At McCabe’s Coffee we are dedicated to roasting delicious coffee in the most sustainable way we can and to minimize any negative impact on this generation and generations to come.
Whether you’re a caffeine connoisseur – or just someone who needs a coffee in the mornings to survive the day – one thing’s for sure, nothing quite beats the taste of a freshly brewed coffee.
But have you ever sat back and wondered about where your coffee comes from? What life might be like for the farmers that grow and pick it? Possibly not, but now more than ever is the time to think about just how fair your morning fix is.
Having sustainable and eco-friendly coffee is extremely important to the global coffee market. Nowadays, many coffee brands pride themselves on their tasty coffee, but it’s what they’re doing to help make a difference for farmers and the environment that should really be championed.
In this article we take a closer look at sustainable coffee and how by choosing to purchase your coffee beans or ground coffee from sustainable brands, you can help make a difference.
What does sustainable coffee mean?
You might be wondering what sustainable coffee actually means. To put it simply, sustainable coffee means the coffee you buy is being produced and used in an environmentally friendly way and is protecting the local environment and farmers that grow it.
There are plenty of examples of this including Fairtrade coffee, Rainforest Alliance and UTZ, Bird Friendly and Soil Association Organic.
One of the most well-known examples of sustainable coffee is the Fairtrade certification. Coffee that features the Fairtrade coffee logo means that coffee farmers and producers are being paid a fair and stable price for their coffee.
Coffee farmers being paid a fair price for their coffee beans is extremely important because if the already unstable market price of coffee drops below the level required for coffee farmers to be able to survive, it means they are still paid a fair wage.
This is around $1.40 per pound for arabica coffee sold on Fairtrade terms (30 cents more if certified organic as this is better for the environment due to using no synthetic chemicals or pesticides), plus an extra 20 cents per pound Fairtrade premium to invest as they see fit – 5 cents of which is dedicated to improving coffee production and quality.
The Fairtrade minimum price is key to ensuring coffee is produced sustainably – by paying farmers a fair price, they can afford to invest more into their business, utilising farming methods that are environmentally conscious.
Rainforest Alliance and UTZ
The Rainforest Alliance and UTZ merged prior to the pandemic, to create a modern day sustainability standard for agriculture production, including coffee.
One of the most popular programmes for coffee products, the Rainforest Alliance combines environmental and social standards, acting as an advocate for change.
For a crop to be certified organic in Europe, it must be grown according to European organic standards, which puts certain techniques such as exclusion of pesticides and non-biological fertilisers at the front.
In Ireland, The Organic Trust are the premier certification body for organic certified coffee and is an acknowledged centre of excellence due to the broad range of organic technical expertise available to their members
Unlike some other certifications, in order for brands to maintain Organic Trust status, the growing and processing sites are audited at least once a year, ensuring the Organic standards are maintained.
One of the lesser known certifications is Bird Friendly.
Requiring the adherence to some of the strictest regulations on shade cover (at least 40% compared to 15% of the Rainforest Alliance) and canopy height, as well as ensuring 100% organic production, all Bird Friendly products aim to reduce the environmental impacts of coffee production.
It is important to remember, however, that just because a product hasn’t been certified by one of the above organisations, it doesn’t mean it isn’t sustainable. Many certifications cost a lot of money to acquire and keep, meaning that small, local growers who follow sustainable farming practices may not be able to afford them.
Sustainable coffee beans
One of the main considerations for any coffee purchase is how the beans are grown. Coffee farming covers a wide range of farming methods meaning it has a broader range of environmental impacts than any other crop in the world.
Traditional methods that utilise shade-grown coffee and waterway buffering typically have the least impact on the environment and help to foster rich ecological biodiversity.
Other methods that grow crops in sunlight to increase their yield are much harsher to the environment and often result in deforestation, reduced biodiversity and the use of heavy machinery and chemicals.
When purchasing coffee beans you should aim to look for certifications such as the Fairtrade certification which ensures growers adhere to strict guidelines.
Coffee pods are a quick and convenient way to get your morning cup and have continued to grow in popularity across the UK & Ireland since they were introduced many years ago.
Coffee pods get a bad reputation – but are these little aluminium pods really that bad for the environment?
Is there a solution?
At McCabe’s Coffee, we are dedicated to roasting delicious coffee in the most sustainable way we can and to minimize any negative impact on this generation and generations to come.
The farmers who grow our coffee must receive a fair price.
We have built close relationships with these farmers over the years, visiting when we can and contacting them each year to agree on a price that is fair with the help of brokers we work with.
- The price paid to the farmer or farmers in a cooperative must be a minimum of 20% more than the Fairtrade price
- Typical daily payment for pickers must at least match the legal minimum daily wage.
- Water, sanitation, and accommodation must be provided on the farms
- Confirmation that no underage workers work on the farms.
- Each year we increase our Organic coffee offer and only partner with rainforest alliance or carbon neutral coffee farms.
‘Direct trade’ claimed by some roasters where they buy direct from farmers is also sustainable but has the added risk of payment upfront, large container loads of coffee that need to be stored and little come back if it doesn’t match up to the coffee you cupped prior to buying.
Coffee brokers add great service to the coffee supply chain and we are happy to pay them for this once our terms above are met.
We also use Fair Trade and Organic Certified Coffee. We believe in agreeing to a higher price than the Fairtrade price as we do for our sustainably traded coffees is better for farmers, but some customers prefer the external control provided by Fair Trade policy.
Organic coffee uses no carbon-rich fertilizers, dramatically improving the carbon footprint of the coffee.
Ireland’s first carbon negative coffee roastery
In 2019 we teamed up with Hometree, an Irish charity whose work is to establish and conserve permanent native woodland in Ireland, encouraging land regeneration and biodiversity through afforestation, restoration and education.
Together with our partners, Tree Nation planting trees between the Tropics, we now have agreements in place to plant over 3,000 trees a year.
This will offset more than our carbon footprint and improve biodiversity in these areas.
We do an annual sustainability report including Scope 1 and 2 analysis to ensure we are improving our carbon footprint each year and provide a link on our website to this report.
All of the tree planting projects we’re involved with have firm partnership contracts in place to ensure the trees are managed, protected and allowed to live out their natural lives. You can visit our forest soon in Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare.
We have committed to not purchasing any more diesel vans and have two electrical vehicles on the way.
Last month we teamed up with EcoXpress courier company who only use electric vehicles for deliveries.
Sustainable packaging solution
After almost 3 years of exploring compostable packaging, certifications, testing, re-sealable containers and re-using bags, all had issues and none worked as well as our existing catering packaging which unfortunately cannot be recycled, until now.
We collect every bag we supply to customers, bale them and send them to Terracycle UK who recycle them into long-life plastic products such as watering cans, plant boxes and park benches.
From meeting management at Panda Waste, the largest waste collection business in Ireland, we discovered that no plastic is recycled in Ireland. We sort waste here and export it to a variety of mainly Asian countries following China’s refusal to take our soft plastics in 2017.
So-called, recycled packaging offered by some of our competitors is either being incinerated here in Ireland or being shipped to Asia where it is either incinerated or illegally dumped.
Incineration does create fuel but dioxin levels have to be carefully monitored and nothing new is created. The recent news on recycling soft plastics is a positive step forward but composite films used by many coffee roasters can still not be recycled in Ireland.
A circular plastics economy is a sustainable alternative to the traditional linear model of create – consume – dispose: keeping plastic in use for as long as possible, recovering and recycling it to extract value and regenerate it into new products, creating a make – consume – recycle model.
The model eliminates waste plastic into the environment and reduces the requirement for fossil feedstock in plastic production.
Tackling waste is an important component of the Climate Action Plan with some 60% of all greenhouse gas emissions linked to the production and use of raw materials.
This is the most sustainable packaging solution we can find and we are very proud to be the first Irish Coffee Roasters to offer this service.SHOP NOW