Toby Weedon –  It’s going to take innovation, diversity and collaboration to lower coffee’s carbon footprint

Looking Forwards series

Head of the barista team at Oatly, Toby explains why plant-based foods are key to tackling climate change


  • Toby Weedon

    Toby heads up the barista team at Oatly, whose role is to connect the coffee community with Oatly. Originally from Cornwall but now living in South London, when Toby is not in a coffee shop he can be found on a train or walking someone else's dog.

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I am really hopeful 2022 will be our most exciting and diverse year to date. We are leaving a challenging time for our industry behind and in moving forward we have a unique opportunity to ‘grind’ down some of the limitations in the accessibility of plant-based milk for future generations.

Over the last few months, I have been fortunate to be able to reconnect with lots of people across the industry who I haven’t physically seen for a long time, as well as meeting lots of new people, all of whom bring a fresh perspective to our mutual goals.

The Paris Coffee Festival was the perfect opportunity to introduce a whole new wave of consumers to Oatly and its many benefits – very reminiscent of the buzz at the London Coffee Festival back in 2016.

I hope there will be many people across the industry meeting up with old friends through events that are finally able to happen again.

As the industry is starting to recover, I am anticipating there to be an influx of new people into the industry and look forward to the fresh perspectives they will bring with them.

New people mean new ideas and I’m also hopeful for a more inclusive and socially responsible industry.

Industry-wide schemes such as Change Please, who we are proud to be supporting for an upcoming project, will help welcome a diverse range of people into our industry by helping ex-homeless find employment.

The future of plant-based milk is not just for city sippers grabbing a coffee on their way to the office but for all of society to join forces to help lower our carbon footprint.

I see the specialty coffee industry being increasingly open and inviting, having shaken the snooty attitudes of the early days. I am determined that we, as an industry, will gather around the new cohort with open arms.

But there is a long way to go. Now the world is opening back, up it is devastating to learn that our global carbon emissions have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels with one-third of anthropogenic emissions coming from the food industry.

For me, I’d like to see the industry become better educated and better informed so we can start to tackle some of the bigger issues we are facing as well as continuing to work on all the small things.

The climate crisis is happening all around us, with the effects already being felt by farmers in coffee producing countries, with climate change reducing the amount of land viable for producing coffee. Some scientists anticipate that suitable land could be reduced by about 50% between 2014 and 2050, by the end of 2022 we will have used just over one-fifth of that time. 

One way to reduce your climate impact is by switching to more plant-based foods, and oat milks have a lower climate impact than cow’s milk.

Ultimately, my big wish for 2022 is that more businesses and more baristas will be empowered to help people realise how easy it is to switch your regular coffee to a plant based one. This can only be done through more innovation, diversity and a collaboration in the industry helping us all raise a cup to a lower carbon footprint in 2022.

What are your ideas for 2022?

Let us know, we’re on all the usual channels.