Easy ways for coffee roasters to reduce their carbon footprints

Amelia Cooper
September 21, 2022
Easy ways for coffee roasters to reduce their carbon footprints

The concept of carbon footprints continues to become essential for businesses around the world. 

It is no longer just a convenient measurement of a company’s sustainability. A carbon footprint has the power to make or break a brand’s reputation. And, nowhere is this more true than in the specialty coffee sector. 

It is essential for all who are involved with specialty coffee, from farmers to cafes and everyone in between, to invest in improving their carbon footprint. 

It is not only the best way to retain the support of your customer base and remain competitive in the market, but also protects the future of the entire industry. 

Read on to discover easy and effective ways for coffee roasters to reduce their carbon footprint. 

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An image of two coffee farmers drying green coffee beans in an article on how roasters can reduce their carbon footprints

What is the carbon footprint of the coffee industry?

The term ‘carbon footprint’ refers to the sum of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with all the activities of a person or entity.

It is used to determine how sustainable, or unsustainable, a person, company, business, or even a country is. Usually, it is assessed by calculating the amount of CO2 that is produced, minus the amount that is actively removed from the atmosphere. 

Carbon reduction can be achieved in a number of ways. For example, by planting trees, or producing surplus renewable energy. Additionally, outsourcing emissions to a third party is a particularly popular option – despite the controversy involved.

By discovering what its carbon footprint is, a company can immediately understand how much its practices exacerbate the current climate crisis. 

From there, a greater level of transparency can be achieved. This makes it significantly easier for consumers to make informed decisions about the brands they choose to support. 

As consumers become increasingly eco-conscious, companies are unable to hide poor sustainability standards from public view.

In the specialty coffee sector, contributors to carbon emissions span every stage from seed to cup.

Factors that contribute to the carbon footprint of coffee include farming equipment and the transportation of both the green beans and the roast coffee. Additionally, the electricity used during roasting and grinding, as well as brewing, must be considered.

Finally, the entire manufacturing process of the coffee packaging and takeaway cups must be added as well.

According to UCL research, one shot of espresso has an average carbon footprint of 0.28kg. However, this rises to between 0.41 kg and 0.55 kg for milk-based coffees.

To put this into perspective, one standard 50g bar of dark chocolate has a carbon footprint of around 0.95 kg, while a bag of mixed nuts is around 0.05 kg.

An image of a smoking coffee roaster in an article on how roasters can reduce their carbon footprints

Why is it essential for roasters to reduce their carbon footprint?

It is essential for coffee roasters to reduce their carbon footprint for three main reasons: to preserve brand identity, keep and grow their customer base, and to protect the industry.

A high carbon footprint can prove detrimental to a brand’s reputation, as being known for a high carbon footprint can hinder sales.

A 2022 survey shows 34% of consumers stopped purchasing certain brands or products due to ethical or sustainability related concerns.

For many roasters, improving their carbon footprint may require significant financial and time investments. That said, failure to do this may have knock-on effects for profit, and could put the brakes on any expansion plans.

By adopting greener initiatives, roasters can become a brand consumers turn to when they are looking for a more sustainable alternative to their current provider.

Consumer studies show the initial investment to improve sustainability standards can unlock significant return by garnering the support of new conscientious customers who buy from brands who reflect their environmental values.

One of the most important factors to consider is the need to future-proof the industry. 

The effects of climate change are affecting the coffee industry in inconceivable ways, jeopardising the growth of arabica coffee. If carbon emissions are not reduced, the specialty coffee sector may shrink significantly.

Coffee crops are notoriously sensitive to fluctuating weather conditions, and as global temperatures rise, more coffee crops will fail. 

Notably, studies suggest that by 2050, about half of the land used to grow high-quality arabica coffee will be unproductive. This could force many coffee farms to cease production, while those who survive will be unable to meet current demand.

As a result, the evolving complexity and unpredictability of coffee farming will drive up coffee prices until it becomes a luxury product. 

When this happens, coffee will no longer be the daily staple – which countless consumers enjoy and millions of people depend on for their livelihood – that it is today.

An image of a coffee roastery in an article on how roasters can reduce their carbon footprints

How can roasters reduce their carbon footprint?

The global efforts of businesses, governments and individuals have already achieved monumental successes in carbon reduction.

America aims to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 50 to 52% by 2030, while the EU will do so by a minimum of 55%, and China aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060.

In support of this transition, a survey reveals 23% of consumers would pay more for goods and services to ensure the brands that create them commit to reducing carbon footprint.

One of the most effective ways for roasters to reduce their carbon emissions is to adopt low carbon roasting methods. For instance, they can invest in energy efficient equipment, or  switch to renewable energy sources.

Roasters can also install solar panels to their establishments, using them to power equipment, lighting, and other business operations. 

Similarly, improving energy efficiency within the entire site is simple and highly effective. For instance, roasters can reconsider how long lights are left on, the energy efficiency of water heating systems, and how much energy is required to operate facilities.

Additionally, roasters must consider how efficient they are at storing hot water and their green beans. 

While this practice is not currently widespread, roasters should keep an eye out for low carbon varieties. These refer to coffee varieties that are grown and harvested sustainably with minimal environmental impact.

For instance, this could be a species that requires low levels of water, and can be grown alongside other carbon dioxide-reducing plants. 

Roasters can also work closely with their coffee producers to encourage them to adopt greener farm practices.

An image of a barista pouring roast coffee into a hopper from a kraft paper coffee bag in an article on how roasters can reduce their carbon footprints

Finally, roasters can reduce the landfill waste their products produce. This can be done by improving recycling facilities across the roastery, and maintaining equipment to minimise the waste generated.

Furthermore, investing in biodegradable, compostable, or recyclable coffee packaging and takeaway cups can be one of the most effective ways to improve sustainability credentials.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options made from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy.

More so, we give our roasters complete control over the design process by allowing them to build their own coffee bags.

Our design team is available to help you create the ideal coffee packaging. Plus, we are able to custom-print coffee bags using innovative digital printing technology, with a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time.

MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.

For more information on sustainable, custom-printed coffee packaging, contact our team.

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