Measuring Nordic Roasting Co. Carbon Footprint
Over the last two months a diverse group of students, with different academic backgrounds, from University of Copenhagen has helped us provide you with even more sustainable coffee in the future. The consulting team has created a thorough greenhouse gas (GHG) inventory, as part of the GHG protocol corporate standard, for our current processes and investigated solutions that can help us cut some of those emissions back. At the heart of Nordic Roasting Co’s philosophy stands our passion for quality coffee produced sustainability. When striving towards a sustainable coffee production it is important to look beyond the farming and roasting processes. We are excited to dive deeper into the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our company’s processes with the help of the student group.
What exactly is a GHG Protocol?
A GHG protocol focuses on all processes of a company and tries to estimate the emissions the company produces on a yearly basis, which is called the GHG inventory. It also suggests changes the company can undertake to reduce emissions, termed climate solutions. The inventory can be divided into different sections of the business. Some emissions are categorised as direct emissions, as they are linked to the processes of a company directly, e.g., emissions of company owned cars and facilities. Other processes can be categorised as indirect, as they are also linked to the processes of other companies.
Why is a GHG Protocol important?
The GHG protocol framework helps standardising the way companies report their emissions. This shows companies where emissions are especially high and may provide guidelines on how to cut emissions and implement changes. Especially the indirect emissions can be difficult to calculate. They are not only linked to the company that wants to calculate their own emissions but also depend on the transparency of other companies. So even though GHG inventories ecan be a good estimate of company emissions, they will often have a margin of error. You will notice that we talk about CO2-equivalents (CO2e) in the following. This is a concept used to translate other greenhouse gases, such as methane (CH4), into CO2.
Coffee takes a long journey before it ends up in your cup. The roasted coffee beans that we know and cherish are the product of a long chain of suppliers and practices. Coffee is a shade plant in need of warm climates. Most coffee plantations are therefore located in the global South. The coffee beans get picked, washed, and dried before being sent to Europe by ship or plane. Once in Europe, the beans get transported to roasteries before being packed and sent out for delivery. At Nordic Roasting Co we are roasting our coffee in Amagerbro, Copenhagen, where we also pack it and send it off to be delivered to your doorstep.
Nordic Roasting Co – Findings and climate solutions
With the help of the student group, we were able to identify the major emission sources throughout the coffee production chain. We are sourcing coffee from a multitude of small-scale farmers in South America, Asia and Africa. 75.6% of our suppliers produce their coffee organically, and 66.7% of both organic and conventional producers use agroforestry on their farms. Agroforestry is a concept in which farmers use multiple plants to create a more divers environment for the growing crops, which has benefits such as soil stability and nutrient increase in the system. Both organic practices and agroforestry entail benefits for the environment, which also translates into lower greenhouse gas emissions. Organic coffee farming means that no synthetic products such as pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides are used on the plants. This has a significantly smaller impact on the environment and the workers handling the green coffee beans. It also means, that less carbon emissions are released on organic coffee farms than on conventional coffee farms. Selecting small scale farms producing organically and using agroforestry allows us to decrease our company’s emissions. The emissions based on our orders from the different coffee farms amounted to a total of 66.9 t CO2e in 2021.
To reduce these emissions the consultancy team has suggested to switch the farms that still produce coffee with conventional methods to farms with organically grown crops. Another option is to select farms that use agroforestry, regardless of their farming practices being organic or conventional. This will provide support to farmers with more environmentally friendly methods.
The green beans must be transported from warmer countries, such as South America or Africa, to Europe. This leads to significant GHG emissions from the transport of the coffee as well. The transportation from our suppliers to Europe is done by ships. Some land travel is needed to transport the green beans from the coffee farms to the shipping ports. Roughly 20% of our coffee arrives directly at the local port in Copenhagen. The rest of the green beans travel via road from multiple ports in Europe. The total amounts of CO2e emissions from transporting the green coffee beans to Denmark amounted to 6.135 tonnes in 2021, which is less than 10% of the emissions resulting from the production of the coffee itself. Still, the emissions could be decreased further, by cutting back the land travel, by about 2.265 t of CO2e. Finding shipping companies that can ship the coffee directly to Copenhagen port was one of the suggestions the consultancy team offered.
The roasting process happens in our little office space. We have a third-hand coffee roaster which is currently running on propane. To save energy, we schedule the roasts so that the roaster runs as little as possible and with that we have emitted 6.035 tonnes CO2e in 2021. Once the roaster has reached the end of its life, we will have to consider a new roaster. Using second or third hand machines can cut production emissions for new machines. But we could also go further. Heat exchange systems solutions are available for some roasting machines. Some of these systems can recycle up to 75% of the heat that would otherwise escape through the chimney into other processes of the roaster or even for heating for the rest of the building.
Making you happy, by bringing freshly roasted coffee to your doorstep, makes us happy. Even more so now after seeing the numbers for our delivery emissions. By working together with Chainge, an electric bike delivery company, we are cutting 144.3 kg CO2e emissions yearly. This is equal to you eating 80 kg of barbeque sausages. For our local company outreach we are using our plug-in hybrid car, which emits roughly seven times less than a standard Benzin car. These are great numbers already. However, we are looking at leasing an electric car in the foreseeable future to cut our local outreach emissions even further.
Waste is a substantial part of any business operation. We are always seeking out better solutions to reduce waste. We have made the switch to re-usable packaging for big coffee orders last year. Some of our regular customers are big businesses located in Copenhagen, which now receive their coffee in plastic boxes. The boxes get picked up and cleaned in our roastery before being re-filled with freshly roasted beans. This change has allowed us to reduce our emissions by 1.038 t CO2e.
We are currently also investigating the re-usability potential of ground coffee waste. We have teamed up with Kaffe Bueno and are sending the coffee grounds from one of our big customers to them for further investigation. We could save about 1.198 t of CO2e with this measure. We are excited to share the result, once our cooperation is established.
As you can see, we are eager to learn more about how our business can become more sustainable. We hope that you are as excited as we are to make a difference in the small-scale business world. Join us and be part of our sustainable coffee journey.
If you want to dive deeper into this topic, find our GHG inventory here.
Concito, (n.d), n.n. Denstoreklimadatabase.dk, denstoreklimadatabase.dk/.
Fiore, Sara, 25 Apr. (2014) “Organic vs. Conventional Coffee.” The Equal Exchange Blog, blog.equalexchange.coop/organic-vs-conventional coffee/ [Accessed 18 Jan. 2022]
Jose, S., (2009). Agroforestry for ecosystem services and environmental benefits: an overview. Agroforestry systems, 76(1), pp.1-10.
Rigal, C., Vaast, P. and Xu, J., (2018). Using farmers' local knowledge of tree provision of ecosystem services to strengthen the emergence of coffee-agroforestry landscapes in southwest China. PloS one, 13(9), p.e0204046.
Data worldbank.org, “CO2 Emissions (Metric Tons per Capita) - Denmark | Data.”, data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.PC?name_desc=false&locations=DK [Accessed 18 Jan. 2022].