Coffee Roasting Is Bad for the Environment, This Oakland Company Is Trying a Bold New Way

Heirloom Coffee Roasters has opened its Regenerative Coffee Research Lab in East Oakland, partnering with Berkeley-based Bellwether Coffee and the California Energy Commission. The lab is expected to reduce the carbon footprint of Heirloom’s coffee roasting operation by 92%, equivalent to reducing annual carbon emissions by 517 metric tons. The project is a significant step toward Heirloom founder and CEO Hovik Azadkhanian’s goal of making the company a leader in sustainable roasting. Heirloom was founded with the objective of exclusively using coffee beans from regenerative agriculture, a holistic approach to farming and ranching that seeks to improve overall soil health through various processes, creating more productive and biodiverse land.

Coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world outside of water, and 19 billion pounds of coffee are roasted annually. The coffee roasting process alone, which accounts for 15% of the industry’s carbon footprint, generates an estimated 47 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Heirloom Coffee Roasters aims to eventually source all of its coffee from farms practicing regenerative agriculture.

Monitors have been installed at Heirloom’s facility to track electricity consumption and gas usage of its current, traditional roaster. The changes in Heirloom’s carbon output and energy consumption should be evident fairly quickly, but if the experiment truly pays off, the impact will be felt 4,000 miles away.

Heirloom, a coffee roasting company, has been focusing on sustainability since the pandemic. The company, which has been in the industry for over 30 years, has shifted its focus to sourcing from regenerative farms. The company believes that a year of regenerative farming practices can significantly improve soil health, leading to increased water retention and fertility. Heirloom’s coffee producer, Pacayal in Honduras, recently received its regenerative organic agriculture certification. Heirloom also notes that large global companies, such as Nestle, are investing in regenerative agriculture practices among their suppliers. The effects of regenerative farming are expected to be felt in the coming years.

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