What is Carbon Negative Coffee? The Environmental Impact of Your Favorite Drink
Ah, yes. Another article about coffee. But this isn’t any ordinary coffee article. I’m sure you’ve seen the negative and positive effects of coffee crawling all over the internet. But what is carbon negative coffee? This is a term you’ve probably heard less of and that’s because very few companies actually sell it. Let’s get right into it!
I personally have been drinking this decadent drink for well over 12 years. I couldn’t imagine my bright mornings without it. I’ve often wondered about the negative side effects of coffee, however, I am not a heavy drinker. So I figured that in small quantities, coffee is great for me! But is it great for my environment?
In the most recent year of my life, I’ve been trying my best to live a life of sustainability. Being conscious of how the products I’m using are affecting my environment and my body. I’ve switched to many non-plastic uses of everyday things such as straws, water bottles, Ziploc bags, and the list goes on.
I switched from using the single-use coffee cups when I go to cafes, to bringing in my own mug to be refilled and reused. I figured I’d like to do as much as I can to make a small difference for the earth whenever possible. Until one day I stopped to think, “I wonder if the actual coffee I’m drinking has a negative impact on my environment?” That’s where my research began. And the results were shocking.
According to the NCA (National Coffee Association), 63% of American adults drink coffee on a daily basis, according to data shown from 2018 at the 2020 NCA National Convention. That’s well over half of our population! These daily drinkers range in drinking coffee from one, two, three, to more cups per day in their life. In America alone, we consume about 400 million cups of coffee per year.
Just knowing this information was enough for me to seriously question just how much are these cups of coffee having an impact on our environment and living conditions? If something is being consumed and produced this much, it’s definitely worth looking into and learning about. To fully understand the impact, we need to briefly look at coffee production in all its essence and understand it to the best of our ability. We can learn about this by looking at the beginning of the supply chain
According to NewsWeek, growing and harvesting coffee beans requires energy, and that energy releases carbon into our atmosphere. Research shows that just 1 pound of roasted coffee produces a whopping 11 pounds of carbon dioxide into our air. I know for a fact that I go through more than one pound a month, do you? An unnamed source on Wikipedia estimated a total of 12 million pounds of coffee production yearly. So, you do the math on that.
In addition to this, coffee shops are upping this carbon footprint by requiring energy to operate their machinery, providing heating and cooling of coffee, and machines that need to be plugged in, as well as paper and plastic products beyond cups. This accumulation of carbon footprint has been negatively impacting our environment and living conditions for years.
It’s not something we actively think about when stepping out to treat ourselves to a hot cup of Americano, or a cool Frappuccino on a sunny day. And it’s not really any fault of ours. Seeing as how we are brought up in our society to ignore the little things that are seemingly harmless. However, if we can just notice one small thing at a time, we can make a huge difference in how we live our lives, and therefore treating our Earth with a little more care.
The Greenhouse Gas
Sciencing.com describes carbon dioxide as a naturally occurring greenhouse gas, which is what it is. Gases such as this help keep the earth warm by absorbing the sun’s energy and by redirecting energy back to the Earth’s surface. This is why Earth is such a lovely place for us to live in and keeps us warm enough throughout the year to live a healthy life. Other planets don’t have such luxury which is why there is life on ours!
However, a dramatic increase in the carbon dioxide in our environment creates an overabundance of greenhouse gases that trap additional heat. Additional heat is not what our environment needs, and can be harmful in a number of ways. Carbon Dioxide is being over-produced by the burning of fossil fuels into the atmosphere using substances such as coal, oil, wood, and solid waste, in addition to the process that is used to make the coffee that we drink.
According to National Geographic, our carbon dioxide levels are at a record high as of 2018. This is causing a shift in climate change that contributes to global warming. This, in turn, causes extreme events in our environment such as shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising sea levels, melting of polar ice caps, among many other things.
Global warming has been an issue for as long as we can remember. Earth has already warmed by about 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit, since the 19th century, before the industry started to boom. While we experience the effects, we’re on our way toward 1.5 degrees C (2.7 F) by as early as 2030. Why is half a degree so drastic?
Take This Little Example
According to the Environmental Defense Fund, a warmer world – even by half a degree Celcius – has more evaporation, leading to more water in the atmosphere. Such changing conditions put our agriculture, health, and water supply at risk. The EDF gives this great example:
“Picture a North Carolina cotton farm that’s been around since 1960, with global average temperatures rising by roughly half a degree since it grew its first crop. The increased evaporation and additional moisture to the atmosphere has led to 30% more intense rain during heavy downpours in that part of the U.S.Then a hurricane like 2018’s Florence — already strengthened by warmer oceans and higher seas — dumps this excess rainfall on the farm. The crops get more flooded and damaged than they did half a century ago. It’s how you go from half-degree of warming to economic hardship.”
On a side note: I highly recommend you head on over to Edf.org and sign up to their mailing list to stay up to date with alerts on how you can help them make a change.
The burning of fossil fuels and the emission of carbon dioxide is not where it ends. In addition to this, complete forests have been cleared in the tropics to make way for coffee sun plantations, which also pollute the nearby waters by pesticides and herbicides, erosion, and loss of habitat, according to ethicalcoffee.net. That is why there are some coffee companies that claim to be “Carbon Neutral,” which when you hear it, sounds like their coffee production doesn’t emit any carbon dioxide. But can a company really emit 0% carbon when producing coffee? That’s where it gets tricky and confusing.
A carbon-neutral business is one that, through the sum of its activities, does not add to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But determining a company’s net emissions is anything but simple business. When a company claims it’s carbon-neutral, there is really nothing to back them up, except the fact that we know they are trying. In order to get their carbon neutral certification, an outside company has to assess their coffee production process and come up with the fact that this company is doing it’s best practices to limit the amount of carbon dioxide they are emitting into the air through their production.
This does not affect the consumer, unless the coffee is being sold at a higher price, and may be worth it if the company is trustworthy. Coffee production is a wonderful thing, however, it’s also becoming extremely detrimental to our life here on earth. This research made me a bit queasy, knowing that my enjoyment of my daily cup was actually contributing to things like global warming, and much more. How can I enjoy it after this?
Carbon neutrality didn’t seem very solid to me, based on the fact that we can’t be sure if these companies are even doing anything differently to truly improve our environments and living conditions. That’s when I did a little more digging..
Now the real question answered: what is carbon negative coffee?
I shortly thereafter learned about what’s called “Carbon Negative Coffee.” It already sounds better, right? Well, it is. Although we can’t change the complete impact of coffee production on our planet and atmosphere, there are somethings we can do to make it better. Carbon negative coffee is made with the environment in mind. Companies who claim to be carbon negative, are not only reducing their Co2 emissions, but they are taking actions to eliminate excess Co2 from our air. Coffee farms that use this method reduce the amount of carbon dioxide with their production method to less than half of what’s already being produced. One such company I came across (who’s coffee I LOVED and I’m currently drinking), is Tiny Footprint Coffee.
The dark roast coffee I buy is made in Nicaragua. Their CO2 emissions per pound of coffee are 4 lbs, which is 70% less CO2 than other coffee production companies. (Remember when I shared the statistic that regular coffee companies produce 11 pounds of Co2?!)
In addition, every purchase from Tiny footprint donates a portion to the restoration in Ecuador’s Mindo Cloud Rain Forest. Over time, these trees will remove 54 lbs of CO2 from the atmosphere. Doing the math here, that’s more carbon dioxide eliminated than produced. (Hence, carbon negative.) There are a few others out there who claim they are doing the same thing, however, they don’t have as many resources to back it up, like what I’ve found with Tiny Footprint. The idea here is eliminating Co2 from the air in the process, to come up with carbon negativity, to repair and fix our environment.
You can read more about Tiny Footprint’s mission, and the Mindo Cloud Rain forest HERE. In addition, Tiny Footprint’s coffee comes in eco-friendly packaging (for the one-pound bags) and is organic and fair trade. That’s right up my alley! Not to mention it costs about the same as a 1 pound bag of coffee bought from Starbucks and similar companies. Again, up my alley ? Only, you’re getting better quality coffee from a company that is trying their best to help us and the environment along with it. I love it when words get put into action. I like to see companies making a claim and then doing something about it. It’s easy to say “we’re carbon neutral,” but taking the action to restore trees in the rain forest to help eliminate excess Co2 emissions, now that’s great!
I’d like to note that I’m not trying to promote this company in any way, and I’m not getting paid for it. (Basically, this is not an Ad). I actually believe in it, because they not only claim to reduce their carbon footprint, but their proceeds go to actually making a difference to eliminate Co2 from our air for a happier and healthier life for us. And it helps that the coffee is delicious!
I’ve been buying the 3-pound bag (which comes in plastic wrapping, unfortunately), and grinding the coffee myself using my handy dandy Ninja blender. I then place it in my amazing stainless steel pour-over filter and drink my delicacy with just a little less guilt. (Just a little – because all-in-all I feel I still have no way to prove this, regardless of the claims.) I can just try my best with what I have, and find as many ways as I can to help the environment. This is the sentiment I get from everything I try to do with sustainability. It’s the effort and intention that counts. As long as you care and try your best, you are already doing so much more than you were, and that counts!
My complete coffee-making process!
Healthier Planet, Healthier Us
Coffee is a delicacy that is hard to just quit altogether. While we can’t all be perfect and reduce the actual production of carbon dioxide from coffee to 0%, we can be smart about where we make our purchases, the research we do, the knowledge we gain, and the companies we choose to support.
Carbon negative coffee is an excellent choice here. I have yet to find another coffee producer that promises the same, with the same quality and price point. If you do have some other resources out there, I’d love to hear about them. In the meantime, here’s to a cup of coffee, and an Earth that we can be proud to live in!
Tiny FootPrint Coffee Beans
You can use this link to purchase Tiny Footprint Coffee directly on Amazon. If you have a prime membership shipping is free, and it’s a great deal. This link is for the 1 pound of Nicaragua Segovia Dark Roast. You can also choose their Cold Brew Elixir (sounds good, but I haven’t tried it yet) and also opt to purchase their 3-pound bag.
Stainless Steel Pour-Over
This stainless steel pour-over has been an absolute lifesaver for me. I have used it every single day for the past year and it’s shown no signs of wear. It’s dishwasher safe as well and super easy to clean. Put in your ground coffee, pour hot water, and voila! At the price point, it’s the best deal for something you can use over and over.
** Amazon Affiliate Links do generate some income for me from whatever you purchase. You are in no way obligated to make these purchases through Amazon to support me. However, if you have found some value in the information in my blog, your support helps me keep writing for our community! I thank you deeply for reading, sharing, or supporting this blog in any way <3