Eco-Friendly Coffee

Requests for sustainable products are happening all over the country. Interestingly, a product with a positive environmental image affects consumer taste buds.

In a study published in PLOS ONE, an international, peer-reviewed publication for scientific research, participants were given two cups of coffee to taste. One cup was identified as eco-friendly coffee. After tasting the two cups, participants were asked which coffee they preferred. Of the 44 participants, 61 percent preferred the eco-friendly coffee. Many were also willing to pay more for it, even after it was revealed that both of the cups held the exact same coffee.

The research implies that Fair Trade and Rain Forest Alliance certified coffees are in demand by a majority of consumers. These coffees are available in many different formats, including frac pack and single cup. Due to the third party certification, these coffees are also an easy way to bring sustainability into the office.


Sustainable single cup

For U.S. consumers, single cup coffee is among the fastest growing segment. According to the Automatic Merchandiser State of the Coffee Industry Report, last year more than 20 percent of the office coffee market was using single cup brewers. But can they be “green”?

Keurig brewers dominate the industry making the K-Cup® a very popular single serve option. While Fair Trade coffee is available as a K-Cup®, some claim the product itself is not environmentally friendly as the cartridge is disposable and not recyclable. However, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has done a Life Cycle Assessment of the K-Cup® and found that the most significant environmental impact of the K-Cup® is associated with production and packaging, the use phase and the coffee cultivation phase. The End-of-Life is only a small part of green house gas emissions and energy demand. In fact, GMCR reports that the K-Cup® brewing system uses less energy in an office environment than a traditional batch brewing system. This translates into a reduced environmental impact.

There are other single cup alternatives as well. The UpShot Filter, a prepacked cartridge that works in K-Cup® style brewers, is composed of 100 percent polypropylene, which makes it recyclable with other No.5 plastics. There is also the KiennaKup Re-Usable Pod Adapter, a reusable adapter that works in single-cup brewers using biodegradable coffee pods.


Pods offer alternatives

Probably the most notable environmental single cup system is a pod. The material used to contain the coffee is minimal and some are made with biodegradable filter paper. Coffee pod brewers have evolved in recent years, producing a consistent quality coffee with minimal maintenance issues.

As service providers, operators must offer more than what the customer expects. Environmentally-friendly options in coffee service are a way to do just that.