Price of cup of coffee tells its carbon emission story

Fresh Science / University of Queensland

Businesses to benefit from cheap, simple method to work out their carbon emissions

Australian small businesses seeking to measure and reduce their emissions can now rely on a much faster, cheaper and simpler method, thanks to new research.

Many businesses want to reduce their emissions to position their businesses better and be part of the climate solution. But traditional estimation methods (‘life cycle analyses’) are long, expensive and complicated.

“To work out the emissions from a cup of coffee, you needed to know where the coffee was produced, how far it’s been transported, and even how it was grown,” says lead researcher Csilla Demeter from The University of Queensland.

Now, she says, all the business needs to know is how much they paid for the coffee.

Ms Demeter and the team proved that a simple method can quickly estimate emissions, accurately enough for businesses to then act upon.

“How can we expect businesses to reduce their emissions if they can’t measure them? Up to three-quarters of emissions occur before a product even gets to a store,” Ms Demeter says.

Businesses can put price information into the simple calculator and get a very reliable indication of the carbon impacts from the many steps along the way, Ms Demeter confirms.

The simpler method, called ‘Environmentally Extended Input-Output analysis’, would estimate carbon emissions from fertiliser to produce the coffee—for example—by working out how much money the coffee sector spends on fertiliser, and the carbon emissions per dollar of fertiliser sold. The method even accounts for emissions, sales and buying between different countries.

“Using this method, a businessperson can easily convert financial information into greenhouse gas emissions as a first step to engage with net zero,” she says.

“Businesses can now confidently and easily calculate their emissions, their most polluting products or areas, and then take action to reduce them.”

Ms Demeter says businesses can

/Public Release.