Green Up Your Coffee House!

Green Up Your Coffee House!

It’s Earth Day 2008. The climate crisis is accelerating, vast sheets of ice are collapsing, islands in the Pacific have been drowned in rising seas, and weather the world over is growing increasingly violent. If we don’t take immediate action — all of us, and right now — we face a future unlike anything we’ve known. But let’s be honest… running a successful and (ideally) profitable coffee house is something of a high-wire act at the best of times. And — economically-speaking — these aren’t the best of times. You’ve got a budget to watch; a creeping expense column can throw things out of kilter. Fast. It’s not going to do you or your environmentally-minded customers any good for you to bankrupt yourself in the name of ecology. That said, there are savings to be found in running a more efficient and sustainable coffee house, coffee shop or espresso bar. Some of these savings can be realized pretty quickly, others require a longer view. If you can, don’t just consider today’s bottom line, but tomorrow’s. And next year’s. And — for goodness sake — don’t lose sight of the ultimate bottom line here… the planet’s climate is in crisis. And it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the viability of specialty coffee is at the forefront of that crisis. In greening up your coffee house, there are (at least) three distinct areas where you can bring your efforts to bear: reducing energy, increasing sustainability, and making it easier for your customers to go green, too. We’ll look at each in turn. There’s a lot to slog through here, so...
Bloggle Redux: Green Up Your Coffee Cup!

Bloggle Redux: Green Up Your Coffee Cup!

On the eve of Earth Day, here’s an oh-so-topical post from the Bloggle archives. Read it, already? Good! I challenge you to give it another review and see how your efforts to green up over the last year stack up. (And feel free to post a comment bragging on how you’ve done!) Tomorrow, a new Earth Day post: Green Up Your Coffee House. In the face of the now very real threat of global climate change, this year’s recognition of Earth Day carries with it a certain sense of urgency. It’s time to change some habits. Permanently. The good news? Greening up your coffee cup doesn’t mean sacrificing the quality of your coffee! Here’s some tips to get you started… Enough of the paper filters, already. If you enjoy your coffee in a press pot, good on you, you’re already there. But if you’re making a drip cup, consider some alternatives to your paper coffee filters. The gold standard of reusable drip filters are made by SwissGold, and they have a product line that covers most every filter basket style — from Mr. Coffee to Bunn to Melitta-styled cone filters — used in auto-drip machines today. Enough of the bottled water, too. I’ve written quite a lot about the importance of good water for good coffee. So by all means, use great water, but make it great yourself. Start with water from your own tap and filter it with any number of great filtration products (I like Brita, and PUR.) You’ll save oodles of money, and save oodles of carbon emissions from all the shipping that bottled water requires....

Shade Grown Coffee — Just How Shady Is It?

All third-party coffee certifications are not equal. I’ve touched upon this idea before, most recently in How Many Labels are Too Many Labels. I think it’s a point that bears repeating, and some critical examination, too. To our good fortune Coffee & Conservation is doing both, by digging deeper into some of those certifications. They’ve recently offered a closer look at two labels that certify shade-grown coffee — Rainforest Alliance, and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s “Bird Friendly” mark — and found that not all shade is equal, either. [T]he criteria having to do with vertical stratification — the number of layers of vegetation and the leaf volume in each — are critical components for preserving a rich mix of species. Many ecological studies support the key role of structural diversity (sometimes referred to technically as floristic heterogeneity) in increased biodiversity — of many types in many ecosystems well beyond the realm of coffee growing. — Coffee & Conservation If that’s a little hard to follow, then the pictures and tables you’ll find at Coffee & Conservation will help. ๐Ÿ˜‰ For more, Intelligentsia’s RoastMaster Gerneral, Geoff Watts, has written a thoroughly accessible piece on the subject. In particular he compares and contrasts shade-grown certifications with Intelligentsia’s own Direct Trade model. Too many of the programs marketed as “solutions” are really just patchwork attempts to fix historical mistakes and seek immediate gratification without trying to rebuild the system from the ground up in a way that can be enduring and self-sustaining. At their worst they involve a lot of moral posturing without providing a great deal of benefit to anyone...

Organic Coffee Gets a Reprieve

Coffee & Conservation notes that the USDA has granted a momentary stay to its decision to strictly enforce annual re-certification of organic coffee farmers. This is wonderful news… but the fat lady ain’t sung just yet. According to Sam Fromartz — who first broke the story on Salon — where we are now is both a result of, and a continuing opportunity for, dialogue: In a statement issued Wednesday, the NOP said it would work closely with the National Organic Standards Board – the citizens advisory panel on organic regulations – before making any changes. This comes after a petition campaign which generated thousands of signatures, even in the absence of any major media coverage. For those who think organic regulations have been compromised by big business, this shows – as other actions have in the past – that transparency and advocacy work. A great many specialty coffee companies — greenies and roasters alike — have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to get that conversation started, and it’s perhaps not coincidental that this announcement from the USDA arrived on the eve of the SCAA‘s annual convention, where I’m certain the decision is more than a passing hallway...
Green Up Your Coffee Cup

Green Up Your Coffee Cup

It’s Earth Day… In the face of the now very real threat of global climate change, this year’s recognition of Earth Day carries with it a certain sense of urgency. It’s time to change some habits. Permanently. The good news? Greening up your coffee cup doesn’t mean sacrificing the quality of your coffee! Here’s some tips to get you started… Enough of the paper filters, already. If you enjoy your coffee in a press pot, good on you, you’re already there. But if you’re making a drip cup, consider some alternatives to your paper coffee filters. The gold standard of reusable drip filters are made by SwissGold, and they have a product line that covers most every filter basket style — from Mr. Coffee to Bunn to Melitta-styled cone filters — used in auto-drip machines today. Enough of the bottled water, too. I’ve written quite a lot about the importance of good water for good coffee. So by all means, use great water, but make it great yourself. Start with water from your own tap and filter it with any number of great filtration products (I like Brita, and PUR.) You’ll save oodles of money, and save oodles of carbon emissions from all the shipping that bottled water requires. Heat your water on-demand. Long-time readers will know that I’ve proclaimed my love for Bunn coffee makers in the past… but I have to tell you, that relationship is over. Home coffee makers that keep water hot 24 hours are energy hogs, pure and simple. Instead, use a water kettle to boil up only exactly as much water as you...

How Many Labels are Too Many Labels?

Organic, Fair Trade, Direct Trade, Shade Grown, Bird Friendly, C.A.F.E., Whole Trade, Rainforest Alliance… When Sam Fromartz’ article — Is This the End of Organic Coffee — first appeared in Salon it generated quite a lot of reader responses, with many folks writing along the lines of, “Just drink Fair Trade coffee, instead.” I wrote a letter, too, trying to make the point that not all certifications are created equal — Organic and Fair Trade are each distinctive certifications, with different goals and methods and results in coffee farming communities. To suggest that in lieu of buying organic you can instead buy Fair Trade is well intentioned, but misstated. Organic certification protects the land, the water supply, and the ecosystems that surround coffee farms — including many of those greenhouse-gas swallowing rain forest canopies that still exist — and exceeds the environmental goals and criteria of Fair Trade certification, alone. It takes *years* to achieve organic certification on a coffee farm, and it costs not only dollars, but blood, sweat and tears to do so. Pulling the rug out from under coffee farmers who’ve worked hard to attain certification for their farm — and the subsequent price differential for their crop — only to lose it at the stroke of a pen in a government bureaucracy thousands of miles away is not just disheartening, but it could break the will of farming folk who’ve endured hardship enough, already. In today’s Chicago Tribune, writer Monica Eng continues that theme by providing a Cert Cheat Sheet of sorts… and being in Chicago she includes Chi-town’s own Intelligentsia Coffee’s Direct Trade™ label,...
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