Why Should Specialty Coffee Roasters Aim To Become Carbon Neutral?

Nick Sebas
February 1, 2021
carbon neutral

In December 2019, the European Commission set out its plans to make Europe an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Climate change has developed into a very serious global issue, which means the plans are seen as both an urgent challenge and an opportunity to build a brighter future for all.

To achieve this goal, the coffee industry must do everything it can to lower its carbon emissions and offset any carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Known as “carbon neutrality”, it involves companies and individuals at every stage of the supply chain making changes to the way they operate.

For specialty coffee roasters, there are a number of ways of becoming carbon neutral, from investing in energy-efficient machinery to funding carbon offsetting initiatives. 

Read on to find out more about the benefits of becoming carbon neutral and how specialty coffee roasters can work towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

See also: What Are The Differences Between Arabica And Robusta Coffee?

solar panels

What Does “Carbon Neutral” Mean?

Carbon neutral is a condition in which there has been no net increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the atmosphere as a result of a company’s activities. A carbon neutral company, therefore, can be described as one whose carbon emissions are net zero.

CO2 is a major threat to the planet due to the greenhouse effect: excessive CO2 in the atmosphere creates a cover that traps and absorbs the sun’s heat, causing the temperature of the Earth to increase. 

This leads to changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels, and risk of extinction for wildlife, among other problems. Since 2000, the level of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen by more than 11%.

Carbon neutrality is typically achieved through a combination of reducing carbon emissions and a process known as “offsetting”. This is when a company compensates for each tonne of CO2 produced by ensuring there is one tonne less in the atmosphere. There are a number of ways of offsetting CO2, from planting trees to investing in initiatives.

To measure carbon emissions, businesses can input data, such as travel, logistics, and operations, into carbon footprint calculators. When doing this, it’s important to be as accurate as possible to ensure that all carbon emissions associated with a business are accounted for.

In the coffee sector, a number of businesses have already set ambitious targets to become carbon neutral within the next few years. In September 2020, coffee machine manufacturer Nespresso said that it would go “carbon neutral” across its supply chain by 2022, while green coffee exporter Caravela Coffee has set its sights on 2025.

“Climate change is a reality and our future depends on going further and faster on our sustainability commitments,” says Guillaume Le Cunff, CEO of Nespresso. “I truly believe that both our business and the coffee industry can be a force for good in the world by tackling this pressing issue.”

roasting coffee carbon neutral

Why Should Specialty Coffee Roasters Aim To Become Carbon Neutral?

According to research by The Conversation, growing just one kilogram of arabica coffee and exporting it to the UK can produce as much as 15kg of CO2. When you consider that in the UK approximately 95 million cups of coffee are consumed per day, this makes for worrying statistics.

However, with more sustainable practices at each stage of the journey from seed to cup, these emissions can be cut by almost 80%. For specialty coffee roasters, this is important not only for reducing their carbon footprint, but also for enticing customers.

Research suggests that consumers are more likely to pay premium prices for products when they believe their choice has an impact on the mitigation of climate change. Specialty coffee consumers in particular are less price sensitive than non-specialty coffee consumers. This means roasters can increase prices to cover off-setting initiatives without risk of losing customers.

If roasters make efforts to become carbon neutral, they can gain a competitive edge and attract customers who prioritise sustainability. Displaying carbon neutral certifications on packaging can help a roaster’s coffee stand out on the shelf and create a product that customers are proud to buy. 

Alongside sustainability certifications such as Forest Alliance, FairTrade, and OK Compost, carbon neutral certifications can be hugely beneficial for promoting a positive brand image. On their website, CarbonNeutral Protocol state that successful companies are those that realise action on climate change is critical to their success. 

They write: “These companies reap the rewards of increased revenue by differentiating themselves in the market.”

carbon offsetting

Offsetting And Reducing: How Specialty Roasters Can Become Carbon Neutral.

Recent studies found that roasting coffee accounts for approximately 15% of the carbon footprint of coffee’s journey from seed to cup. However, there are a number of actions roasters can take to become more carbon neutral.

Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters used a two-pronged approach to become the first carbon neutral roasters in Scotland. After calculating their total carbon emissions over a 12-month period, they estimated they would have to plant 180 trees to offset the 189,000kg of carbon they had produced. 

They decided to partner with Trees For Life, a charity based in the Scottish Highlands, to offset their carbon emissions by planting 155 trees. However, as this was not quite enough, they also switched to 100% compostable kilo coffee bags and a fully electric car for all local deliveries to reduce their total CO2 output.

Specialty roasters may also consider investing in greener machinery to reduce their emissions. In an article for Forbes, roaster manufacturers Bellwether state that switching to an energy-efficient roaster can reduce the carbon footprint of each roast cycle by as much as 90%. They also state that if a roaster uses renewable energy sources, they can save more than 150 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

Sustainable packaging is another effective way of reducing carbon emissions. Replacing single-use plastics, which require significant amounts of energy to produce and have a very short life cycle, with recyclable or biodegradable materials such as kraft paper and polylatic acid (PLA) will contribute to creating a more eco-friendly product.

coffee packaging

For specialty coffee roasters, it’s important to work towards carbon neutrality by reducing your carbon footprint and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions wherever possible.

The team at MTPak Coffee can help you work towards becoming carbon neutral with our sustainable packaging solutions. Not only do we offer recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable materials, we also offer low volatile organic compound (VOC) water-based inks, which limit carbon emissions during manufacture.

For more information on our sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team here.

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