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Global Warming: Measuring a Cup of Coffee's Carbon Footprint

By    |   Tuesday, 12 May 2015 11:47 AM

Carbon footprint, greenhouse gases, rising sea levels and global warming – these are all common terms that are directly influencing the cup of coffee you are holding in your hand. The famous brew is as susceptible to the impact of global warming as is any other plant or animal on the planet. Here are four things that are increasing coffee's carbon footprint.

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1. Boiling Water and Adding Milk
When you boil the kettle to make yourself a cup of coffee and you very carefully only boil the water you need, then your carbon footprint is 21 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). This is almost doubled if you add milk. If you add some froth or foam, then the figure increases even further, according to an article in the Guardian. For the person that wants to save some of the Earth they could boil only the water they need, cut back on the milk they use and aim for a gas stove to do it all on in the first place.

2. Roasters More at Fault
Research has shown that it isn't actually the farm that causes the carbon footprint in the coffee lifecycle, it's actually the roaster, according to a study done for the Business Association of Latin American Studies. A large proportion of the work done on the coffee farm is by hand with limited use of machinery, certainly less than expected, but the roaster uses plenty of  machine power, many people and runs all year round. The cost of the commute, the power required to run the factory, the offices, and the importers flying around the world in search of coffee – these all add to a heavy tally on the carbon footprint sheet.

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3. Blame the Local Coffee Shop

It is the coffee shop and the retail environment that really tacks onto the cost of a cup of coffee on the carbon footprint scales. The amount of energy required to run the cafe is extensive and includes everything from the bathroom lights to the grinders and cappuccino makers. Add to this the paper thrown away, plastic spoons binned after two stirs and the sugar packets gathering in landfill, and you can see why the coffee shop makes that cup of coffee have such a heavy carbon footprint, says the foodie website Serious Eats.

4. Chemicals Cause Both Gains and Losses

Agrochemicals are used to improve the quality of coffee beans, to protect them from insects and diseases and to ensure they grow fast and healthy. There is plenty of debate around these chemicals already, especially around damaged water supplies and toxicity, but another impact that they have is on the carbon footprint of your cup of coffee, according to a report from the website Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform. These chemicals don't appear out of nowhere. They have to be manufactured and this process is expensive for the planet.

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Carbon footprint, greenhouse gases, rising sea levels and global warming – these are all common terms that are directly influencing the cup of coffee you are holding in your hand.
global warming coffee
Tuesday, 12 May 2015 11:47 AM
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