Did you know that only 1 percent of freshwater in the world is available for human consumption? Or that 140 litres of water are required to produce a single cup of coffee? Over 70% of water used in Latin American coffee farms is returned into rivers without being treated, causing severe damage to to downstream communities, aquatic fauna, and flora, due to its organic waste and high toxicity. UTZ Certified, a sustainable farming initiative, is changing that. 19 pilot sites across Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala received tailor-made coffee wastewater and solid waste treatment mechanisms, and the positive impact, both economic and environmental, has been startling.
This initiative is known as The Energy from Coffee Wastewater Project, and it has a dual goal: to prevent polluted water from coffee production to be released untreated into ecosystems, and to generate energy from coffee production waste. It has been implemented differently in a range of farms of varying sizes, all to great effect. In addition to treating all water used in coffee processing, they have managed to reduce the amount of water needed for this process by 50 percent, prevented the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by redirecting it as cooking fuel for local residents, thus preventing local deforestation of local, native trees as cooking firewood.
Since coffee production depends on the availability of local, fresh water, sustainable coffee production can only be attained when fresh water is used efficiently, and then treated properly before being released into the environment. This technology introduced by UTZ Certified is making an enormous positive impact on the environment surrounding these farms, and they’re planning similar initiatives in Peru and Brazil, as well as locations around Africa and Asia.
The Energy from Coffee Wastewater project was awarded the 2012 Sustainability Award by the Specialty Coffee Association of America, and won the 2010 award from the Global Sustainable Biomass Fund in the Netherlands. The initiative is funded by Hivos, and the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs.
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