Coffee’s Carbon Footprint

It’s not easy to understand carbon footprints. They are complex and most of the offset and credit trading markets are referred to as “schemes”. Global governing bodies, academics and businesses are and will continue to work on standardized measurements and reporting systems.

But the general public doesn’t have time to learn all the details! And as important as it is, trying to visualize complicated volumes of invisible gas doesn’t come naturally to most people. So to start, we’ll try to keep things simple …

Simplified Coffee Supply Chain

By breaking down the supply chain, we can easily identify coffee’s major sources of emissions. These include the production of green coffee (which involves growing and multiple stages of processing), shipping & transport, and the consumption of coffee (of which roasting, packaging and milk have the heaviest footprint).

How Big is Coffee’s Carbon Footprint?

For every 1 pound of coffee produced and consumed, more than 100 pounds of CO2e emissions are generated.

(C02e stands for the Carbon Dioxide Equivalent Emissions, which consist of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone gases.

Coffees Carbon Footprint Involves Deforestation

More than 16,000 acres of forest wood is used every year to process coffee in Central America. This forest loss is used to fuel inefficient wood burning dryers involved in coffee processing. This doesn’t include the land-clearing required to plant the coffee farms. Pictured in photo for scale is engineer, Raul Raudales, of the Mesoamerican Development Institute.

The supply math has been done. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forest are lost every year to produce coffee, similar to other agricultural industries. In 2020 the Sustainable Coffee Challenge published that, “Coffee producers will have to triple their production by 2050 to meet demand and 60 percent of the area suitable to grow coffee in 2050 is covered by forest.”

At this rate of increased demand coupled with deforestation, Honduras (home to Central America’s largest forests and where the Zero Footprint Coffee program’s research is based) is on track to lose all remaining forests within the next 30 years.

Given all of our data, we can extrapolate that no coffee or organization today is having enough impact to prevent a global atmospheric temperature rise past 1.5 degrees Celsius and this is bad news. The good news is that coffee-drinkers can immediately start solving this problem by choosing a coffee with an on-the-ground solution — in other words, by signing up for Zero Footprint Coffee. Please do so now.