Costa Rican coffee co-op drives carbon-neutral approach in the industry

Coopedota is working to reduce waste, energy use and water consumption

A coffee co-op is helping Costa Rica’s national drive to become climate-neutral by 2021.

Coffee is crucial to the national economy – over 90% of Costa Rica’s coffee is exported, making up 11% of the country’s export earnings – but the industry also accounts for 10% of the country’s carbon emissions.

This makes it a key issue in the climate change strategy adopted by the government in 2007. One plank of this strategy is the promotion of carbon-neutral certification schemes for businesses.

Among those aiming to make a difference is Coopedota, a coffee co-op in the mountain town of Santa María de Dota, about 45 miles southwest of San Jose and 1,500 meters above sea level. Formed in 1960 by a group of 96 farmers, the co-op produces 8,400 tons of coffee per year.

It started reducing its greenhouse gas emissions in 1998, and was certified by the British Standards Institution as the world’s first carbon-neutral coffee in 2011.

“Our certification covers all aspects of the production cycle, from farming to distribution and packaging,” said Monserrat Hernandez, commercial director of Coopedota.

To address emissions, the co-op replaced wood-burning ovens with ones that burn coffee-plant waste, reducing emissions by 90%. It also uses coffee bean by-products to produce its own energy and focuses on reducing water consumption.

Water consumption has decreased by 80% since 2001 while energy consumption fell from 7.5 Kw/h per 55.5 litres processed in 2004 to 3.3 Kw/h at present.

In 2005, the co-op developed a recycling centre for the local community, in collaboration with the municipality of Dota.

“The certification is related to the co-op’s concern for the environment. Consumers appreciate this certification, which gives the product an added value,” said Mr Hernandez.

Climate change is an urgent issue for the industry because it affects coffee production across Costa Rica. “Tropical storms and the change in seasons within the region affect production, which requires one very dry season and one rainy season,” said Mr Hernandez.

Costa Rica now has three zero-emission coffee companies and some carbon-neutral banana, pineapple and cattle producers.

“Now there is a move to produce zero emissions coffee in line with a national policy but we were the first to develop zero emissions certified coffee – and the only coffee co-operative to do so,” added Mr Hernandez.

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