At Café Imports, we are aware that participating in the global coffee market is a complicated and, in many cases even problematic endeavor when it comes to eco-awareness: Everything we do, from farm-level business to shipping and storage, to operating offices on several continents, has an impact on the world around us—often in ways which are difficult to recognize at first.
We strive to be active and in tune with the impact our business and behavior has on the environment — we don’t consider ourselves a ‘green’ business, but we are committed to make environmentally conscious decisions at every step of the coffee chain, wherever possible. From simple things like creating a composting system in our office kitchen, to larger scale like planting trees to offset our carbon footprint, we are working to do what we can, and we are eager to discover more ways to reduce the environmental impact of importing coffee.
In early 2014, we began exploring ways in which we could use alternative energy sources at our home facility in Minneapolis. We set out with the intent of having solar paneling cover our roof; solar power is clean, scalable, silent, and efficient energy -- an absolute frontrunner in our quest for renewable energy. Many weeks, months, and engineering reports later we found that the structural design of our building was not going to allow for the weight of the installation. Down, but not out, Café Imports explored every viable option for harnessing the sun's energy for our offices. It was determined that a small strip of land at the back of our building could support solar paneling, as long as the panels were installed at a high enough elevation. The resulting 10k, pole mounted solar power installation is the largest of its kind inside the City of Minneapolis. It should be noted that the City of Minneapolis is a huge proponent of solar installs and is making it very easy for residents and businesses to take advantage of this renewable resource. While the system will not offset all of our power from the electric company, we will be generating roughly 25% of our electricity from the 36 Solar Panels mounted in our back yard.
We've seen the cost of Solar Energy begin to drop significantly over the last few years. More contractors are taking on the installation process, cost of equipment continues to drop, and energy companies are jumping on board with incentives and rebates making solar installation a viable alternative to coal-based non-renewable electricity. As more and more businesses and homeowners make the financial commitment to renewable energy sources, we can expect the costs to continue to fall. With the incentives from Xcel energy, the 30% Federal Tax Credit, as well as the monthly return on our electric bill, we hope to have the system completely paid for by 2020.
The carbon output of importing coffee is significant: between importing ocean freight, transporting containers, business travel, warehousing and facilitating daily business, there is a whole lot of energy that goes into getting these coffee bags where they need to go. For 2015, here is an assessment of our carbon footprint based on approximate assumptions:
In 2007 we used the method above to calculate our carbon footprint and then predicted our future carbon footprint by forecasting our growth. We were able to come up with a quantifiably large number that would put us in a position to make a real impact with carbon offsetting options. After some exploring, we crossed paths with Trees for the Future, a 501 (c) (3) public charity based out of Maryland that has planted millions of trees in 19 different countries. They have planted trees in an incredible range of environments, from coastal areas to the mountains, restoring soil that has been uproductive for decades or even hundreds of years. With the help of Trees for the Future, it was determined that by planting 80,000 trees in Central America, we could offset our carbon output for roughly ten years. With 2017 approaching, we are currently evaluating ways in which we can continue to offset our future carbon emissions. Carbon offsets have come a long way in the last few years and we are excited to see what we can do next, stay tuned.
Since 2002, we have been certified as an organic handler at our U.S. warehouse by the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association (MCIA). As of 2015, Cafe Imports Europe and our European warehousing facility are certified as an organic handler by Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G) in the UK.
The environmental commitments we have integrated into our business practices are here to stay. We know there is plenty of room for improvement, but we take pride knowing there are efforts in place. Moving forward, we plan to continue expanding our eco-concious practices by consistently reviewing our current operations and exploring areas that we can improve. If you have any suggestions, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we will happily consider your input.