When going to my local coffee shop this morning, the following sign was set up at the counter reading

‘OUR COFFEE PRICES GOING UP, WHY?…….

  http://i.imgur.com/J4Yf3LQ.png

Picture 1: My favorite coffee shop in Redwood City (not from a chain!)

Further it reads:

‘Increasing temperatures are pushing coffee growers higher up into the mountains to escape the heat, which has a detrimental effect on coffee production. Also, major coffee growing regions are experiencing new bouts of leaf rust. With all the forces pushing coffee prices up – roasting and shipping are the major coffee production costs……..we are committed to the well-being of everyone we work with, from the farmers and the communiies they live in, to our employees and communities here in Redwood City………….Thank you for your loyalty’.

I had a chance to discuss this matter with Jim Hanna,  Director of environmental affairs at Starbucks. No surprise is that climate change is ‘material’ for Starbucks, since their business relies on speciality agricultural products, namely coffee.

http://i.imgur.com/jMdDRmp.jpg

Picture 2: Impact on Growing Regions (Source: Otto Simonett, GRID-Geneva)

Jim showed the picture above from a recent climate change study showing the fatal impact of 2 degrees temperature rise for their coffee plantations in Uganda. It basically shows that todays coffee plantations will be destroyed and growing of coffee will be reduced to very small pockets in the south-west.

Here are some additional Starbucks facts that might not be widely known.

Most peoples initial reaction when Starbucks talks about climate change: Do something about the cups! Right ? After all, four billion disposable cups are used for Starbucks coffee by Starbucks customers every year, filling up our garbage cans.

And Starbucks is very aware of that perception, putting out an ambitious goal for 2015.

http://i.imgur.com/4Qs9Zs3.jpg

Picture 3: Starbucks Goals (Source: Whats Brewing, Jim Hanna, Sustainable Brands London, 2013)

But here is a fact that will surprise most of us. The energy use and therefore contribution to emissions of those cups is not even measurable on the bigger picture. (see picture 4)

  http://i.imgur.com/ibPohbU.png

Picture 4: Starbucks Store Energy Use (Source: Whats Brewing, Jim Hanna, Sustainable Brands London, 2013)

Another hardly known fact. Nitrous oxide accounts for a larger slice of the company’s carbon footprint than all of its U.S. roasting operations combined.

Nitrous oxide? What is this? Its laughing gas! Colourless, non-flammable, slightly sweet odour. Used for anaesthetic due to ‘euphoric’ effect of inhaling it, according to Wikipedia.

Now before you get any ideas what we do in our coffee shops…after all I’m back in San Francisco while writing this 😉 .  Starbucks is using nitrous oxide for producing the whip cream in their stores. And nitrous oxide is after all a major greenhouse gas and air pollutant.

Something to think about when enjoying your next Latte at Starbucks, Peets, or any other coffee shop. 🙂

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