A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
This list is in alpha order. There is no index as such - but a highly-arbitrary list of possible subsections may appear in due course.
The ‘first carbon-neutral coffee roastery on the planet’ is in Ireland, and an unusual aspect of this ‘world first’ is that the roastery does not want to keep its secrets to itself. According to David McKernan, founder of Java Republic in Dublin, visitors from all parts of the coffee trade, even rival roasters, are welcome to tour his new building to see what is being done.
“This is unique, because none of the big roasters ever show their processes,” he says. “I got the idea of an environmentally-friendly, fully-open roastery in San Francisco fifteen years ago, and I’ve kept the dream ever since.”
The essence of his new facility is a roastery combined with a public café. The two are divided only by a sheet of glass, so that while customers are n the café, they can watch roasting being done, and begin to appreciate what goes into the preparation of their coffee.
At the same time, the roastery is intended to be an inspiration for other coffee companies wishing to go down an environmental route.
To be strictly carbon-neutral, a business must reduce its carbon footprint to zero, by removing direct emissions completely and offsetting those it cannot directly remove. A ‘carbon footprint’ is the impact a company has on the environment, in terms of the greenhouse gases it has caused, measured in units of carbon dioxide. (One European energy group reckons that the average person’s carbon footprint is just over nine tonnes a year.)
Carbon-neutrality is achieved either by avoiding emissions of carbon dioxide completely, or of balancing any emissions with the creation of a similar amount of ‘renewable’ energy. It can also be achieved by ‘offsetting’, which is compensating for one’s own emissions by paying for something else which will benefit the environment.
The whole concept of carbon emissions is controversial – some critics say that carbon has nothing to do with global warming at all, and on the very weekend that Java Republic opened, one of the big British newspapers printed a list of famous Europeans who deride the whole idea of global warming as a fraud.
Among them were Dutch activist Hans Schreuder, who says the greenhouse effect is fictitious, the former British government minister Nigel Lawson, who says that there has been no global warming this century, and most surprisingly of all, the British naturalist and TV personality David Bellamy, who called global warming ‘the biggest scam since the church sold indulgencies back in the middle ages’. Others called Al Gore’s work a fraud and branded him a liar.
At Java Republic, David McKernan is known for his strong opinions, most notably in his demands for fair treatment of coffee and cocoa growers, and he has no time for naysayers on global warming.
“I can’t believe it. I’ve seen the Al Gore film, and I thought it was good. If these people really believe that there is no effect on the planet, they’re nuts. I’ve been on this planet forty years, and I see the effects every summer – just look at the trees and rivers, look at the weather patterns, and just look at what China’s doing. You can’t send all these emissions out and expect them not to come back. There’s only one planet, and we’ve got to protect it.
“I used to be a fan of Bellamy, but I can’t believe that someone I’ve watched since I was a kid could have said that… if I met him now, I’d want to shoot him.”
And so Java Republic continues to have faith in its new carbon-neutral roastery, for which it has raised around seven million euros to move its operation out of town to a 26,000 sq ft facility sited a stone’s throw from Dublin airport.
A major initial problem is that there has been very little research into the environmental impact of the coffee industry – as the energy requirement of the coffee trade appears never to have been measured, nobody really knows the carbon footprint of a sack of beans.
A carbon footprint is ‘a measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide’. It is meant to be useful for individuals, nations and organizations to conceptualize their personal (or organizational) impact in contributing to global warming.
Accurate carbon footprint can only ever be established in retrospect, so Java Republic will have to wait a year to fully show its performance. To a certain extent, it is currently running ‘blind’, working on predictions and estimates based on energy bills from the old roastery and assessment of the floor area of the new one.
There being no blueprint to work to, the only course was to evaluate every single operation that goes on in a roastery and café, and question the acceptability of the way everything was previously done.
Some initial assumptions turned out to be wrong. When looking for alternative sources of energy, one of the obvious ideas is solar panels – and this turns out to be a mistake.
“We considered them at the beginning,” reports Java Republic. “We had to consider all the materials that went into the building, and we built it facing the right direction, in a triangular shape which fits the normal manufacturing pattern, only slightly limited by the flight path to the airport.
“The majority of the sun comes at the top of the triangle, and we discovered that solar panels are not always the best answer… sometimes you just do not get your best payback that way.”
Generally speaking, solar thermal panels for the production of hot water provide reasonable paybacks. However, Java Republic found a better heating idea – the American concept of a carbon-neutral wood fuel called ‘pellets’, tiny twiglets less than an inch long, which are burned in a little shed outside the roastery known as the Energy Cabin.
This is fired up one hour ahead of the roastery starting every day, and turned off every evening. David McKernan took 10 tonnes of pellets as his first order, and estimates that he will not need another delivery for about a year. Ultimately, Java Republic will save about 50 per cent on fuel costs, but it turns out that pellets work a boiler more efficiently, and about 92 per cent of the waste from the pellets ends up on the flowerbeds surrounding the building.”
The pellets count as carbon-neutral because trees use photosynthesis, which itself is solar energy, to combine carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with water and nutrients from the soil to produce plant matter. The wood pellets came from trees which absorbed carbon dioxide as part of the photosynthesis process; the absorbed carbon dioxide is equal to that released in the combustion process, and so the process is rated carbon-neutral.
Java Republic’s two roasters are a 60-kilo and a 150-kilo made by Samiac of France, and both are gas-fired. David McKernan says that estimating the energy consumption of a roaster is a very good question that most roastmasters have not thought to investigate – and that they really should.
The mains gas used to power the roasters is not carbon-neutral, but has a low rate of carbon emissions compared to other fossil fuels such as oil. As there would seem to be no alternative to gas for the roasters, those emissions will have to be off-set by purchasing carbon credits.
The roastery’s electricity will be carbon-neutral as this can be produced by wind power.
Java Republic has questioned every one of its processes. Its packaging is currently from Turkey, because a recycled-fibre box of similar quality in the UK or Ireland is, almost unbelievably, five times the price – this is a big carbon-neutrality issue, which the company is trying to solve.
“We’re doing the same with our foil bags,” acknowledges David McKernan. “The coffee bags used in the beverage industry are not environmentally-friendly – it’s easy to say they’re recyclable, but what really happens to them? We have another idea, and we’ll show it in a few months.”
Although Java Republic has a status-free open-plan office for all staff, there is a boardroom, with a meeting table which is laughingly referred to as ‘a carbon-neutral table’. The builders were throwing out vast amounts of wood, when they were asked if it would go to landfill – the head builder and his sons recovered some wood, crafted a very fine polished table from it, and presented it to Java Republic as a gift.
A major feature of the project is the café which dominates the front of the building, and doubles as an information resource on coffee - ninety per cent of consumers people don’t realize coffee comes from a tree, says McKernan, which is why he has put coffee plants in pots in the tables! The café is required to pay for itself – it has not been publicised, but word gets round in an industrial park that employs 70,000 people, and the doors had to be closed on the second day.
The work of creating a carbon-neutral café is a good lesson in energy housekeeping, says McKernan. His staff policy includes strict rules on turning off everything not in direct use – this can reduce emissions by 100 tonnes, and the same can apply to any coffee house.
“People who run cafes can learn a lot from one very big lesson,” says Java Republic’s café manager. “This is - knowing when to turn things off!”
There is a very big issue in wasted energy in coffee houses, suggests David McKernan.
“Baristas are often completely wasteful in the way they use espresso machines. It’s not that the staff don’t care, it’s that they’ve never been told! We all need regulations for café staff, and in our coffee house, every decision can be questioned – is this ecologically acceptable?”
In addition to energy savings, the food waste from the café will soon be going into a wormery. This is a large waste bin in which live earthworms digest the waste, and turn it into a very fine compost, processing it far quicker than organic waste would break down by itself. The resulting compost will be used for plants and trees surrounding the roastery.
What does all this work mean for others in the trade? David McKernan has said, quite clearly, that his new roastery is open to everyone, and all questions will be answered. There has already been a long line of visitors to the roastery, many of them big names from elsewhere in the European beverage trade.
“We didn’t do this for a competitive advantage. We’re giving everyone in the industry the chance to see how they can take this on, too. It may be an amazing showroom for our brand, but it’s also a great debating point. If anyone wants to bring in a group of roasters, or anyone else, perhaps through a trade association, they can do so – and we’ll tell them the truth about our experiences.
“It would be a great cheek to think that we have all the answers, but we are constantly questioning, and we think that we have learned so much from our experience so far, we already have a lot of things to share.”
Chocolate worker in Ghana
The fair-trade issue in chocolate is an even more bitterly-fought issue than ethical trading in coffee or tea. It is a horrifying story which has been ‘exposed’ in books and documentaries, but still the general public knows little of the situation. One of the most outspoken supporters of fair trading in chocolate is David McKernan of the Dublin coffee-roaster Java Republic.
His interest in chocolate came after he too heard appalling stories of the treatment of cocoa workers, and decided to investigate. He now buys his chocolate through Kuapa Kokoo of Ghana, frequently cited as one of the most significant ethical co-operatives and a chocolate fair-trade success story.
It is, says David McKernan, a particular irony that the product was has come to most signify luxury in rich countries is the one responsible for most cruelty, hardship, and even child slave labour.
“Chocolate is the ultimate indulgence, and yet the conditions for the growers can be appalling – there’s a lot of middlemen in this, screwing the farmers. The industry has also been up to its neck in child labour, and although all the producing countries say they’re against it, it is certainly still a huge factor. There are kids working in slave conditions, and that’s a fact.
“They say in some countries it desn’t happen, and I don’t believe them – the chocolate world is worse than the coffee one.”
What exactly are the conditions of cocoa workers?
“This is horrendous hard work. It’s appalling. There is a huge amount of physical work involved – the pods have to but cut down from huge heights, and while sometimes they use a long stick with a machete on the end, sometimes they have to climb. The beans don’t just fall out of the pod – it’s very hard to get them out, and that’s physical work as well. Very hard work, for very little reward.
Cocoa is the third-largest traded food commodity, but is ethical trading in chocolate iyet recognized by the general public? They’ve got used to fair-trading in coffee and bananas, and even footballs, but what is the appreciation of fair-trading with regard to chocolate?
“I really don’t know how the big chocolate companies have got away with this,” says McKernan. “There have been very few cameras in chocolate-producing areas, and very few documentaries – the chocolate companies have managed to cover it all up, and the public just doesn’t know.
“If only the public knew… much of the chocolate they eat comes from a disgusting industry.
“It took us eight months to find a co-op to work with, and now we’re going to be putting the price we pay up on our website, so there will be absolute transparency.
“This group in Ghana has signed up to the international convention on child labour, and has worked hard for womens’ rights, health insurance and education for all. We pay them a fixed rate above world market prices, and add a social premium of 150 Euros per tonne to support community projects.
“The Java Republic Foundation will come next year.”
The launch of Java Republic’s own chocolate, The Other Bean, has been put forward as proof that ethical trading in chocolate for the retail and catering sectors can exist. Quite typically, David McKernan has been almost too outspoken about this – his original packaging contained a health warning which says: ‘too much chocolate will give you a fat arse’, and he received a lot of complaints. Instead of removing the remark, he adopted it as his marketing slogan.
“The Other Bean is no ordinary hot chocolate. In addition to a high cocoa content, we searched for a variety of bean and a growing region that would satisfy our ethics and our taste buds. Our search for high quality cocoa brought us to the Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana: they harvest cocoa of the highest quality, grown and traded in equitable conditions. Kuapa Kokoo is a co-op created and run by the farmers themselves. Fairtrade ensures the price they receive for their harvest never falls below an agreed minimum. And the cocoa is truly superb. That’s why we use so much of it in The Other Bean: with a 40% cocoa content, it has nearly five times more than other brands. When we supplement this with a dash of cane sugar from a Fairtrade co-op in Malawi, we can truly say that The Other Bean is rich, smooth and above all, fair.”
Equally typically, McKernan has used this work to encourage consumers to consider the conditions of growers, and has accused the big brands of choosing to ignore the social problems of cocoa-growing communities.
“Having got used to the ethics of giving the farmers just five cents out of every Euro they spend on cocoa,” he writes, “it hasn’t been that big a leap to ignore the problem of child slave labour. Besides, the big brands can afford to be complacent, given the ever-decreasing amount of cocoa they use in their products…”
Do allegations of slave labour really have any foundation? On the Ivory Coast, boys between 12 and 16 are reliably reported to have been sold as slaves. Most of them come from Benin, Togo and Mali. In 1998, UNCEF alleged that trafficking in children in the cocoa trade did exist, and a television documentary in 2001 claimed that 90 per cent of Ivory Coast plantations used child labour – it also claimed to have found a ship carrying child slaves. A BBC reporter said that a slave child cost about $30, maybe less, and that 15,000 of them were at work in the Ivory Coast.
The Kuapa Kokoo co-operative in Ghana brought growers together in ‘societies’ of about a hundred farmers. They now have 600 societies, representing 35,000 cocoa growers.
Kuapa Kokoo has worked on development projects, including the supply of safe, drinkable water to many of the villages. They have also been able to build a school, provided sanitation for one village, and oil-presses so that women can make extra money for their communities between the cocoa harvesting seasons. The co-operative owns one-third of the Day Chocolate Company, which produces Divine, the Fairtrade chocolate brand.
· Java Republic's recent awards -
2001 – Original GBDA award and
Grand Prix Winners (for packaging and marketing materials)
· 2002 – Ernest & Young Entrepreneur Finalist
· 1999 – 2009: 94 Great Taste Awards for quality and flavour
· 2005 – Bord Bia Entrepreneur Awards Finalist
· 2007 – Irish Independent Cheltenham Sponsorship Award Finalist
· 2008 – Irish Independent Cheltenham Sponsorship Winner
· 2008 – AIM Small Business Marketing Award Finalist
· 2009 – SFA Environmental Sustainability Award Winner
· 2009 – GreenMe Awards Overall Winner
· 2009 – Voted 2nd Most Ethical Coffee Company in Europe by our Industry Peers at the 2009 European Coffee Symposium. Other nominees were: Starbucks (1st), Matthew Algie (3rd)
· 2009 – Dublin 15 Chamber of Commerce Environmental Award Winner
· 2009 – Dublin 15 Chamber of Commerce Best Eating Establishment Award Finalist
· 2010 – Deloittes Award: One of the 20 Top Best Managed Business Award
· 2010 – Finalist in the Green Award, Green Building Award
The first carbon neutral roastery on the planet - the
Java Republic base just outside Dublin.
Java Republic has developed into three specific specialities - coffee, roasted only the way the company believes correct, high-quality tea, and what it calls 'the other bean', its ethically-sourced chocolate (see second story, main column)