Having coffee machines in your business has many advantages; Work productivity, staff, client satisfaction, it may in fact be your profit source as your main retail product. Choosing Fairtrade, Organic or Rainforest Alliance beans helps to ensure you supply ethically sourced coffee but this isn’t the end game as it isn’t just the production process that has worrying effects, it can be the way the coffee is brewed and served too. Therefore it can be difficult to decide on a coffee machine that is right for your business especially when you take into consideration the environmental factors. In an age where we are all well aware of the damage we do to our environment and do everything we can in corporate and commercial businesses to reduce waste and minimise the negative impact we have on the planet. It seems like a bold move to purchase a commercial coffee machine that could counter-act the good work that’s been done ‘going paperless, recycling, buying Fairtrade and carrying out other carbon footprint reducing initiatives. So just how environmentally unfriendly are these machines and how can we choose a machine that is as green as it possibly can be?
The bad news is that no matter what the process of producing, transporting, brewing and serving coffee is never going to produce a 0 carbon footprint and it will never be 100% environmentally friendly. This is down to a great many reasons;
- The waste from coffee machines is one of the most detrimental, used coffee grounds go to landfill causing greenhouse gasses to be emitted and pod machines can cause a huge waste issue, Hamburg has even gone so far as to ban the use of pods in buildings run by the state due to these issues.
- The UK throw out “billions of take away cups that could each take 30 years to break down”. Lots of the paper cups on offer aren’t actually recyclable (due to the plastic lining) and are misleading consumers, due to the purpose of the cups to be used ‘on the run’ means lots of people just don’t bother recycling them and not to mention that the paper used has to be ‘virgin paper’ due to health and safety, meaning that it has a huge impact on the amount of trees that have to be chopped to produce them.
- It’s sad to say that the coffee production process still has two main issues surrounding it that have not yet been 100% tackled. One is the effect on the land in which it is grown (37 of the 50 countries in the world with the highest deforestation rates are also coffee producers. WWF) and the second is that despite the huge profit from this commodity, coffee farmers around the world often still work in extremely poor working and living conditions while receiving wages that are nowhere near living wages.
- Sustainable coffee production itself is restricted to particular regions due to growing and production methods, so it’s unlikely the coffee you serve is ever going to be grown on your doorstep. Therefore there will be an effect on the environment from transportation.
But it’s not all bad news, we still want you to enjoy your coffee machine with less guilt attached to it, so it’s important to remember that as a business you can counteract a lot of the negative effects of using coffee machines in a number of ways, so as long as you are ethical and responsible there’s really very little stopping you starting to decide on a machine that’s right for you.
- You can ensure you dispose of waste correctly – So if you choose a bean to cup or filter machine you can arrange for you used coffee grounds to be used as fertiliser instead of them being sent to landfill. If a pod machine is selected it’s best to look for one of two things, either you can lower your carbon footprint by having your pods collected and recycled or better yet choose pods that are 100% compostable. These pods break down quicker than biodegradable ones so ultimately they are less harmful to the environment.
- Select cups that can be recycled for your ‘Take Out’ coffees and offer a recycling service. If you are selling take out coffee to consumers, offer a little incentive for them to bring the cups back to you so that you know they are going to the right place. In addition think about offering reusable cups at a small charge and a discount if they bring their reusable cup back for top ups. Try to use companies or get involved with charities that plant more trees.
- Buy Fairtrade and/or Rainforest Association Certified coffee as well as getting involved in ‘coffee initiatives’ such as Coffee Versus Gangs or The Coffee Initiative who work tirelessly to put back into the societies where coffee production has the potential to have negative effects on the region.
- Look into buying coffee where transportation methods have the least harmful environmental effect and don’t stop at the coffee itself think about where you get your machine from too. Select ethical manufactures/suppliers who are either local (less detriment on the environment from transportation) or have good environmental considerations ingrained in their logistics service.
- On that note, make sure you are picking ethical suppliers for all your products as well as just local. Taking the time out to ensure you get your products from reputable companies goes a long way towards ensuring you have an ethically produced coffee from bean to machine.
By taking these kinds of steps, no matter what your coffee requirements, if you can ensure that you select the right coffee machines and equipment from good ethical companies, then you can rest assured that you have done your bit to ensure your cuppa is as green as can be. Now you feel comfortable to go ahead and start choosing your machine, here’s a little bit of an insight in to the kind of features you might want to consider…