 Green Plus Sustainable Enterprise of the Year Award.
The Institute for Sustainable Development chose Counter Culture as its 2012 Sustainable Enterprise of the Year out of the more than 200 companies that participate in the Green Plus triple-bottom-line certification program across 15 states. We were one of the first businesses to sign up for the then-brand-new Green Plus program in 2008, and we have come a long way since then, so it feels especially good to receive this public recognition for our efforts.
 
Last week's launch of our first-ever advocacy campaign, Save Our Soil, is a great example of how we continue to push our industry and communities to pursue real sustainability.
 
I am grateful to and appreciative of the role that each of my co-workers has had in making our initiatives successful over these past four years and excited to continue our journey! Go team!
 
Sincerely,
Kim Elena
POSTED IN: sustainability
Do microlots mater to producers?
The information presented in "Do Microlots Matter to Producers" derives from a study conducted by Counter Culture Coffee and published in March 2012 titled, "The Social Impacts of Microlots: A Coffee Cooperative Case Study in Ihuamaca, Peru." The study aimed to measure the social impacts of microlot selection on members of the CENFROCAFE cooperative in five Peruvian communities where Counter Culture Coffee has purchased coffee over the last five years.
 
The hypothesis prior to the study was that microlot coffee production may have both positive and negative impacts on communities, with positive impacts including recognition for effort and a return on investment in quality and negative impacts including feelings of envy and competition among fellow community members. The study design aimed to clarify the elements of microlot coffee production that contribute to its success and the areas that need improvement. Data was collected through 13 semi-structured, open-ended, qualitative interviews with microlot-producing and non-microlot-producing members of the cooperative, two interviews with CENFROCAFE staff members who work in these communities, and one facilitated community meeting.
 
We examined common themes and differences among members, as well as among members and Cenfrocafe representatives. Both microlot-producing members and non-microlot-producing members expressed support for the program and its continuation. Price incentives and pride emerged as the primary motivators for exerting extra effort, and members unanimously feel supportive of the microlot achievement of other community members. At the same time, all members expressed a desire to see the program evolve to address some commonly-cited areas for improvement, including the cupping and scoring system used by CENFROCAFE and Counter Culture Coffee and the on-farm infrastructure required for production of high-quality coffee. CENFROCAFE's staff demonstrated even more positive feelings overall, with a desire to create more, similar opportunities for growers in other communities of members as a top priority.
 
Limitations of the study include: small sample size, lack of diversity among sample, consideration for cultural congruency of the research design, and the survey instrument. Recommendations for enhancements of the partnership between CENFROCAFE and members as well as for CENFROCAFE and Counter Culture Coffee are addressed. Suggestions for future research are explored with an emphasis on a more participatory approach and an additional focus on economic impact of microlots.
 
 
Saludos,
Kim Elena
In Durham, Counter Culture helped to cover the cost of fiber cellulose attic insulation to increase the climate efficiency of Nathan Brown's home.
Last year, 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.
 
In November, I received matching support to help cover the cost of fiber cellulose attic insulation to increase the climate efficiency of my home – reducing the consumption of heating and cooling resources and costs.
 
The matching fund helped employees with a wide range of projects in 2011. Josh Dugue in Chicago bought a bike to rely less on a car for transportation. Ben Helfen in Atlanta bought an old-style, zero-emission push mower. In Asheville, Counter Culture co-funded Mary Christensen's worm composting and garden supplies.
 
Other projects 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 – a great start to the program. We'll keep you updated in 2012 as more projects arise.
 
Sincerely,
Nathan
POSTED IN: sustainability
We reached our five-year goal in only two years and achieved carbon neutrality at the end of 2011.
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 – we 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.
 
Every once in a blue moon, a project surprises you by progressing more quickly than anticipated and this Counter Culture's carbon neutrality is a great example of that variety of rare surprise: I'm thrilled to announce that it we reached 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.
 
For more about our road to carbon neutrality, please see my post in our Sustainability section.
 
Saludos,
Kim Elena
 
POSTED IN: sustainability
We reached our five-year goal in only two years and achieved carbon neutrality at the end of 2011.
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.
 
Every once in a blue moon, a project surprises you by progressing more quickly than anticipated and this Counter Culture's carbon neutrality is a great example of that variety of rare surprise: I'm thrilled to announce that it we reached 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.
 
Let's take a step back to the measurement, though, shall we? 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. I spent the first half of 2010 working closely with Climate Smart and collecting data from different areas of our business to understand the whole picture of our emissions, from the large impact of long-distance employee commutes around our NC headquarters to the even larger impact of our international and domestic air travel. Needless to say, we have many opportunities for improvement!
 
Aida Batlle picking coffee cherries in El Salvador.
Having established a baseline, we turned our attention to potential areas of reduction, which is daunting in any circumstances and particularly challenging during a period of growth. As we neared the end of 2011, we realized that we hadn't made progress in energy reduction anywhere (with the notable exception of our Atlanta Training Center, where Ben Helfen successfully halved our office's energy bills over the prior year by powering down machines, turning off lights when they weren't in use, and actively managing the thermostat!).
 
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. TWP was incredibly generous with their time and expertise when I was working on Finca Mauritania's carbon footprint. They distinguished themselves from other offset providers by offering to implement a project building fuel-efficient stoves with a cooperative that Counter Culture works with in Marcala, Honduras. The COMSA cooperative is excited by the project, and I am practically giddy to think that we can integrate coffee-buying and carbon-offset-buying.
 
The next few months will see us collecting greenhouse gas data for the 2011 calendar year and reporting it in our annual Sustainability Scorecard, as well as continuing to deepen our relationship with TWP. I'm heading to Marcala in February, and I can't wait to see how the project is going and learn about stove-building from the experts.
 
Saludos,
Kim Elena
POSTED IN: sustainability
Counter Culture Coffee, Peregrine Espresso, and Finca Mauritania collaborated on a groundbreaking pilot project to fight global climate change and protect the soil, water, and biodiversity of the Santa Ana, El Salvador-based coffee farm Finca Mauritania.
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.
 
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.
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.
 
Saludos,
Kim Elena
POSTED IN: sustainability
Our mission is to achieve real environmental, social, and fiscal sustainability. Doing so requires long-term dedication, constant innovation, and perseverance. Photo by Jeff McArthur.
Since 2007, we have published an annual scorecard charting our progress toward social, environmental, and fiscal sustainability goals. Our business spans continents, cultures, and communities, and the data we measure reflects the breadth of our efforts across these divides: from investment in coffee-producing communities to the environmental impact of our roasting facility in Durham, NC.
 
When we created the scorecard, we selected metrics that would be meaningful and challenging over the course of many years, and, as we have continued to learn, adjust our energy and our categories to reflect improved sustainability strategies.
 
This year's scorecard includes new paper and energy use reduction goals while updating our progress on the five-year goals we set in 2009 as part of our CUPS initiative, which include measures of employee, producer, and customer satisfaction, as well as our company's footprint through the miles driven by our employees.
 
We love to share our thoughts about sustainability and believe in the benefits of collaboration, so please, share your feedback, questions, and ideas with us anytime!
 
 
Best,
Nathan
POSTED IN: sustainability
We're honored to be a finalist for the Institute for Sustainable Development's 2011 Green Plus Sustainable Enterprise of the Year Awards.
We're honored to be a finalist for the Institute for Sustainable Development's 2011 Green Plus Sustainable Enterprise of the Year Awards.

In addition to environmental efforts, the Green Plus awards recognize organizations "for their success in balancing strong business, community, and environmental practices." Please take a look around our Sustainability section for more information about our efforts to strike that balance.

As a finalist, we're also eligible to win a Green Plus People’s Choice Award. Voting is currently open.

Thanks,
Nathan
POSTED IN: sustainability

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