With increasing environmental pressures, and a fast-growing user base, United Baristas has offset the carbon emissions from the use of its services.
Internet usage is now a leading contributor to global warming, accounting for more than two percent of global carbon emissions (Nature, 2018) – a higher level than the aviation industry.
Digital services such as websites and apps are run on servers, which require significant amounts of energy for their fast computation, as well as vast cooling infrastructure to manage the heat produced from their operation. Electricity is also required to transmit data from servers to our computers, phones and tablets, and electricity is also required to run these devices. A study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that:
- 48% of energy is used at the data centre
- 14% of energy is used by telecommunications networks transmitting the data
- 38% of energy is used by the end user’s computer or mobile device
United Baristas services have grown rapidly in use, and we estimate that over the past year the usage has contributed approximately six tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere.
A central rationale for starting United Baristas was to enable the full and productive working life of coffee equipment through better selection, maintenance, and the opportunity for baristas to buy and sell used equipment.
It’s been difficult to estimate the reduction in carbon emissions and general environmental benefit United Baristas services presently achieve as we lack specific information on the embodied energy in espresso machines and other key items of key coffee making equipment; but with hundreds of machines changing hands and more equipment being better maintained, we would like to think that the environmental benefits from United Baristas services more than mitigate the impacts from its use.
In the interim we’ve taken the step to offset the carbon emissions from the use of our services by contributing to tree planting and protection projects in the coffee producing countries of Kenya and Brazil.
In Kenya over 180,000 tress have been planted over the past decade as part of a scheme run by the Carbon Footprint. In Brazil the scheme works to prevent deforestation of existing trees.
The coffee industry has a special and direct responsibility to tackle climate change. Coffee’s carbon footprint is considered a ‘high intensity’ and the impacts of climate change both threaten coffee production and the livelihoods of many of the world’s coffee producers.
References and further reading
- How to stop data centres from gobbling up the world’s electricity (Nature, 2018)
- The Megawatts behind Your Megabytes: Going from Data-Center to Desktop (ACEEE, 2012)
- Carbon Footprint
- The Green Web Foundation
- Powering a Google search (Google, 2009)
- Infographic: The Carbon Footprint of the Internet (ClimateCare)
- What’s the carbon footprint of … the internet? (The Guardian, 2010)
- Climate change: Is your Netflix habit bad for the environment? (BBC News, 2018)
- Carbon Footprint across the Coffee Supply Chain: The Case of Costa Rican Coffee (Killian et al., 2013)
- Kew scientists reveal that 60% of wild coffee species are threatened with extinction, causing concern for the future of coffee production (Kew Gardens, 2019)