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You want cream, sugar or carbon credits with that?

Saltspring Island Coffee beans.

Handout/ The Globe and Mail/Handout/ The Globe and Mail

Along with sugar free, fat free and foam free, Salt Spring Coffee now offers a carbon-free option.

Salt Spring Coffee - one of Canada's largest microroasters whose coffee can be found at most major grocery stores in Western Canada - unveiled its new French Roast Nicaragua blend, touted as Canada's first "cradle-to-gate," carbon-neutral coffee.

Here's how the carbon footprint of your daily grind breaks down.

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Cradle-to-gate versus cradle-to-grave

Salt Spring Coffee's French Roast Nicaragua is carbon neutral from cradle to gate. This means that the company has bought enough carbon credits to offset all the carbon produced until the consumer buys the coffee. That's only 37 per cent of the carbon created by one bag of coffee. After that, it's up to the consumer to pick up the slack. Sixty-three per cent of the waste comes from consuming and discarding a cup of joe, so it's not completely guilt free.

A cradle-to-grave approach would offset all carbon produced during the entire lifecycle of the coffee, from the growing of the beans right up until it goes to landfill.

How the offsets work

The French Roast Nicaragua is carbon neutral because Salt Spring buys enough offsets to neutralize the emissions created until the coffee gets to the consumer. Offsets are investments into projects that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, such as tree planting, methane capture at landfills or renewable energy research. Purchasing offsets from Vancouver-based Offsetters Clean Technology Inc. will cost Salt Spring Coffee 1.3 cents per bag of coffee - a cost that Salt Spring's founder Mickey McLeod said will not be passed onto consumers.

How consumers can reduce their footprint

Mr. McLeod said he hopes the lifecycle analysis of coffee will get java junkies thinking green. Conserving water, only brewing what you drink and composting grinds will all help take the edge off coffee's environmental impact, he said.

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Percentages of the 1,807 grams of carbon produced per 400-gram bag:

  • 39% - The energy and water used to grind, brew and heat the coffee, as well as washing the cups.
  • 31% - The energy used to transport the beans by ship, roast the beans and power offices.
  • 24% - The waste generated by brewing coffee, including grinds, filters, leftover joe and the coffee bag.
  • 4% - The energy used to transport the coffee to retailers and the energy consumed at stores.
  • 2% - The energy used to power tractors and trucks, run depulping machines and storage warehouses.

Source: Offsetters Clean Technology Inc.

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