Green Mountain Coffee Family of Brands Blog

Notes from our CEO: A memorable trip to source

(As told to Laura Peterson)

I have just returned from a business trip unlike any other I have ever experienced.

We send a group of employees "to source" every year to learn more about what goes into growing and harvesting high-quality coffee. Invariably, people return with a new respect for the bean, and the hard working farmers who grow them. I was no exception.

Our trip began with a visit to the Huatusco cooperative in Mexico. We've been buying Fair Trade coffee from them for years and we're always greeted like old friends. I tried my hand at picking coffee, but my technique paled next to the farmers' skill and efficiency. We then went to the hospital where Grounds for Health provides cancer screening for women in coffee-growing communities. It was gratifying to see how our support is helping this non-profit make a difference in families' lives.

Finally, we visited a school we support at Finca Dos Marias in Guatemala. As we were leaving, one of the students, not much younger than my own daughter, approached us to thank us. She graduates this year and will go to nursing school on a full scholarship. I will always remember the poise, the grace, and the hope in this young woman.

Like many employees who have been to source, I was struck by how much work goes into creating a great cup of coffee. I came home with a deeper appreciation of all the people who contribute to the Green Mountain experience. Thank you for joining us in the exciting journey, from tree to cup.

Larry Blanford, CEO

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The Changing Climate on Climate Change

Global warming - the news is everywhere.

Just this month, the New York Times reported that the scientific academies of the G8 as well as Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and South Africa issued a joint statement calling on the industrialized world to lead the “transition to a low-carbon society and aggressively move to limit impacts” from changes in climate that are already under way and impossible to stop.

Back in May, the polar bear was placed under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, primarily because of the “overwhelming scientific evidence that sea ice is vital to polar bears’ survival, and all available scientific models show that the rapid loss of ice will continue…The models reflect varying assumptions about how fast the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will increase.” And now it looks like the walrus is not far behind.

Consumers are beginning to express their preferences – last year, a survey by BusinessAssurance.com found that 56.3% of American consumers want companies to provide more information about the climate change impact of their products.

Even the presidential candidates are getting into the mix - both Barack Obama and John McCain have made climate change a campaign issue.

So let’s get on it already, eh?

Since 2003, we have been offsetting direct greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase of renewable energy credits through a partnership with NativeEnergy and Clean Air Cool Planet. Today, we offset 100% of our direct emissions and a significant portion of our indirect emissions as well.  We’ve never been a large greenhouse gas emitter by industrial standards and it’s been hard to think about setting an absolute emissions reduction goal when we are growing as fast as we are. Given our growing societal awareness of the urgency of this problem, the changes in the legal and regulatory landscape, and increasing consumer scrutiny of companies on this issue, we believe it is time to do more. The GMCR Board and executives with Anne Kelly and Beth Ginsberg Holzman of Ceres (1st and 2nd from right)

For our recent Board of Directors meeting, we invited Anne Kelly and Beth Ginsberg Holzman of Ceres to join us for a 2 hour education session on climate change – the science, the relevance to business, and their framework for approaching the management of climate risk in a business. [PDF]

It was two hours well-spent – lots of learning and questions – and we emerged re-energized and ready to move forward. Over the next few months, we’re going to bring a cross-functional group of people together from both inside and outside the company to develop a comprehensive approach to reducing and mitigating our greenhouse gas emissions for the long term.

One interesting thing about the greenhouse gas issue – because it fits solidly into the tragedy of the commons model, we often wonder why anyone will do anything at all to help solve it. However, once you understand the urgency of the issue and the fact that nature holds no quarter with the arbitrary boundaries of responsibility we try to draw in civilized society, you realize that the opposite is true. Since it is a tragedy of the commons, then everything you can do matters – emissions anywhere = emissions everywhere. Thus, we’re open to exploring everything from new product ideas to incentives for our employees to make changes in their personal lives, from public advocacy to investments in on-site energy generation.

We are really looking forward to engaging with YOU – our stakeholders – on this issue and letting you know what and how we’re doing.

In the meantime, you can check out the following organizations to see what you can do on your own:


Let us know what else is out there!

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Keurig-Brewed Video: So easy a __veman can do it!

A group of Green Mountain Coffee fans at Champlain College recently made a cute video about Keurig brewers for a class-project. Watch-out Madison Avenue, the YouTube Generation is taking over!

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Are You Socially Conscious?

The following blog entry was submitted by our intern, Elysse.

I consider myself socially conscious. Let me rephrase that. I consider myself socially conscious-ish. By "ish" I mean I try, I really do, but it's hard. When my friends run races, I donate. Not much, but I donate. What little time I have to volunteer, I volunteer it. I've even gotten my hands dirty for Habitat for Humanity once or twice. AGMCR River Clean Up Volunteerslright once, but they were really dirty, if that counts for anything. My point being, I give what I can, but that still doesn't feel like enough. I mean I'm just one person.

I just started working here at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters as a Public Relations Intern. I was surprised to find out that our company has something called CAFÉ time, which stands for Community Action For Employees, and this allows us to volunteer up to 1 hour a week or 52 hours per year during normal working hours, and still get paid. In fact, we are encouraged to volunteer.

In addition to being able to donate time to our personal passions (mentoring programs, food shelf) we also get occasional emails letting us know when a non- profit in the community is looking for help. Today’s email had an opportunity to pick strawberries for a Vermont non- profit organization that works on salvaging farm surplus, storing it, and donating the fresh produce to those who could use it. There so much we can do.

That's why my job at Green Mountain feels like more than just a job. Every company says they're socially conscious, but this one truly is. It's a bunch of "me's" working together so that "we" can have an impact. So it's no longer me giving what little bit I can. My little bit, along with everyone else's, adds up to a lot.

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Greening Up Our K-Cups

"When will you be able to offer a more sustainable K-Cup?"

We hear this question a lot -- from our customers, sure, but also from people throughout our own organization. It's a simple question, but the answers are pretty complex.

Consider for a moment that sustainability means different things to different people. For some it's being carbon-neutral, for others it means being recyclable or made strictly with renewable materials, or a product that's compostable, biodegradable or petroleum-free. That's not an attempt to muddy the waters, but to try to lay out some of the many fronts we're actively researching in order to make K-Cups, and single-cup brewing in general, every bit as ecological as it is convenient. Greening Up K-Cups


  • We *are* researching alternatives to the materials that currently make up our K-Cups. There's not a lot we can publicly talk about just yet, save to say this is an active effort for us, and an important one.

  • We're conducting Life-Cycle Analysis to better understand the entire ecological footprint of the K-Cup. That's more than just its packaging... it's an attempt to evaluate the *entire* footprint -- and to look at both the product's positive and negative attributes.


While our research continues, we continue to take active steps. We're introducing more Fair Trade Certified® coffees into our K-Cup product line. We're promoting the "My K-Cup" reusable single-serve filter, which is compatible with all of the home brewers we offer today. And we recently added recycling codes to those parts of our home brewers that are recyclable.

We intend to continue to improve the ecological impact of our K-Cups until we're all of us satisfied -- customers and employees alike -- that our K-Cups are a winning proposition not only for coffee lovers the world over, but for the world, too.

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Great American Voter Trek

Our friends at Cabot are spearheading a very cool event which is now underway -- the “Great American Voter Trek.” A group of highly energetic (and perhaps highly caffeinated!) college students are bicycling from Vermont to Wyoming to register as many voters as possible for the 2008 presidential election.

Why Vermont and Wyoming? Well, if you’re a history buff, you might know that Vermont was the first state to allow non-property owners the right to vote and Wyoming was the first state to allow women the right to vote.

The event kicked off on Monday 6/16 and will end in two six weeks in Laramie, Wyoming, stopping at many cities and towns along the way. On the website, you can check out the route, track the progress of the cyclists, and browse through lots of great photos and videos of this journey.

We’re excited to help to support the event. Green Mountain Coffee employees have always been encouraged to raise their voice, express opinions and contribute to making our company a great place to work. Exercising our right to vote helps us do the same on a much larger scale.

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Day Three Of Bonnaroo Low Carbon Diet

Bonnaroonians are all over Shreddolution! It's day three and we have close to 2,000 Bonnaroonians who are ready to shredd and collectively reduce their C02 footprint by 10% by 2009.

Check out this video with Gary Beckwith (Solarbus.org) and what he has to say about going solar at Bonnaroo.





See what it means to be a Bonnaroo C02 Shredder!


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Day Two Of Bonnaroo Low Carbon Diet

Day 2 of Bonnaroo Carbon Shredding. We are still at it here in Bonnaroo land, signing people up for pledging 10% carbon reductions by the 2009 Festival. We have another 500 sign ups today, over 1000 total with still 5 more hours (1AM) of getting people to do the "carbon shred".

Watch for our upcoming video-interviews with folks here at the Festival who are really walking the walk.

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We're At Bonnaroo Spreading the Low Carbon Diet!

The Carbon Shredders, sponsored by Green Mountain Coffee, Seventh Generation and Yestermorrow Design/Build School, were invited by Bonnaroo to bring the "Low Carbon Diet" to 80,000 festival attendees. We made the 1000-mile trip fueled by 100% vegetable oil in the Solar Bus.

The Solar Bus

You can find more pictures of the first day of the event here.

Our "shred don't dread" philosophy is simple: Use our online tool to measure and reduce your energy use and carbon footprint; go on a low-carbon diet by doing things like switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, taking shorter showers, washing clothes with cold water, installing power strips to remove "phantom loads" etc. DO something to help the planet and your pocketbook.

Our goal for Bonnaroo attendees: get 80,000 people to reduce their annual C02 footprint by 10% by Bonnaroo 2009. That will mean over 400 MILLION pounds of C02 kept out of the atmosphere and over $80 Million dollars saved on energy costs.

So far, festival attendees are loving the Shredd-o-lution and we have hundreds of people signed up for the low carbon diet just during the first few hours. What's not to love?

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Learning from our Kids

Emman making iced cocoa on a hot dayThe Keurig brewer is a great invention - no doubt about it.  The engineers that toiled, experimented, failed a hundred times before figuring out how to make something work, showed the kind of grit and determination that is required to bring a new idea, a new machine, a whole new way of doing something like making coffee a marketable possibility.  And what a success it is!

There is an old saying that "necessity is the mother of invention."  And, indeed we often drive our experiments and pursuits for new things based upon perceived needs.  But, its not just the mothers that deserve credit for recognizing necessity - the kids seem to have a good amount of applied creativity, too!

Today was the second of a couple of hot, humid days here in Vermont (believe me, I'm not complaining about the weather, as contractually I cannot), and the kids were alternating between jumping on the trampoline and coming into the house to get cold water, juice and anything else that would cool them down.  Walking through the kitchen at one point, I noticed that the Keurig brewer was on (it isn't usually, as I have a particular penchant for espresso), and upon further examination, I saw that a fresh cup of cocoa had just been brewed.

Emma, age 9, had helped herself to a cocoa, turning on the Keurig brewer, dosing a big glass of ice, and when the cocoa had brewed, poured it over the ice to make a cold cocoa beverage.  I checked on her a few minutes later and she had drank the whole thing!

Well, I had been involved in the development of the Keurig Hot Cocoa, and we had struggled to make it strong enough to suit most people's palates.  Given the small size of the K-Cup, we had to densify everything, the sweetener, the cocoa powder and dairy flavors, and still make it dissolveable.  The project took over 3 years to get it right and bring it to market, and never did I think during that time that we were making something that would be used to make a cold drink.

In fact, we still have this belief that the Keurig brewer is just a hot beverage brewer.  But, necessity proves otherwise.  I did a catering gig one time on Randall's Island for  the Dave Matthew's Band.  We had a whole team of Green Mountain Coffee folks there to service the audience and demonstrate Keurig brewers.  It was boiling out, and we ended up serving more iced tea out of the Keurig brewers than we did hot coffee.

And Emma showed me again today that I have more to learn.  Here is this Keurig brewer on our counter, well used over the cold long winter months (again, I'm not complaining, just being factual) for the kids to make hot cocoa anytime they wanted.  If I had thought about it, I probably would have taken it out of the kitchen and put it down in the basement as Summer approached.  But now I know it has a use for the next few months as well, and I'm sure if I moved it now, Emma would want to teach me a few more lessons!

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Raspberry K-Cups are back!

Attention Flavored Coffee Fans:  Raspberry Rhapsody k-cups and regular ground bagged coffee are back!  The flavor is fantastic and the coffee is Fair Trade certified.  But you better get it now -- we only offer it for a limited time over the summer.  When its gone, its gone.  So far, it has a 4.5 star rating out of 5 from 48 different consumer reviews.

Our Fair Trade Organic Summer Symphony Blend is also available for a limited time.

Ever wonder if there is an easier way to make sure you never miss one of our Seasonal flavored coffees?  Well, there is.  Sign up for our Seasonal Coffee Tour.

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Green Mountain Coffee: An EcoBiz

In case you missed it when it first aired (like I did!) the Sundance Channel's Alison Stewart chatted with our own Paul Comey, and highlighted some of Green Mountain Coffee's environmental practices for its ECOBIZ segment.

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We Love Michael Pollan

If you haven't read Michael Pollan's latest book called In Defense of Food, read it now! I liked the following paragraph enough to type it:

From In Defense of Food, by Micheal Pollan, page 159:

“If you’re concerned about chemicals in your produce, you can simply ask the farmer at the market how he or she deals with pests and fertility and begin the sort of conversation between producers and consumers that, in the end, is the best guarantee of quality in your food. So many of the problems of the industrial food chain stem from its length and complexity. A wall of ignorance intervenes between consumers and producers, and that wall fosters a sort of carelessness on both sides. Farmers can lose sight of the fact that they’re growing food for actual eaters rather than for middlemen, and the consumer can easily forget that growing good food takes care and hard work. In a long food chain, the story and identity of the food (Who grew it? Where and how was it grown?) disappear into the undifferentiated stream of commodities, so that the only information communicated between consumers and producers is a price. In the short food chain, eaters can make their needs and desires known to the farmer, and farmers can impress on eaters the distinctions between ordinary and exceptional food, and the many reasons why exceptional food is worth what it costs. Food reclaims its story, and some of its nobility, when the person who grew it hands it to you. So here’s a subclause to the get-out-of-the-supermarket rule: Shake the hand that feeds you.

But if you read the paragraph above again and substitute coffee for produce, coffee drinker for consumer, and coffee farmer for producer you get the following:(All the swaps are italicized.)
"If you’re concerned about chemicals in your coffee, you can simply ask the coffee farmer at the market how he or she deals with pests and fertility and begin the sort of conversation between coffee farmers and coffee drinkers that, in the end, is the best guarantee of quality in your cup of coffee. So many of the problems of the coffee supply chain stem from its length and complexity. A wall of ignorance intervenes between coffee drinkers and coffee farmers, and that wall fosters a sort of carelessness on both sides. Coffee farmers can lose sight of the fact that they’re growing coffee for actual coffee drinkers rather than for middlemen, and the coffee drinkers can easily forget that growing good coffee takes care and hard work. In a long food chain, the story and identity of the coffee (Who grew it? Where and how was it grown?) disappear into the undifferentiated stream of commodities, so that the only information communicated between coffee drinkers and coffee farmers is a price. In the short coffee chain, coffee drinkers can make their needs and desires known to the coffee farmer, and coffee farmers can impress on coffee drinkers the distinctions between ordinary and exceptional coffee, and the many reasons why exceptional coffee is worth what it costs. Coffee reclaims its story, and some of its nobility, when the person who grew it hands it to you. So here’s a subclause to the get-out-of-the-supermarket rule: Shake the hand that feeds you.

It's wild! So much of what "he" is saying is true.

One of the problems in the coffee business in general is that it’s really hard to shake the producer’s hand that gives you coffee. He or she has a language barrier that makes it hard to explain to us how hard it was to grow their coffee and it makes it hard for us to ask them. And they usually live pretty far away. Generally consumers in the US don’t even have access to “random coffee farmer” unless it’s at a Fair Trade familiarization tour that Global Exchange and TransFair USA have been so good at. Roasters end up being the stand in – the interpreter for the farmer. And importers and exporters (especially ones like Sustainable Harvest) make that easier. A lot of small coffee farmers can’t tell you why their coffee is special. Some small farmers can’t drink or don’t drink the coffee they’re growing. Surely a grass fed beef farmer eats his beeves and can tell what tastes and feels right and can talk to his or her customer. Harder for coffee farmers.

Got any answers or solutions? Send them to us!
In the meantime, try some Fair Trade Organic Coffee.

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Juan Francisco Balladarez from UCPCO, Nicaragua

A couple of months ago, Sustainable Harvest at Origin, one of our coffee importers, sent us a dispatch about Juan and the impact that Fair Trade had made in his life. The story detailed how he had worked in coffee for over 50 years and that it was only six years ago he was able to finally buy his own land – 3 hectares – a little more than 7 acres. For about three years after buying his land, he wasn’t part of a coop and sold his coffee to middlemen at whatever price they were offering.


 


Then he joined UCPCO - The Union of Organic Coffee Farm Cooperatives (UCPCO) in San Juan del Rio Coco in Madriz, in northern Nicaragua. He started getting better prices for his coffee and agronomists – coffee growing experts – helped him improve his crop yield through compost fertilizer, soil analysis, and organic pest control techniques. These changes allowed him to grow more coffee and earn more money so that he could finally buy a house for himself and his family.


 


So that you don’t think of his house as some sort of palatial estate, here’s a picture of it:


His family used to live in town and he lived in what sounds very much like the woods near his coffee trees. This is a huge improvement in Juan’s quality of life, and yet when I first read the dispatch from Sustainable Harvest about Juan and saw the picture of the house, I missed the part about that being his home and assumed it was a shed or an unattached kitchen. It was a total double-take for me. I even asked the staff writer at Sustainable Harvest to make sure that it was indeed his new home. “Yep”, she said, “amazing, isn’t it”?

When I was at the SCAA Annual Convention this past spring, I met the General Manager of the Coop, Heberto Rivas. I asked him about Juan and he corroborated the story about him and his success and happiness about being a member of the coop. Heberto even added that every time Juan comes to coop meetings or events, he gets misty and emotional and then cries about his success.


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Juan’s and UCPCO's coffee beans often go into these coffees: Fair Trade Organic House BlendNewman's Special Blend Whole Bean and Newman's Special Blend Cups


 


Some or all of this copy comes to us courtesy of our good friends at Sustainable Harvest whose mission is to improve farmers' lives by creating a transparent and sustainable coffee supply chain, ensuring that quality coffees are sourced from the finest producers and that coffee arrives reliably in its highest quality state to preeminent coffee roasters.

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