I previously reported on the Rainforest Alliance Cupping for Quality award that was presented at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) annual trade show in Portland, Oregon late last month. There were several other awards relating to sustainability handed out at the SCAA meeting, and here are a few of them.
Rainforest Alliance Change Agent Award
This is a new award, and will honor coffee industry sustainability champions. It will be presented at the same breakfast as the Cupping for Quality awards each year at the SCAA event. The first recipient is Chad Trewick, Director of Coffee and Tea for Caribou Coffee. Chad has been a driving force in Caribou’s encouragement of farmers worldwide to achieve Rainforest Alliance certification. As reported earlier, Caribou is the first major U.S. coffeehouse to source 100% Rainforest Alliance certified coffee. Here is an interview Chad gave after his award, and another he did earlier with RA.
SCAA Sustainability Award
This is given annually by SCAA’s Sustainability Council, and went this year to Thanksgiving Coffee Company for their project “Responding to Climate Change: Building Community-Based Reliance.” Thanksgiving worked with Rwanda’s Dukunde Kawa Cooperative, which has over 1800 producers, doing site-specific climate risk assessments, and deploying best practices such as shade intercropping, erosion control, and watershed conservation. A full description of the project is here.
Best New Product and People’s Choice Award – Equipment for Origin
C-sar Online Tools by Cropster GmbH, for their online database system that helps producers track, manage and improve quality; communicate and collaborate with partners and customers; and assists with certifications, accounting, and other logistics. I’m all for transparency, traceability, and tools for farmers.
The Best New Product – Sustainability was not awarded this year, but the Best New Product – Packaging was sustainability related: the Natural Kraft Biotrē® Side Gusseted Bag by Pacific Bag. There is a fair amount of both interest and confusion on sustainable (especially biodegradable) packaging products, so I thought it was worth a mention.
This bag is made of Biotrē Film, 60% (by weight) biodegradable materials made from renewable resources such as wood pulp. Pacific Bag says the outer paper portion will break down in several months in a backyard compost pile. They have a series of videos on YouTube that show the paper portion was gone in about five weeks. The rest of the bag is a polymer film (derived from fossil fuels, unfortunately) that is supposed to take a five to ten years to degrade in a “landfill environment.”
Two things need to be pointed out here. First, if only part of this bag (which also has a degassing valve which is not biodegradable) will break down in your backyard compost pile, why would you put it in there in the first place? Off to the landfill it goes. Second, I think that if it were to go to a large commercial composting unit of a landfill, then the bag might break down in five to ten years. It seems unlikely that it will break down much at all in a typical municipal landfill, which are packed very tightly and do not allow much or any aerobic activity which is required for most biodegradation. So, another product that is a step in the right direction, but no silver bullet.
Congratulations to all individuals and companies working towards sustainability in the coffee industry.