What is Carbon Sequestration?
Mar 30, 2022
We are all familiar with the fact that carbon dioxide is the most commonly produced greenhouse gas and that it is the number one threat to climate change if unmitigated. The coffee industry contributes to carbon emissions in a pretty significant way through growing, transporting and roasting the coffee beans. Coffee is clearly an integral part of our daily lives not just in the US, but around most of the world! If you quantify just how much coffee is enjoyed around the world each day, or year, it is a pretty outstanding number. A lot of coffee means a lot of impact. On average, 1.90 lbs of CO2 is produced in every pound of coffee that is imported and roasted.
Luckily, there are a number of coffee roasters and coop members that have made carbon sequestration a major priority in their business models- us especially. We at Desert Sun, as members of Coop Coffees, are deeply involved in our coop’s Carbon, Climate and Coffee Initiative. One branch of that is the participation in developing and utilizing the Cool Farm Tool, which is a program under the management of the Cool Farm Alliance. Before we get into the details of how the tool works, let’s discuss what carbon sequestration really means so we can better understand what the tool is measuring.
According to USGS, carbon sequestration is the “process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide.” Essentially, this means that carbon sequestration is ONE method of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Why is this important? Well, it’s a great way to reduce global climate change! We love that. There are two types of carbon sequestration, geological and biological. Geological sequestration is the process of storing carbon dioxide in geologic formations, usually underground. Typically, carbon dioxide is captured from an industrial source then injected into porous rocks for long-term storage.
Biological sequestration is the storage of carbon dioxide in vegetation, like grasslands and forests, and other environments such as soil and the ocean. Soils naturally store a lot of carbon as a natural part of the life and death cycle! We know that soils are made in part of broken down plant matter, which means they contain much of the carbon that the plants took in from the atmosphere during their lifetime. In places where decomposition is slow, such as colder climates, the soils can sequester this carbon for a very long time. If not for soil and its incredible ability to do this, the carbon would immediately return to the atmosphere as CO2. Agriculture can diminish the soil organic carbon (SOC) levels due to the disruption of soil structure within ecosystems such as forests or grasslands. Imagine all this “stuff” being held in the ground, and practices such as deforestation, unconscious farming, or environmental threats like fire or drought then disrupt the solid soil, thus releasing all of this carbon which in turn becomes a greenhouse gas. Ick! Not only do we want to minimize the amount being released into the atmosphere, it’s also important for crop health that the carbon stays in the soil. For example, we know that adding to our soils organic matter such as manure or decomposing plant parts fertilizes them, or gives them “plant food”. Carbon and plant growth are perfectly linked together in a sort of symbiotic relationship, they need one another! Scientists have been working hard to develop new land management practices that will allow us to continue farming quality, carbon rich crops while also sequestering carbon to limit the amount of emissions- ensuring a happy and copasetic ecosystem that will keep us properly fed and our planet in a better state.
Remember when we mentioned something called the Cool Farm Tool? Well, that is one way we are able to gauge just how much of an impact our producer farms have on the environment and allows us to promote constant progress towards reducing emissions. We utilize this tool to encourage our producers to go beyond minimizing negative carbon impacts, and instead encourage producers to adopt agricultural systems that enhance the ecosystems to their very core. The tool helps identify the environmental impact of each producer’s choice in land use management by collecting data on the type and density of their plantings, fertilization practices, the management of bio-mass residues, water use, on farm energy use for processing or handling, and transportation. Another bonus to receiving this information is that we are able to financially incentivize the carbon sequestration.
While CO2 is linked to soil erosion and loss of cover crops, there are other factors that are also central culprits in agriculture’s expanding climate footprint. Nitrous oxide emissions are linked to chemical fertilizers, methane is linked to unmanaged manures, etc. The tool not only tracks carbon sequestration/emissions, but also allows us to prevent nitrous oxide and methane emissions. There are SO many factors that go into calculating a farm’s impact, and we have just barely scratched the surface of it. If you would like to learn more about what data is collected, you can head over to the Cool Farm Alliance website to read more!
While industrial farming is a big part of the problem in our fight against climate change, small-scale, organic coffee farmers hold the potential to be a significant part of the solution! Companies like ours make it easy for you to make choices that ultimately minimize your own carbon footprint, because we do the legwork for you! By choosing Desert Sun Coffee, you know that we have done everything we can to make that cup of coffee as proactive, carbon conscious, fair trade, and absolutely delicious as possible.