I’m sure all of you have heard that recycling that paper cup after you have consumed your double tall nonfat caramel latte will help save the planet. Recycling, however, even more than that, is one of the best ways that you can make an impact on the planet on which we live. Utilizing and promoting the use of sustainable products also aids in the life of our planet and the coffee industry.
According to ecocycle.org, “Nearly 90 percent of what we throw away could potentially be recovered through reuse, recycling, or composting.” So with that being said, I now ask those within the coffee community, what can we do to recycle and sustain resources that are important to the success and function of our industry?
Gabe Post, Director of Innovation and lead for the SUSTAIN project for Pacific Market International, LLC talks about the importance of recycling. Post says, “The Earth’s resources are finite. It is important for consumers to recognize their role in the product consumption cycle, and to recycle items appropriately at their end-of-life. It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to design products that are easily recyclable.”
Post expresses the idea that it is a team effort to make a difference in the world when recycling. He says, “Together, we can build product cycles that conserve energy and reduce carbon footprint and environmental impact.”
Excessive packaging has made its way to the coffee industry. When you go to a coffee shop you usually get a one-time disposable cup – which would be okay if the consumer properly recycled their cup when finished. But the reality of it is, along with that cup, you get a cup sleeve to protect your hand, a wooden stick to stir in your sugar, and the paper waste that stems from the sugar packets.
Post says, “Despite the industry going through great lengths to source sustainable coffee, almost all of it is still being served in single-use disposable cups. In America last year alone, we landfilled 16 billion paper coffee cups.”
All of these items can be replaced with a more efficient product that is environmentally friendly. Instead of sugar packets, you could use a sugar jar. Instead of the wooden sticks, you can use metal spoons that can be washed at the end of the day. Companies today offer decomposable cup sleeves and reusable cups.
John A. Darch, President and CEO of Doi Chaang Coffee says, “Any effort we can make – whether it’s a company, a family, or an individual – towards improving our environment and the world we live in, is crucial. We can’t discard everything we use into one spot anymore; the world just can’t handle those kinds of actions.” He says, “Whether it’s recycling, composting or conserving water – every little bit helps. It’s a way of showing respect to the world we live in.”
While these may seem like relatively small changes, you have to start somewhere. However, it is important to look at the bigger picture here. How can companies and businesses within the coffee industry start to make a difference and increase their sustainability efforts?
Post says, “Sustainability efforts succeed most commonly when they are baked into the NDA of the company. It should be a part of who you are, not just what you do. Sustainability should be a part of the business strategy along with other key growth initiatives.”
When you can set goals and are able to track them, you know that you are doing something right. People feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they see that the goals the company is setting are being accomplished with a little bit of their effort.
Did you know that 70 percent of coffee consumption is routine? It is when this routine becomes a more responsible routine with the incorporation of recycling and the utilization of sustainable products, where we will start to see lasting impacts on the environment.
Post says, “Improving sustainability in the coffee industry will help reduce the environmental impact of the industry and continue to influence consumer awareness and ultimately behavior change in a positive way.”
Darch explains his experience with becoming sustainable, “It is rewarding to engage in sustainable practices. To be able to produce a product that is high quality, but also produced through ethically responsible steps will not only make you feel good – it will make your customers feel good about what they are drinking.”
Pacific Market International, LLC is just one of the many companies striving to make a difference. They have developed a system whereby their reusable cups are recycled at the end of their life and then collected and reentered into their material supply. The idea is to someday have their cups be made out of old cups.
Beyond their SUSTAIN effort, Pacific Market International, LLC (PMI) has made sustainability a part of their corporate strategy, including Environmental Stewardship as one of five business strategy pillars. Since 2005, year-on-year improvement has been achieved via concerted efforts to improve the sustainability of both manufacturing processes and products. In 2012, the PMI Joinease factory that currently manufactures SUSTAIN cups reduced their per-unit greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent while increasing production by 37 percent.
Doi Chaang Coffee Company is also pushing efforts to be more sustainable. With the Keurig being a popular and convenient machine to brew coffee, it is inevitable that kcup consumption, which is in the billions, has a negative environmental impact. Doi Chaang Coffee has “just developed the first ever “Beyond Fair TradeTM” sustainable 90 percent biodegradable single serve aroma cup. The cups are Keurig compatible and will break down in any landfill or dumpster,” according to Darch.
StalkMarket is a company that is talking compostable products to a new level. Their core line of products is made from a sugarcane fiber-based paperboard called bagasse. The material is made from upcycled sugarcane waste recovered from sugar refineries. The crushed stalks are taken to a processing plant where they are converted into paperboard in much the same way as wood pulp is used for cardboard. All of StalkMarket’s products are 100 percent compostable. Their products are available to consumers at major grocery chains, office supply stores, organic and natural food retailers and online. These products would be a great asset to a café that is looking to become more green.
As a coffee loving individual, who is constantly grabbing and consuming coffee on the go, I will make sure that I will properly recycle my latte cup every time I consume my favorite cup of coffee. Or, better yet, I will purchase a reusable cup and eliminate the waste all together. What are you going to do?
If there are more individuals on the consuming end and more businesses on the supplying end that can come together to increase recycling and sustainability efforts, the coffee industry would flourish in environmental means.
Revisit your company’s business strategies, think about if you properly deposit your to-go cup in the recycling bin, and imagine an industry working together to make a difference on the environment. Make your next customer relationship with the environment.