top of page

Carbon Footprint in Coffee Production

Ecologists talk a lot about climate change: glaciers are melting, ocean levels and average annual air temperatures are rising. Trees do not have time to process all the carbon dioxide, so the ozone layer is destroyed. The earth seems to be wrapped in a cellophane film and therefore is warming up. To prevent this from happening, it is important to reduce our #carbon footprint.

In this period, it is of great importance that we understand what the carbon footprint and greenhouse gases are, when they spread, what consequences this has caused, and what needs to be done about it and take action.

Carbon footprint of coffee: what it is, why it is dangerous and how it is calculated

The carbon footprint of coffee is the sum of its greenhouse gas emissions: carbon dioxide (CO₂) and methane (CH₄). It is produced directly or indirectly at all stages of the coffee industry: cultivation, processing, transportation, preparation, packaging, delivery, consumption.

The total carbon footprint cannot be calculated accurately - there is not enough information about the processes that affect it. For example, vehicle emissions from different modes of transport will differ. Therefore, consider the average.

Greenhouse gases provide climate on our planet: they absorb the heat reflected from the Earth's surface. If it were not in the atmosphere, our planet would be very cold.

However, greenhouse gases are now extremely emitted. The atmosphere absorbs more and more radiation and heats up. A "greenhouse effect" occurs - the temperature of the lower layers of the atmosphere rises. It could cause the planet to become very warm and cause some plant and animal species to begin to slowly disappear.

In order to curb climate change, it is important to reduce the gases released into the atmosphere at every stage of production and consumption.

How do the different stages of coffee production affect the carbon footprint?

Production includes the steps required to obtain green coffee: growing, harvesting and processing. Consider how much carbon footprint is created at each stage.

Carbon footprint from agriculture. Carbon is found in vegetation and soil. When land is cleared for agriculture, a lot of CO₂ is released into the atmosphere. It is also formed when biomass is burned and decomposed. This is why CO₂ emissions have increased in the tropics over the past 100 years: forests are actively cut down and soils cultivated.

Carbon dioxide emissions have increased in this way over 150 years due to changes in land cultivation.

Deforestation releases more carbon into the atmosphere than transport. This happens for three reasons.

First, the ability of the soil to absorb carbon from the atmosphere is lost. This is due to deforestation and the associated drought and rising temperatures.

Second, trees release carbon into the atmosphere when they are burned or left to rot.

Third, carbon is quickly released from organic matter in soil where nothing grows.

Therefore, deforestation currently produces 10% of global carbon emissions.

Half of the carbon in the world's forests is in the tropics. Deforestation accounts for 10% of the world's total anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

To increase the sustainability of coffee, it is important to reduce the carbon footprint of land cultivation.

For this, farmers can switch to organic farming and natural fertilizers. However, they will need to clear more land to compensate for the lower yields. This will increase the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Consumers can choose coffee from small farms such as shady #coffee or African. As a rule, it is considered more environmentally friendly: farmers use only manual labor, natural fertilizers and do not cut down forests to grow coffee. Most “non-green” coffee comes from Brazil. Local growers cut down forests to grow it.

The carbon footprint resulting from the use of fertilizers;

Fertilizers are a major source of emissions, even on organic farms. Manure or coffee pulp waste also emits N₂O (nitric oxide), a powerful greenhouse gas that is not fully absorbed by plants and enters the soil.

Organically grown coffee reduces greenhouse gas emissions from fertilizers, but does not eliminate them. This is confirmed by studies of robusta farms in Vietnam: conventional farms account for 85% of emissions, organic - 68%.

N₂O is also released when pruning coffee trees. Cut branches are left in place to return nutrients to the soil. In doing so, pruning releases nitric oxide, which takes up 7 to 42% of a farm's carbon footprint.

In order for the plants to use nitrogen more efficiently, it is necessary to apply the fertilizer wisely when the plants need it. So they will absorb them more. As a result, less NOO will go to the soil and the farmer will save on fertilizer. This applies to both conventional and organic farms.

Carbon footprint from grain processing. The main carbon emission from the washing plant is methane and gases emitted by the wastewater.

Washed processing uses quite a bit of water. Therefore, untreated wastewater takes into account:

97% emissions in #Kenya,

#79% emissions in Costa Rica,

Central America and 57% of emissions in #Colombia.

In order to reduce the emission percentage, it is necessary to reduce the amount of wastewater from fermentation. For this, producers can use fermentation methods that reduce water consumption. And wetlands can be created to treat wastewater after fermentation. It is inexpensive and will reduce gas emissions into the atmosphere.

However, the most effective way to reduce emissions at this stage is to abandon fermentation and use natural processing or semi-washed processing.

Processing coffee naturally is one way to reduce its carbon footprint at the production stage.

How to reduce the carbon footprint of coffee production?

In order to reduce the carbon footprint during the coffee production stage, you should try to reduce it at every stage. There are several ways to do this.

Turn the farm into #organic farming. This will help reduce carbon emissions. However, higher yields require more land use than conventional cultivation.

Apply fertilizer only when plants need it. As a result, less NOO will enter the soil and farmers will be able to save.

Leave the fermentation and proceed to the dry or half-washed treatment. This will reduce the amount of gas emitted by the wastewater.


bottom of page