How a Canadian coffee roaster is replacing container ships with sailboats to decarbonize its supply chain — and cutting costs in the process

The concept of sustainable transportation probably conjures up images of futuristic technologies and electric cars, as well as unrealized scientific advances.

To move toward a net-zero future, however, a growing industry comprised of sailors, coffee roasters, olive-oil producers, and winemakers is reverting to past shipping practices.

Rather than transporting their goods overseas on gas-guzzling container ships, some retailers are opting to use sailboats.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the so-called sail freight movement is a proposed solution to the transportation industry’s role as the world’s largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. S&P Global Platts Analytics estimated that maritime shipping alone is responsible for between 2% and 3% of global CO2 emissions, which is equal to or greater than the greenhouse gas emissions of the aviation industry.

While it may sound idealistic — even “whimsical,” as Bloomberg described it in May — cargo sailboats are currently less expensive and more efficient than container ships, according to Café William, a fair-trade-coffee company that plans to use cargo sailboats to transport its coffee beans from South America to New Jersey in 2023.

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