Coffee House Sustainability

The Carbon Footprint of A Café & How to Reduce It

Before becoming a barista, I never really thought about the impact it might have on the environment.

But did you know that cafes produce up to six tons per week of carbon dioxide? That’s a lot more than just paper cup wastage!

After conducting extensive research, I’ve found some surprising factors contributing to this footprint and ways we can reduce our environmental impact beyond just saying no to single-use cups.

Key Takeaways

  • Cafes contribute to carbon footprint beyond just paper cup wastage.
  • Conducting a life cycle analysis can reveal other major contributing factors.
  • Energy usage, milk usage, and food waste are the three main categories that have the biggest impact on cafes’ carbon footprint.
  • Small changes in big categories have a greater impact than big changes in small categories.
  • Turning off machines at night, using accurate milk dosing systems, and creative use of whole portions of products can help reduce environmental impact.
  • Coffee consumption is the biggest contributing factor to cafes’ overall lifecycle analysis.

Keep reading to find out how we can take action and make a difference.

Life Cycle Analysis

It is essential to understand the impact of every process in your cafe on the environment. This understanding comes from performing a life cycle analysis, which looks at everything that happens during any given process to determine its environmental footprint.

When conducting a life cycle analysis for cafes and coffee shops, we found that paper cups only account for a small percentage of carbon dioxide emissions. This means that while reducing paper cup waste is still important, there are other areas where small changes can make significant impacts.

The three major categories contributing to a cafe’s carbon dioxide footprint are:

  1. energy usage,
  2. milk usage,
  3. food wastage.

Understanding each category’s contribution will help you identify opportunities for improvement further.

In our life cycle analysis research, we looked into not just paper cups but also cups, bacon and egg rolls as well as espresso machines – all components of running a successful cafe business.

Then we computed ultimately what we called ‘a big wheel’, which allowed us to look at individual carbon dioxide emissions from different parts or processes involved in operating such an establishment.

Three Major Contributing Factors to Carbon Footprint in Cafes

Here is a rundown of all 3 factors.

CategoryExplanationWays to Reduce
Energy UsageHeating machine and producing coffeeTurn off at night, use machines with eco mode, implement timers
Milk UsageCow farming and milk wastageUse accurate milk dosing systems, utilize whole portions of the product
Food WasteUneaten food breaking down in landfillMinimize waste by creative menu planning

Energy Usage

One of the biggest contributors to cafes’ carbon footprints is their energy consumption.

The heating up of water required for making coffee alone requires an enormous amount of energy since water has one of the highest heat capacities known to mankind.

To put things into perspective: One gram of water takes around four kilojoules (kJ) of energy to increase its temperature by 1 degree Celsius!

Therefore pumping massive amounts of electricity solely used for boiling water becomes extremely harmful when considering long-term sustainability goals.

However daunting this may sound, switching off your machine entirely between transition hours like closing time after evening service till opening the next day morning saves a considerable amount both financially and ecologically speaking.

We found through our analysis that if you have 5 hours between service in the afternoon and when you wake up to start serving coffee in the morning, turning off your espresso machine saves a considerable amount of energy.

This equates to $325 savings on your monthly electricity bill.

By implementing eco-mode settings or purchasing machines with built-in timers, cafes can reduce their energy usage by half during operation hours itself! Hence it is essential always to look out for smart ways that help conserve electricity while still ensuring efficiency all around.

Milk Usage

Milk consumption accounts for a significant portion of carbon dioxide emissions generated by running a cafe. 70-80% of people consume milk-based beverages like lattes and cappuccinos daily.

The production of milk itself requires growing feed as part of rearing livestock. As you also may know, cows also produce greenhouse gases (GHG) by methane emission (farts). Methane produced by cows is an incredibly potent GHG known to be over thirty times more harmful than CO2.

Therefore reducing unnecessary wastage due to inaccurate measurements will go a long way towards saving gallons of wasted milk every day. Installing accurate milk dosing systems such as the juggler system, or even something as simple as putting a line marker inside your jugs, could prevent dozens of liters from being tipped away each day.

As baristas ourselves we know how easy it is during busy rush periods to overlook minor details like filling up your jug correctly each time you make another drink.

Keeping tabs on these little things regularly through strict processes put in place helps stay mindful about conserving resources without compromising quality or taste.

Food Wastage

Food waste generates a carbon dioxide footprint just like paper cups do, since they end up at landfills similarly breaking down into smaller products and emitting vast amounts of greenhouse gases affecting air quality and public health.

Reducing food wastage starts with minimizing what goes into bins. Some tips are:

  • use whole portions fruits & vegetables
  • buying only what’s necessary,
  • utilizing the entire animal when cooking meat-based dishes..
  • make it a point to display daily specials or recommendations that help use up any ingredients which are near their expiration date
  • regularly donate food items nearing expiry dates to local charities around your area

By sharing these small tips with your customers in-store through social media & other marketing channels, you may inspire them too which could influence greater change all around.

The Role of Coffee Consumption in the Overall Lifecycle Analysis

It’s easy to see how coffee consumption is the biggest contributing factor to the carbon dioxide footprint in cafes.

Carbon Footprint At Cafe

But what can we do about it?

Are small changes really enough to make an impact?

The answer is yes! In fact, small changes can have a huge impact on the environment, especially when it comes to coffee production and consumption.

According to the life cycle analysis at 7 miles coffee roasters, coffee consumption dwarfs every other category in terms of environmental impact. This means that even small changes in this area can have a big impact on reducing your cafe’s overall carbon footprint.

So what are some ways you can reduce your cafe’s environmental impact through coffee consumption?

1. Offer Sustainable Coffee Options

One way is by offering sustainable coffee options. Look for beans that are ethically sourced and grown without harmful chemicals or pesticides.

By doing so, you’re not only reducing your cafe’s carbon footprint but also supporting farmers who prioritize sustainability.

2. Reduce Single-Use Products

Another way is by reducing single-use products such as stirrers and plastic lids. Instead, offer reusable alternatives. Metal spoons or biodegradable straws made from materials like paper or bamboo are great alternatives.

By making these simple changes, you’ll be able to reduce your cafe’s overall waste while promoting sustainable practices among your customers.

3. Educate Your Customers

Finally, educate your customers on the importance of sustainability in coffee production and consumption.

  • Display posters or brochures explaining how they can make a difference with their daily choices.
  • Encourage them to bring their own reusable cups and containers instead of relying on single-use items.

At my café, we offer discounts to customers who bring in their own cups – not only does this encourage sustainability but it also helps us save money on supplies.

As a barista myself, I’ve seen firsthand how much waste cafes generate on a daily basis. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of a busy café, but it’s important to take a step back and think about our impact on the environment.

What can you do?

Well, I must say that conducting a life cycle analysis on cafes and coffee shops has been an insightful experience. It turns out that paper cup wastage is only a small part of the carbon footprint generated by these establishments. By far, the largest contributors are energy usage, milk consumption, and food waste.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are ways we can minimize our environmental impact as cafe owners and baristas.

From turning off machines at night to implementing accurate milk dosing systems, every small change can have a big impact on reducing our carbon footprint.

So let’s take responsibility for our contribution to the environment beyond just paper cups and work towards creating more sustainable practices in our industry.

Let’s do better for ourselves, for our customers, and for our planet.

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5 Comments

  1. As someone with a background in environmental science, I appreciate the article’s deep dive into the carbon footprint of cafés. The focus on life cycle analysis is spot-on, as it often reveals surprising areas where improvements can be made. I would add that local sourcing for food items can further reduce transport-related emissions and support the community.

  2. Wow, I never knew how much milk usage in cafes impacted our carbon footprint. After reading this, I started using oat milk in my home-brewed coffee, which has a lower environmental impact than dairy. It’s small changes like these that can add up.

  3. Can someone clarify how exactly the accurate milk dosing systems work to reduce waste? Is it a technology thing or just a more mindful way of measuring? Concerned about the upfront costs for small businesses wanting to implement this.

  4. The article mentions turning off machines at night to save energy. I’ve noticed my local café doing this and they also use LED lighting. Is this enough for significant savings, or are there more impactful measures they should consider?

  5. In response to BigDaddyJ’s question, accurate milk dosing systems are designed to dispense the exact amount of milk needed for each drink, which helps in minimizing excess usage and waste. About the cost, it is an investment, but the savings in the long term from reduced waste and purchasing costs can be substantial.