If you’re starting a new business, looking to improve one already on the market, or looking to revamp one as old as these United States, greenifying is definitely something you should consider. Not only is it environmentally and socially responsible, you know, ensuring the future of our planet and our species, it is also on trend. This generation of coffee consumers is looking for transparency in their products, it’s looking for fairness to workers and animals and the earth. It is no longer a liberal, hippie mindset that considers one’s impact on the Earth. As the world’s governments pass more and more restrictions and goals, the world’s populations become more and more aware of the problem of climate change.
What can you do as a coffee roaster to contribute to the Earth’s future and stop contributing to its demise?
The problem for the coffee industry is that the problem affects us and we affect the problem. The environmental impact of climate change could reduce up to half the coffee-growing land before the next half century. Coffee growers are migrating their farms, generally up mountainsides for better altitude, temperatures, shade, etc. That results in deforestation, however, which only serves to exacerbate the climate problem. Additionally, coffee production produces greenhouse gasses; in fact, coffee roasting is attributed with 53 percent of the coffee industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, along with cafes. The use of water and electricity and the use of take-away materials are the biggest culprits.
Of course, it’s hard to use sustainable energy if you’re not in the right location for it. Some roasters are making the change to solar energy, however. Depending on where you live, you could receive benefits from your government for such a conversion. There is a coffee roaster in Wisconsin that has converted to total solar power, benefiting from a nice tax credit for doing so. Some of their equipment is still reliant on natural gas and electricity, but they’ve definitely minimized their footprint.
Conserving energy can also be as simple as turning off any machine that doesn’t need to be on when the store closes. You could also consider LED lights which are more energy efficient than fluorescent and incandescent lights.
Counter Culture Coffee in North Carolina has gone so far as to put out a report on its sustainability efforts and successes. They track all the emissions their business accrues, including airplane travel and roasting. They are an example of where solar energy wasn’t the best option; North Carolina doesn’t offer the same incentives for such a change, which can make it difficult for a small, independent business. Look into your area’s laws and incentives specifically when embarking on this journey. They circumvent this oversight in their state’s laws by buying wind energy and carbon emission credits, meaning that they commit to a certain amount of sustainable energy annually.
Shipping is one way that carbon emissions are greatly multiplied. When your business starts to grow and you begin shipping all over the country (and the world) you’ll want to focus on being able to expand your business’ physical locations. This will allow for shorter shipping because you will have shops closer to customers; Counter Culture opened a shop on the West Coast to do just this. They are represented bi-coastally, which means their shipping footprint is lower.
In line with tracking emissions, the Specialty Coffee Association has created a START program, a software that tracks corporate energy usage. One of the first steps to bettering your environmental impact is in knowing what it is, to begin with. You can gauge what environmental impact your coffee is having as soon as it is shipped to your country. You can then adjust your coffee sourcing, energy usage and commit to buying energy offsets to neutralize your footprint.
As a local roaster, you could offer bicycle delivery to businesses within the immediate area. You should also encourage carpooling and public transportation usage when possible, or walking/biking to work. You could also invest in vehicles that run on clean fuel for your deliveries.
There are non-profit organizations you can partner with to contribute to environmental protection and refurbishment; you’d be surprised how many customers would be willing to contribute an extra 10 cents per cup of coffee in order to help plant trees or something.
There are devices for your roasting machine that can ensure that natural gas is burning only when absolutely necessary, so as to not produce excessive emissions.
There are also energy-efficient machines out there that you might consider incorporating into your budget; being green sells itself these days and you’ll likely make your money back in no time.
You could consider participating in the single-serve coffee trend; this produces less coffee waste per capita.
There are also temperature control systems that adjust temperatures for optimal energy efficiency; no more forgetting you have the heat on until you’re sweating.
If you’re able to, you could incorporate natural water collection systems for your restrooms and any other non-potable water supply.
Having a shop with big windows in a well-lit area can help you minimize your electricity usage.
If you have the option to plant a garden near your facility (or on the roof) this will further contribute positively to the environment. You would also be able to compost to fertilize said garden, thus minimizing your waste. Another way to minimize waste (and to add more ethical points to your roaster) is to find a way to donate your unsold goods at the end of each day or to recycle them in some way. Stale pastries can make excellent bread pudding, for example. Though controversial among coffee connoisseurs, you could also keep your unsold coffee at night and turn it into a cold brew, even if it’s just for staff.
You should also offer to recycle and adhere to recycling laws and efforts for your area.
Get your customers involved; offer freebies or discounts for customers that bring in their own cups or reuse their coffee cup sleeve. Post signs by trash cans that inform them that you’ll gladly take back napkins or sleeves that are in good shape. If people are hanging out, encourage them to get any refills in the same cup they already have.
You can also incorporate paper bags, utilize reused materials for all of your paper products, and encourage staff to use washable containers for their beverage/food consumption.
Run water only when necessary. Invest in environmentally friendly cleaning products when possible.