The carbon footprint of coffee
The carbon footprint of coffee

The carbon footprint of coffee

British researchers have investigated how to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of coffee by 77 percent.

The carbon footprint of coffee | Carbon Neutral Company

On a weight basis, coffee is one of the least sustainably produced foods, producing as much carbon dioxide as cheese and with half the carbon footprint of one of the most polluting foods, beef, according to The Conversation.
Worldwide, more than 9.5 billion tonnes of coffee are produced each year, with a commercial value of $30.9 billion (8.9 thousand billion forints). Global demand for coffee is estimated to triple production by 2050, putting huge pressure on forests and other habitats in the tropics.

Fortunately, there are more environmentally friendly ways to grow coffee. Researchers at  University College London have calculated and compared the carbon footprints of arabica coffee from Brazil and Vietnam, produced in both conventional and sustainable ways. They found that changing the way coffee is grown, transported and consumed could reduce the carbon emissions associated with the production and enjoyment of coffee by up to 77 per cent.

Growing a single kilogram of arabica coffee in any country and exporting it to the UK produces an average of 15.33 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, the experts found. This is for coffee beans (green coffee) produced using traditional methods, still raw and before roasting.

But by using fewer pesticides, optimising energy and water use, and transporting by ship instead of air, the emissions per kilogram of coffee can be reduced to 3.51 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

The carbon footprint of coffee | Carbon Neutral Company


One cup of coffee contains an average of 18 grams of green coffee, so one kilogram can make 56 espressos. The carbon footprint of a single espresso is about 0.28 kilograms, but can be reduced to 0.06 kilograms if grown sustainably.
Coffee with milk has a larger carbon footprint. A latte emits about 0.55 kilograms of carbon, a cappuccino 0.41 kilograms and a flat white 0.34 kilograms. Drinks made from sustainably grown coffee, on the other hand, are only 0.33 kilograms, 0.2 kilograms and 0.13 kilograms respectively.

Drinking plant-based dairy drinks is another way to make coffee drinking more environmentally friendly, say the scientists.
For example, replacing chemical pesticides with organic ones or supplying farms with renewable energy can reduce the carbon footprint. And if the coffee is roasted at origin, the vehicle will use less fuel to transport it because the beans will be lighter.


Source:  Royal Geographical Society / ClimeNews

Life cycle assessment synthesis of the carbon footprint of Arabica coffee: Case study of Brazil
and Vietnam conventional and sustainable coffee production and export to the United Kingdom