The Road to Sustainability is a Long One
Every morning, the first thing I do is begin boiling water to pour over my coffee cone for my medium roast Peet’s cup of coffee. I use two tablespoons of ground coffee and when I am finished pouring my 12 oz of boiling water I toss my used coffee grounds and filter into my compost. Although every day I am able to enjoy the same blend of precisely picked coffee beans, the beans have been on a long journey in order to make it to my home. Peet’s coffee boasts their sustainability and, on their website, they state, “We think carefully about our impact, seeking creative, socially responsible solutions from source to cup” (Torres, 2008). I would like to take a more in depth look into the system that brings Peet’s coffee from across the globe to my mug each morning in order to evaluate what resources are used and if there are alternative solutions that might create a more sustainable approach.
Peet’s Arabica coffee comes from all over the world so there is no way to tell exactly where the beans from my coffee have come from since I prefer a blended variety. Arabica coffee however, is typically grown in Latin and South America, and, is grown in more than 50 countries worldwide with about 30 of those countries producing more than 5,000,000 tons of coffee each year (Coffee FAQ, 2014).
I can assume that most of my coffee comes from Brazil since it is the largest producer and exporter of coffee (Coffee FAQ, 2014). The journey of my daily cup of coffee most likely begins in Latin America or South America (Where Coffee is Grown, 2014). There, the beans are grown and after about nine months, the trees begin to fruit and ripen. The beans are harvested at this point then they are sorted and dried. Once the beans are dried, they are sent to the San Francisco Bay Area, and they are roasted by exacting standards on a roast-to-order model to ensure freshness daily. Once the beans are roasted, they are distributed all over the country each day.
Peet’s coffee uses LEED Gold certified roasting facility which means that not only is the company using sustainable roasting techniques, but the building the coffee is roasted in is also focused on sustainability. When building Peet’s roasting facility architects used, “green building techniques such as adding skylights, motion sensors for lights, using non-chemical-emitting paints and carpet and sourcing materials from less than 500 miles away” and “Mulch used on the plants contains coffee bean chaff that normally would end up in the dumpster. An outdoor seating area for employees and doubles as a garden that collects and reuses rainwater.” This was reported to have only added about 3% of the cost of the building. The building uses 40 percent to 50 percent less natural gas to run its roasters than Peet’s previous facility in Emeryville (Torres, 2008).
The distance between San Francisco and Denver is 1,268. The distance between San Francisco and Brazil is 5,798 miles and the distance between my house and the grocery store where I buy my coffee is 4 miles. Altogether, to get to my mug, my coffee beans have traveled about 7,070 miles.
Since there are about 40 beans that go into my cup of coffee, I generally consume about 14,600 coffee beans per year. Using about 2 tablespoons of coffee a day, I consume approximately 2.45 gallons of coffee grounds a year. Since I use two cups of water for my coffee (one to drink and one to wash my cup) I annually consume about 45.6 gallons of water each year just from coffee. On a larger scale, “Coffee is the US’s largest food import and second most valuable commodity only after oil”. After I consume my coffee, I compost the grounds and filter but I still throw away the plastic packaging for my coffee.
While it is easy for me to think that I am not creating a large amount of waste by just having one cup of home brewed coffee each day, “According to the International Coffee Organization, the US imported 2.72 billion pounds of coffee from September 2001 to September 2002” (Coffee FAQ, 2014). which demonstrates how much time, energy and resources are being spent to produce coffee for US consumers. The fact that Hawaii is the only state in the US that grows coffee beans, makes it challenging to cut down on petroleum used to import coffee beans. While Peet’s Coffee is roasting the beans in a more sustainable way, they would be able to improve further if their imported coffee was able to rely more on energy efficient transportation.
Coffee FAQ. (2014, January 9). Coffe FAQ. Retrieved January 9, 2014, from 2014
Sustainably Peet’s. (2014, January 9). Sustainably Peet’s: Reduce, Reuse, Rethink. Retrieved January 9, 2014, from http://www.peets.com/community/community-sustainability.html
Torres, B. (2008, August 3). Peet’s Transforms New Coffee Plant into Green Factory. Retrieved January 9, 2014, from http://www.bizjournals.com/sanfrancisco/stories/2008/08/04/story13.html?page=all.
Where Coffee is Grown. (2014, January 9). Retrieved January 9, 2014, from http://chilipaper.com/FNCC/where_coffee_is_grown.htm