Let’s tread more lightly on the earth: United Baristas dramatically cuts its carbon footprint while achieving record growth

We’ve cut our total carbon footprint by making multiple small decisions that cumulatively have had a big effect

More Let’s tread more lightly on the earth: United Baristas dramatically cuts its carbon footprint while achieving record growth

Updated on 22 September 2020

Reducing United Baristas carbon footprint

We’re continuing to cut our footprint as we work to lower the coffee industry’s total emissions

Earth,
the only known coffee producer in the universe

Thinking about climate change

A driving rationale for starting United Baristas was to enable a full and productive working life for coffee equipment to help lower the industry’s environmental impacts.

By facilitating the buying and selling of used equipment, we understood that this would support the ongoing viability of the coffee industry, help baristas and businesses to achieve their goals and lower the industry’s carbon emissions.

United Baristas Marketplace was our first service. Over time we’ve also added services to:

  • enable the better selection of equipment
  • encourage equipment maintenance
  • make engineering services more accessible

As well as creating commercial value for baristas and coffee businesses, these services reduce the industry’s environmental impacts by working to ensure that the equipment that is purchase has a full and long working life.

Calculating the industry’s emissions reduction

The vast majority of coffee’s carbon footprint comes from the energy consumed during coffee making.

Ideally United Baristas would calculate the carbon dioxide reduction from the industry’s use of our services. However, estimating the savings is difficult without specific embodied energy information for key items of coffee equipment.

Better understanding the environmental impacts of coffee equipment remains a work in progress – both for ourselves and the industry.

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is international procedure for calculating the environmental impacts of an item, for example ISO14040:2006. An LCA includes analysis for the acquisition of resources, its production, distribution and use, as well as the energy required to dispose or recycle the item. To date, LCAs are not commonly performed for coffee equipment, despite their significant carbon footprints.

United Baristas continues to encourage all coffee equipment manufacturers to both perform and publish LCAs for their products so the industry can make faster progress in reducing its carbon footprint.

Reducing United Baristas carbon emissions

In the interim we’ve taken the step to offset the carbon emissions as a result of the use of our services.

Over our year 2018/19 we estimated that the use of United Baristas services produced circa six tonnes of carbon dioxide.

In the autumn of 2019 we made significant upgrades to our websites and amended some of our internal processes to reduce the carbon emissions from the use of our services. The changes saw United Baristas move from average to amongst the most efficient sites in the coffee industry.

In 2020 we implemented further changes so that our carbon emissions per view have reduced by 80% over the 12 months from August 2019.

Over the past four years United Baristas has doubled in size each year. With these updates we anticipate being able to double in size again – and our total carbon footprint to flatline, or even reduce.

It’s been another great example for us that what gets measured gets done. And we encourage all coffee businesses to calculate their carbon emissions as a critical first step to reducing their emissions.

Obviously both we and the coffee industry have a long way to go. United Baristas believes the de-carbonisation of the economy, and particularly the UK’s energy mix, is essential for meeting the the internationally agreed target of a temperature rise of less than 1.5 degrees over pre-industrial levels recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The coffee industry has a special and direct responsibility for address 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.

United Baristas is working to encourage the coffee industry can play its part in reaching the IPCC target. As coffee makers and drinkers, we need to take steps now so that we can ensure that coffee endures forever.


References
• How to stop data centres from gobbling up the world’s electricity (Nature, 2018)
• Global Warming of 1.5 ºC (IPCC, 2019)
• 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)