Coffee is a resource intensive industry. It takes an incredible amount of energy to produce, transport, roast, deliver and brew coffee. Committed to leaving a light ecological footprint, we continuously strive to find ways to lessen our impact on the environment, from farm to cup. There are 25 million coffee farming families around the world, and 26,000 square miles of the earth’s surface is planted in coffee trees. Each tree makes a difference — to the people whose livelihood depends on it, and to the surrounding environment. Coffee trees provide critical winter habitat for migratory song birds and can be integrated with many other crops to provide a healthy ecosystem that does not require petrochemical based fertilizers or pesticides. We buy many organic and shade grown coffees, and also work directly with farmers to help increase access to knowledge and resources that will allow them to transition into more sustainable farming practices. For example, we have partnered with the organization Trees for the Future to plant shade-trees on coffee farms in Rwanda, to help restore biodiversity on the farms and hopefully make organic farming possible there in the future.

We also facilitated the international exchange of knowledge between coffee farmers. In 2004, we hosted a visit by 5 Rwandans to Nicaragua. They were introduced to the unique history and success of cooperatives in Nicaragua and visited some inspiring organic farms, like the biodynamic farm cultivated by third-generation coffee farmer Byron Corrales. Byron is nothing less than a magician and has taught us much of what we know about the art of coffee farming. He loves his trees and speaks to them frequently; in his words, “I ask them to tell me their secrets.”

For the past 10 years, we’ve looked inward at our operations here and worked to reduce waste through recycling, on-site worm composting (vermiculture), running our delivery trucks on a percentage of biodiesel, and using recycled paper for printed materials. Each week we are visited by local farmers who use our coffee chaff and burlap sacks on their farms. In 2008, we donated a plot of land, adjacent to our company and our own heirloom apple orchard, to a local community garden. To address the larger impact of shipping coffee around the world and all the energy that goes into brewing and serving our coffee, we planted over 70,000 trees in Ethiopia to offset carbon emissions — making us the first carbon-neutral coffee company in 2002.

When it comes to each package of coffee itself, we must balance quality and freshness with concerns for waste. Unfortunately, there is currently no suitable 100% biodegradable coffee package available in the industry. We are shifting some of our packages away from plastic/synthetic materials and using more paper Kraft paper bags — but these are not recyclable or biodegradable due to the lining which preserves freshness. The best we can hope is that you will creatively reuse these bags — you can poke two holes in the bag and fill it with potting soil to start seedlings of your own! We are printing many of the labels for our packaging on 100% post-consumer waste recycled label stock and we are proud to say that our in-store bulk displays will soon feature compostable paper bags with a corn-based PLA lining. Our eyes are open and we are always looking for better ways to do things.

Much of our product development, and what we are putting on the shelves has been inspired by environmental goals. We have created private-label products with each of the following non-profit organizations to raise money for environmental causes and increase awareness: