Environmental Considerations of K-Cups
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, the developer of K-Cups, is dedicated to producing truly inspired coffee in a manner which is environmentally sound, socially just and undeniably delicious! Green Mountain fully recognizes that helping to manage the environmental impact of their overall business, and in particular, of K-Cups, is critically important.
The K-Cup is made up of three main elements – the cup itself, a filter and an aluminum foil top. While the K-Cup itself includes biodegradable coffee, a biodegradable filter, and a recyclable K-Cup plastic container, the polyethylene coating of the foil, as well as the process of heat-sealing the various elements, makes recycling difficult. However, it is this packaging that prevents oxygen, light and moisture from degrading the coffee, enabling them to deliver the freshest coffee house quality of coffee to you a cup at a time.
K-Cup Environmental Advantages
There are some significant ways in which K-Cups are environmentally advantageous versus traditionally brewed coffee. These factors need to be balanced against the more visible issue related to the environmental impact of disposing of the K-Cup packaging material. 20%-25% of brewed coffee is typically wasted due to being cold, tasting burned, or being discarded at day end or by an employee who does not like the way the current pot of coffee tastes.
- K-Cups eliminate the waste and pollution involved with growing, packaging and, transporting coffee that is wasted.
- K-Cups eliminate the wasted water and energy used to brew the coffee and clean the pots, and eliminate the need for cleaning detergents
- K-Cups eliminate the energy used to power the heating burners used to keep coffee warm throughout the day.
Some of the key coffee related initiatives being pursued by Green Mountain include:
- Conducting a Life Cycle analysis to better understand the overall impact of the K-Cup, from tree to cup to community recycling capabilities, to identify ways to reduce their impact on the overall environment.
- Aggressively promoting Fair Trade organically grown coffee, with 30% of Green Mountain coffee falling into this environmentally friendly category.
- Developing coffees to support nonprofit environmental partners like the National Wildlife Federation and the Tanzanian Gombe Reserve (Jane Goodall Institute to help protect chimpanzee habitat)
Fair Trade/Organic Benefits
Fair Trade coffee helps insure that farmers are using more sustainable farming practices, promoting conservation, agricultural diversification, soil fertility, biodiversity, improved land management, responsible use and handling of agrochemicals, as well as properly disposing of both organic and hazardous waste, and avoiding genetically modified organisms.
Organically grown coffees are produced without synthetics pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. They are also typically grown under the shade of a forest canopy, helping to protect forests, which slows down global warming and protects our planet’s biodiversity.
Green Mountain is also a highly responsible corporate citizen, as evidenced by its policies and the recognition it has received:
- Ranked #1 on the list of “100 Best Corporate Citizens” twice, by Corporate Responsibility Magazine.
- Singled out by Forbes, SustainableBusiness.com and others as a socially responsible, innovative company.
- Donates at least 5% of pre-tax profits to community and environmental projects, supporting over 1,200 nonprofits.
- Encourages employees to spend up to 6.5 days a year of paid work time to do volunteer work.
- Installed the largest solar array in Vermont and a cogeneration system to recapture heat generated during brewing, operate their HQ fleet on biodiesel, and purchase carbon offsets to make operations and transportation 100% greenhouse gas neutral.