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Nespresso's Ecolaboration Project Offers Lifecycle-Wide Green Efforts

From vastly expanding the amount of green-certified coffee it purchases to tripling the number of coffee pods it recycles, Nestlé subsidiary Nespresso is taking its green game to the next level with today's Ecolaboration announcement.

From vastly expanding the amount of green-certified coffee it purchases to tripling the number of coffee pods it recycles, Nestlé subsidiary Nespresso is taking its green game to the next level with today's announcement of a company-wide Ecolaboration project.

Ecolaboration brings together all of Nespresso's disparate environmental projects under one roof, and covers the entire lifecycle of the coffee-capsule product.

Over the course of the next four years, the company aims to increase the amount of coffee it purchases from its AAA Sustainable Quality program to 80 percent, from the current target of 50 percent by 2010. Nespresso has also set a goal of recycling 75 percent of its coffee capsules by 2013, tripling the number currently recycled.

Finally, Nespresso measured the carbon footprint of its product lifecycle and today set a goal to reduce by 20 percent per cup of coffee the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) of its products. Each cup currently generates 98 grams of CO2e emissions. Among the ways Nespresso will achieve the footprint reductions is a redesign of its coffee makers: A product lifecycle analysis revealed that brewing the coffee generated the largest slice of CO2e emissions compared to manufacturing and disposal.

Certifying Sustainable Farms

At the growing phase of the Ecolaboration project, Nespresso aims to expand the number of farms included in its AAA Sustainable Quality Coffee program to 80,000 farms in nine countries, leading to 80 percent of Nespresso coffee coming from certified farms.

There are currently 25,000 farmers in five countries contributing to the AAA program, with about 50 percent of the company's coffee meeting the certification criteria. Nespresso's AAA certification program is verified by Rainforest Alliance, and promotes sustainable growing practices on the certified farms, including soil conservation and protection, wildlife protection, and promoting shade-grown coffee practices.

Tensie Whelan, the president of Rainforest Alliance (and a blogger), said in a statement: "After five years of collaboration in demonstrating the connection between sustainable farm management practices and coffee quality, the Rainforest Alliance and our partner NGOs in the Sustainable Agriculture Network are pleased to join with Nespresso in taking this relationship broader and deeper.... Farmers and Nespresso Club Members will all benefit from sustainable quality coffee."
Nespresso coffee capsules
Nespresso coffee capsule

In addition to environmental criteria for certifying coffee growers, the AAA program also works to ensure farmers receive a fair wage for the coffee; Nespresso's Real Farmer Income project means that coffee growers receive at least 75 percent of the price that the company pays for the crop.

Recycling Coffee Capsules

In order to reduce the waste footprint of the Nespresso product line, the company today included a coffee capsule-recycling initiative in its Ecolaboration project.

The AluCycle initiative aims to triple the number of aluminum coffee capsules that the company recycles by 2013. In order to achieve its goals, Nespresso is working on a country-by-country basis to determine the best ways to implement large-scale collection and recycling methods that can maximize the number of capsules gathered for recycling.

Nespresso has also started its own recycling projects in individual countries. A project in Switzerland, launched in 1991, now features 2,000 collection spots and collects 60 percent of capsules sold in the country for recycling. In Germany, the Green Dot waste label collects 70 percent of the country's aluminum waste, and Nespresso is working to spread that system to other countries. And in the United Kingdom, Nespresso will launch next month a pilot "Collection on Delivery" system for picking up used coffee capsules for recycling when dropping off new orders to 5,000 Nespresso coffee club members.

Measuring Coffee's Footprint
A sample Nespresso capsule-collection location
A sample Nespresso capsule-collection location

The final element of Nespresso's Ecolaboration project involves measuring and reducing the CO2 emissions from each cup of coffee by 20 percent in the next four years.

In addition to helping coffee growers certified under the AAA program reduce their carbon footprint through environmentally sustainable and carbon-sequestering practices, Nespresso is also redesigning its machines to be more energy efficiency and to go into standby mode after idling. As part of its lifecycle analysis project, Nespresso found that a coffee machine that remains on for 12 hours per day uses 140 watt-hours of electricity per day, adding up to 30 kilograms of CO2e per machine per year.

The company is exploring ways to reduce the amount of aluminum needed for its coffee capsules by 15 to 30 percent, and is working with its suppliers to increase the amount of recycled aluminum in its capsules.

And in its roasting operations, Nespresso has installed higher-capacity, more energy efficient roasting machines to use 15 percent less energy per ton of coffee roasted.

Full details about Nespresso's Ecolaboration project are online at

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