Category Archives: Beyond Coffee

A Green Pod? Trade-off between Convenience and Environment

This is an interesting article from the New York Times on the problem faced by coffee industry– how to make gourmet coffee preparation convenient to customer while preserving the environment.

A Coffee Conundrum
By MURRAY CARPENTER

WATERBURY, Vt. — Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has built a reputation as an eco-friendly company since it was founded nearly 30 years ago.

It started composting used coffee grounds in 1983, helped develop an eco-friendly paper cup in 2006 and last year installed a huge solar array on the roof of its distribution center. The company’s motto, “Brewing a Better World,” reflects its belief that it has a responsibility to help improve living conditions in regions that grow coffee beans.

But its recent growth has been fueled by a product that runs counter to its reputation. More than 80 percent of Green Mountain’s $803 million in sales last year came from nonrecyclable, nonbiodegradable, single-use coffee pods and their brewing systems. This year, the company expects to sell nearly three billion K-Cups, the plastic and tinfoil pods that are made to be thrown away — filter, grounds and all — after one use.

Now Green Mountain and its rivals are beginning to wrestle with the waste issue and searching for ways to make the packaging greener. Possible solutions include more use of biodegradable packaging, programs to recycle the pods or making the coffee filters themselves reusable.

“The whole concept of the product is a little bit counter to environmental progress,” said Darby Hoover, a senior resource specialist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If you are trying to create something that is single use, disposable, and relies on a one-way packaging that can’t be recycled, there are inherent problems with that.”

In the battle for market share, single-serve systems are helping coffee remain competitive, Judith Ganes-Chase, a consultant to the coffee industry, said. “The industry has to be innovative. There is a lot of competition from other beverages in the marketplace,” Ms. Ganes-Chase said. “One of the biggest issues has always been the convenience factor of how to get a good cup of coffee to the consumer at any point in the day, when it is demanded.”

Ric Rhinehart, executive director of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, said that although single-serve sales were growing rapidly, they still amounted to a small percentage of the more than 100 billion cups of coffee Americans drink every year.

Green Mountain’s K-Cups come in 300 varieties of coffee, tea and hot chocolate, and a new line of blends made to be brewed over ice. The cost varies, but is often about 60 cents a cup, or $25 a pound of coffee.

At the plant, in a mountain valley between Burlington and Montpelier, burlap sacks of green coffee beans from all over the world are stacked on tall pallet loads in one warehouse. Next door, the beans are roasted. Most are then ground and packed into K-Cups.

The containers resemble oversize creamer tubs. On machines here, they are lined with paper filters, filled with coffee, topped off with nitrogen gas to prevent oxidization, and sealed with foil. The cups work with brewing machines designed by Keurig, a Reading, Mass., subsidiary of Green Mountain.

In the machine, pins puncture the foil top and plastic bottom of the K-Cup, and hot water flows through, brewing a drink into a mug. Then the little cup gets tossed.

Michael Dupee, Green Mountain’s vice president for corporate social responsibility, said some customers did not like to see the waste. “Consumers see the waste stream,” Mr. Dupee said, “and they compare it to what they had done before, and they have a perception that there is a problem.”

To some consumers, however, the convenience and efficiency override the waste issue.

“We used to make a pot of coffee, and we would be throwing it out all the time,” said Michael Hurley, who uses the K-Cup system for concessions at small-town movie theaters he owns in Belfast and Houlton, Me. “So we don’t do that anymore. And when people come in, they get exactly what they want.”

Mr. Dupee showed off a prototype that Green Mountain planned to test this summer. It is a paper K-Cup, filled with Celestial Seasonings tea, that eliminates the plastic and the aluminum foil. In addition, he said many consumers had started brewing coffee in reusable metal-mesh filters for the Keurig machines, which accept ground coffee.

Green Mountain, he said, has also commissioned a life-cycle analysis to understand the environmental costs of the K-Cups. Though he would not discuss details of the analysis, pending a third-party review, he did say the study found that most of the impacts occur where the packaging is produced, not where the waste is disposed. He said he had been working with suppliers to make their manufacturing processes cleaner and more efficient.

He also cited Green Mountain’s collaboration with International Paper to develop the Ecotainer — a hot-beverage cup with a plant-based, compostable lining — as an example of progress in packaging.

Other coffee companies are also wrestling with the waste issue. Businesses that use Flavia pods, which is made by Mars, are able to ship the used pods to the New Jersey company TerraCycle, which will compost the coffee or tea and reuse the plastic in products like pavers and fencing, a TerraCycle spokesman, Albe Zakes said. More than 2.5 million Flavia packs in the United States have been recycled in the last year. Mars sells a billion drinks a year in 35,000 workplaces worldwide.

In Britain, Mr. Zakes said, TerraCycle has processed more than 800,000 coffee discs from Kraft’s Tassimo single-serve system. The results are being evaluated for possible application in the United States, a Kraft spokeswoman, Bridget MacConnell, said. Kraft and Mars are paying for collecting the pods, including shipping costs to TerraCycle.

Sara Lee has a simpler solution for its Senseo pods — the coffee-filled filter bags are made of paper and are biodegradable and compostable.

Nestlé’s upscale Nespresso system uses aluminum capsules, and it has started a pilot program to collect used pods for recycling at some Nespresso Boutiques.

Ms. Hoover, of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said another option was to include prepaid mailers with coffee pods, as Hewlett-Packard has done for ink-jet cartridges.

Green Mountain’s chief executive, Lawrence J. Blanford, said the K-Cups had some environmental benefits. Brewing one cup at a time means less wasted coffee at the bottom of the pot, and this reduces the overall environmental impact per cup of coffee.

K-Cups are also increasing demand for fair-trade coffees, he said, which accounted for 30 percent of Green Mountain sales in 2009. Fair-trade-certified coffees ensure that coffee farmers are paid a fair price per pound, and that coffee farms meet certain environmental standards.

Peter Meehan, chief executive of Newman’s Own Organics, said the success of the K-Cups, which are his company’s fastest-growing product, had helped Newman expand the market for organic products.

Still, Ms. Hoover wonders whether there is a simpler solution to the waste question. “At some point you have to ask, ‘But do we need this product enough that we need to be trying to find all these different solutions for the components of it, or can we just go back to the old way that we used to make coffee, and was that good enough?’ ”

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/business/energy-environment/04coffee.html?_r=1&pagewanted=printhttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/business/energy-environment/04coffee.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print

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Ano Novo Blend & Universal Education

Ano Novo Blend: Give the Gift that Keeps on Giving

The first custom Cafe Hound blend of 2010 is already receiving raving reviews from its first consumers!  As we continue to sell out our limited stock we are closely approaching our goal of having enough money to send a charitable donation to the Barefoot Foundation (Pies Descalzos) down in Colombia.  Below are some success stories from the English version of their website.

All content from the Barefoot Foundation website is the property of the Barefoot Foundation.

Source: http://www.barefootfoundation.com/index_en.php

Success Stories

The stories from the communities we serve inspire us to continue working for those who need us most. These comments from our students and their families describe the changes in their communities. For each success story, there are thousands more children who we hope to serve soon.

Ferley’s Story

Ferley didn’t think he’d ever get to go to school. His thin frame is shrunken by congenital rickets, making him look closer to six than to his eleven years. His mother Clarisa said, “I was afraid that if I let him go to school, the other kids would call him names and make fun of him, and that he would be a burden on the teachers.” Clarisa Rentería and her five children are refugees who fled the violence of Colombia’s civil conflict, eventually settling in Quibdó, a western Colombian city. She explains, “I arrived here in 1999. It was heartbreaking to lose it all and be left with nothing.” The family struggled to survive and could not afford a wheelchair for Ferley. Without a wheelchair, Ferley could not get around the rocky streets.

However, Ferley didn’t want to stay confined to the house. He begged to go to school and longingly studied his siblings’ homework. Pies Descalzos visited Ferley’s house and talked to his mother, convincing her that her son would be well taken care of. When Clarisa saw the desire and determination in her son’s eyes, she agreed. Pies Descalzos bought Ferley a wheelchair and he enrolled in the Pies Descalzos School.

Four years later, Ferley is a happy, popular student who always has a smile on his face. He and his best friend Bryan are inseparable and they dream of continuing their studies. “I like to go to school because I learn a lot and because I like to share with my friends.” Ferley loves math, social science, reading and dreams of becoming a professional singer of Vallenato, a Colombian folk music style.


Ferley with Shakira

To teacher Absalón Asprilla Gómez, Ferley is a special student. “When I face something difficult, I don’t complain, instead, I think about his situation. He is one of the best students in the school, with a permanent smile, despite it all. For me, this is very meaningful. It has helped me grow a lot as a person.”

Pies Descalzos hasn’t just changed Ferley’s life; it has changed his whole family. Clarisa earns extra money for her family by preparing breakfast and lunch for the Pies Descalzos Foundation school as part of the “If I eat better, I will learn more” program. “We prepare lunch for the students and we help with the breakfast, so that they have food and they can study with full stomachs,” says Clarisa proudly. The meals they prepare are supervised by a nutritionist and made possible through Pies Descalzos and the Instituto Colombian Bienestar Familiar. This program helps make sure that the malnutrition that affected Ferley doesn’t affect other children.

The Barefoot Foundation helps hundreds of families like Clarisa and Ferley’s. The Pies Descalzos schools are open to everyone and serve as a center for community development. Parents, neighbors and grandparents learn sewing, artisan skills and literacy while teens engage in micro-businesses, sports leagues, and leadership development activities. This neighborhood is changing and growing thanks to the community, and the Barefoot Foundation and the Pies Descalzos Foundation.

The Story of El Minuto de Dios School, Altos de Cazucá

Elementary school teacher Consuelo Pachón barely recognizes her school, El Minuto de Dios, anymore. She teaches in Soacha an area south of Bogotá that was once a booming mining town. Today, its hills have been stripped of their natural resources, the mines left behind environmental damage and the jobs disappeared. The vacuum left by the mines has been filled with desperately poor people and internal refugees from Colombia’s civil conflict. Thousands flood in each year with nothing but their lives. Fifty-three percent are younger than 14 years old and many children have missed years of school while fleeing.

Before Pies Descalzos Foundation, El Minuto de Dios was in shambles. “At the start it was very hard. The school room walls were made of spare wood, the same kind they use to make fruit crates. The stairs were carved out of mud and, whenever it rained, the children slipped and fell. There weren’t bathrooms, just a latrine. “But now, the conditions have changed tremendously” she commented, raising her eyes to the ceiling in thanks.

The Pies Descalzos Foundation rebuilt the school; they installed sturdy buildings, libraries, computer rooms and safe bathrooms. Pies Descalzos, in alliance with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the government, and Secretary of Education of Soacha, the Minuto de Dios University and the Educational Alliance, support two schools in Altos de Cazucá. In each, they provide nutritious meals, extra programs for troubled kids, recreational and leadership programs, while supporting parent cooperative that help families leave poverty. The community and the children have a safe, supported place to develop. As Ana, one of the school’s parents said “they now have the possibility to imagine a tomorrow filled with human and professional possibilities in this society.”

Jhonathan’s story

Jhonathan wants to clean up Altos de Cazucá. The 17 year old environmental biology major at Jorge Tadeo Lozano University knows only too well the pollution that plagues this poor area south of Bogotá. He moved to Altos de Cazucá as a baby with his mother and siblings. The family struggled to eke out a living, but his mother wanted more for her children so she enrolled them in the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Institute, one of the Pies Descalzos schools.

“The Foundation radically changed my life,” says Jhonathan.  “It taught me to relate to other people and that material things aren’t the only things that count. It helped me realize what my life’s project should be.”  With Pies Descalzos’ support, Jhonathan scored among the highest students in the country on the high school exit exams. He and other top Pies Descalzos students received university scholarships from Pies Descalzos to pursue their dreams.

“The University is an enormous responsibility, not only for myself and my family, but to help the rest of my community,” says Jhonathan. He and another student, Maicol, are using their education to create a recycling business that will provide much needed jobs and help clean up the local environment. Jhonathan also returns to his old neighborhood to tutor kids in school and help them imagine their true potential. “We use games to make learning fun and to expand their interest in school” says Jhonathan.

He loves learning and is eager to continue studying. He would like to pursue a master’s degree in systems engineering and learn French and Portuguese. But, no matter how far he goes, he will never forget the Pies Descalzos Foundation, the Barefoot Foundation and the lessons they taught him about service and believing in his own potential.

Give the Gift that Keeps on Giving and contact Cafe Hound today at maher@cafehound.com or krislert@cafehound.com OR give directly to the Barefoot Foundation by following this link.  Thank you for your time and for relationship with Cafe Hound.  Happy 2010!

Beyond Coffee: Prevent Cancer. Drink Coffee.

Having a few more cups of coffee and running that extra mile each day can reduce a man’s risk of dying of prostate cancer, two studies indicate.

The case for coffee and physical activity as prostate cancer preventatives is far from proven, according to the research reported Tuesday at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Houston. But data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study show a clear association with both daily activities.

“I wouldn’t recommend that people change their coffee-drinking habits based on this study,” said Kathryn M. Wilson, a research fellow in epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, and lead author of one report. “But if you like coffee, there is no compelling reason to cut back at this point.”

Her data on the nearly 50,000 men in the study showed how common a diagnosis of prostate cancer has become since widespread screening began. In the 20 years from 1986 to 2006, 4,975 cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed, affecting just about 10 percent of the men in the study.

But only 846 of those cancers were life-threatening, because they had spread beyond the prostate gland or were growing aggressively, Wilson said. And while the study found just a weak relationship between consumption of six or more cups of coffee a day and a reduced risk of all forms of prostate cancer (down about 19 percent), the reduction for the aggressive form was much more marked — 41 percent.

And there was a clear relationship between the amount of coffee consumed and prostate cancer risk, Wilson said: “The more coffee you drank, the more effect we saw.”

The caffeine in coffee doesn’t seem to be the link, since the same reduction was seen for consumption of decaffeinated coffee, she said. Instead, “it has something to do with insulin and glucose metabolism,” Wilson said. “A number of studies have found that coffee is associated with a reduced risk of diabetes.”

This study is just a starting point for establishing a relationship between coffee and prostate cancer, Wilson stressed. “At this point, we would just like to confirm whether it exists in different populations,” she said. “We hope that this study drives more research so that we really know what is going on.”

The other study, by Stacey A. Kenfield, a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, looked at the levels of physical activity among 2,686 men in the study who were diagnosed with prostate cancer. It found, as many other studies have, that exercise is good for overall health, with a 35 percent lower death rate for men who reported three or more hours a week of vigorous physical activity, such as jogging, biking, swimming or playing tennis.

And the death rate from prostate cancer for men who exercised vigorously was 12 percent lower than for those who didn’t — a figure that did not quite reach the level of statistical significance because the numbers were small, Kenfield explained.

Nevertheless, “this is the first study to show an effect of physical activity not only on overall survival, but on prostate cancer survival,” she said.

It’s already well known how physical activity reduces overall mortality, Kenfield said. “It affects immune function and reduces inflammation, among the major processes involved. But it’s not clear yet how it is related to prostate cancer and survival.”

Source: HealthDay News 12/9/2009

Beyond Coffee: Sustainable Coffee – A Global Solution (Video)

An introductory preview of the sustainable movement, beginning with the organic movement and discussing the needs for global consciousness.  This website, cafehound.com will evaluate the theory and methodologies of some of the people that speak in this video with the goal of contributing to the formulation of objective and credible sustainability standards for the agricultural industry worldwide.  It all begins with coffee.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gObzERrtTCs

coffee.edu: Alternative Coffee Markets and Poverty Reduction

Can Fair-Trade, eco-friendly coffee help farmers get out of poverty? One study suggests so.

Poverty and income fluctuation are the most important problems for many households in developing economies. Poverty is exacerbated when these poor households also face fluctuated income. For these poor households living in poverty and lack of access to financial markets, a slight drop in the price of their agricultural product forces them to reduce consumption and health expenditure, withdraw their children from school, or sell their productive assets. All of these responses to the adverse event lead to lower productivity in the long run, further reducing their chance to get out of poverty. This is especially the case for poor small-scale farmers, whose income is low and vulnerable to crop failures or drops in output prices. However, a study of coffee farmers in Northern Nicaragua by Christopher Bacon may provide a potential partial solution for poverty and vulnerability reduction for these households.

The study took advantage of the changing structure of the global coffee markets in the 1990s (the disintegration of the International Coffee Agreement, market liberalization, and higher rate of transnational corporate concentration). The events led to the decline in world coffee price since 1997 throughout 2005. (Specifically, the average price of mild Arabica beans grown outside Colombia dropped from almost 2 USD per pound in 1997 to slightly above 50 cent in 2001.)  To make the situation worse for Nicaraguan farmers, the drop in world coffee price came at the same time as the 1999-2001 droughts.

Bacon conducted an interesting survey of 228 small-scale coffee farmers in Northern Nicaragua in 2001, right at the time when coffee price hit one of the lowest levels in years. He found that the average prices paid at the farm gate for the 2001-01 harvests differed tremendously by the markets. Coffee sold by cooperative members directly to roasters commanded the highest average price at 1.09 USD while cooperative Fair-Trade coffee and cooperative organic coffee were sold at 0.84 and 0.63 USD, respectively. In contrast, farmers selling coffee to local middleman earned only 0.37 USD. When Bacon looked at how long until the farmers got fully paid, he found that selling to local middleman took only 9 days while selling organic coffee through cooperatives took 73 days. The result is consistent to the fact that the farmers were forced to sell their product to local middlemen at large discount in order to get the payment quickly to satisfy their urgent need due to financial market imperfection.

According to 2000-01 harvest data, 80% of Nicaraguan coffee was potentially specialty coffee. However, only 10% of the 2000-01 harvests were indeed sold as specialty coffee. Bacon therefore concluded that specialty, and other nonconventional coffee markets (such as Fair Trade and eco-friendly coffee markets), which commanded higher price, would be a potential strategy that could help small-scale coffee farmers in Nicaragua achieve higher prices of their product and in the end mitigate their poverty and vulnerable to price shocks. What needed is the creation of the alternative nonconventional coffee markets for these farmers with potential for premium coffee trade.

Questions remain, however: What in fact explains the higher price in special coffee market and in other alternative coffee markets? Is it the inelastic consumer demand? Is it due to insurance or hedging mechanisms that provide the farmers a “buffer” to the change in world coffee price? Is it the bargaining power the farmers have as opposed to the exporter/importers? More research is needed before we fully understand whether and how nonconventional alternative coffee markets could help the poor coffee farmers. Surprisingly, the higher price is not one of the leading reasons the the surveyed households listed as their reasons for growing organic coffee, which include safety for their families and children without agrochemicals on the farm, lower expenditures for synthetic inputs, better environment, and protecting water. But promoting certified, organic, Fair-Trade, eco-friendly coffee to the poor farmers might be one of the strategies to which poverty-reduction campaigns might want to pay more attention, at least for now.

Beyond Coffee: ZERI Foundation

“The Pavillion” in Manizales, Colombia

The most important work of the ZERI foundation and its “Eje Cafetero” project in Colombia was the construction of the ZERI pavilion, thanks to the magnificent design of Simón Vélez and the technical support of Marcelo Villegas.

  • The first objective of this initiative was to prove that Guadua (American bamboo) is a material fit for use in construction, competitive with the most rigid standards of civil engineering.
  • The second was to discard the stereotype of poverty associated with the use of this material, in preference of branding Guadua as a symbol of the Coffee Growing Region, of innovation, sustainability and of practicality.

To strengthen the objectives of the ZERI foundation, it decided to invite Colombian architect  Simón Vélez to design the pavilion for the Hanover Expo 2000 in Germany.  The foundation was invited by the German authorities to present its vision of “humanity, nature and technology,” a modern pavilion among the likes of the pavilion of Japan.

Coffee farmers in the “Eje Cafetero” have long used Guadua to build bench terraces to prevent landslides and routine erosion.  It has also been used for similar purposes in shantytowns in that region of Colombia (hence the association with poverty).  Many have come to realize that it is quite aesthetically pleasing and also incredibly architectually reliable leading to increasing use of Guadua in construction of houses, terraces and more.

The collaboration of the United Nations Development Program, ZERI, Manizales Chamber of Commerce and German partners, the launching of Guadua onto the world stage never would have occurred.  This is also important because it has given agricultural workers in similar climates an additional resource that they can grow, use and sell.

The ZERI foundation was awarded the Sustainability Award from the SCAA in 2009 for its continued efforts to promote sustainability, environmental awareness and economic viability on a global scale. Their specific project was actually related to growing mushrooms from the  cumulative ‘waste’ of the coffee harvest – hence reducing the carbon footprint and adding value for coffee farmers much like the pilot program in Zimbabwe.