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

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Over the past year United Baristas has lowered the carbon emissions from the use of our services – despite our largest year of growth to date.

You might be interested to know that internet use is a leading contributor to global warming, accounting for more than two percent of global carbon emissions – a higher level than the aviation industry.

Websites and apps 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. Additionally electricity is required to transmit data from servers to our computers, phones and tablets, and electricity is also consumed by these devices. A study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that when loading a website:

  • 48% of energy is used at the data centre
  • 14% of energy is used by networks to transmit the data
  • 38% of energy is consumed by the end user’s device

Over the past year we have cut the average carbon emissions by 80% per view. So while a record number of people across the coffee industry are using United Baristas, the total carbon footprint is now just one-third compare to a year ago.

Internet use is responsible for circa 2% of global carbon emissions
Internet use is responsible for ~2% of global carbon emissions

It’s a great example of what gets measured, gets done. Twelve months ago, United Baristas was a typical generator of carbon. We have found that by measuring our footprint, identifying where we can readily make improvements and incrementally making changes, we have been able to make dramatic gains.

In 2019 we offset the carbon emitted from the use of our services by helping to fund tree planting projects in Kenya and Brazil. But over the past year we have also been moving our sites to new servers that run on greener electricity. So for 2020 United Baristas has decided to donate the equivalent value to World Coffee Research, an organisation working to identify how existing and new varieties of coffee can be combined with agricultural methods to better manage the stresses imposed by climate change on coffee production.

Are you interested in lowering the industry’s carbon footprint? It’s time to join our efforts

Coffee has a heavy carbon footprint: a flat white or latte has a carbon footprint of about 250 grams. As the majority of the emissions come from the preparation of the beverage rather than growing or export, it falls to us – the coffee makers and drinkers – to lower our environmental impacts. By reducing coffee’s carbon footprint we can prevent further climate change and ensure that coffee cultivation remains possible, viable and a source of livelihood for coffee farmers around the globe.

As we pointed out last year, without embodied energy data available for coffee-making equipment, estimating the carbon reduction United Baristas services bring to the industry is tricky. We are again calling on coffee equipment manufacturers to perform and publish life cycle assessments for their coffee equipment so that the industry can work to significantly cut its carbon footprint.

Over the coming year, we plan to be able to further reduce our carbon footprint per view through a mixture of increased server efficiency and rebuilding some of our services. And we hope even more baristas and coffee companies will join us to measure their carbon footprint and to take steps to reduce and mitigate the impacts.


References

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
The Green Web Foundation
WebsiteCarbon
• Plus read articles from across United Baristas on Coffee’s Carbon Footprint

United Baristas connects the coffee community. Our services enable the free flow of people, capital and ideas to better support the industry’s ambitions and prospects. Find out more and join us ➔

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