Nespresso 101: Sustainability Retreat in Quebec

Sustainability is at the core of my values. It translates into the most critical areas of my life, so I look to the sustainable commitments that brands embody when purchasing products. That’s why in this post we are going to look at the sustainable efforts that Nespresso has made with a Nespresso 101: The Sustainability Retreat in Quebec.

I feel very honoured to spend four days with the Nespresso team in Charlevoix, Quebec. I discovered how they aim to stand at the forefront of sustainability and associate themselves with firm commitments to our planet. The trip was delightful! I learned a lot about Nespresso and am going to filter through all of the education to provide you with the best information that you need to make your own choice when it comes to the coffee brands that you purchase. It must be noted that I acknowledge that coffee capsules are not the most sustainable option for coffee. With that said, I aim to educate you on what I feel is the most sustainable option in the sector of coffee-convenience. In fact, in some areas, there are massive benefits to using a Nespresso!

I’ve broken this post down into subsections: The Hotel, Food Production, Education in Coffee Production and lastly, Sustainability Programs. Feel free to navigate this post freely, and if I have not touched on a specific point, I’d be happy to get the information to you.

Hôtel & Spa Le Germain Charlevoix

You may be wondering what does a hotel have to do with this post or Nespresso. Good question! Nespresso creates partnerships that make economic sense for the planet’s well being. Nespresso can be found as the served coffee for all locations and includes a personal machine in each room. Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa is a UNESCO ( United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization  ) World Biosphere Reserve with sustainable development at the heart of its concept and values. With their ICI on recycling and Carbone-paysage certification issued by la Corporation de la Réserve de la biosphère de Charlevoix, they follow an overview of actions to obtain both these certifications, as well as the measures to enhance the environmental initiatives related to the following programs. Here are a few:

  • Refillable personal care and hygiene products in our guest rooms
  • Recycling bins in kitchens, guest rooms, offices, public areas and housekeeping, with signage to make recycling easier
  • Systematic recycling of all Nespresso capsules
  • Using jugs for milk and cream in our restaurants, rather than disposable plastic containers
  • Local purchasing practices
  • Electric vehicle charging stations

To learn more about Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa, click HERE.

Cuisine, Variety & Food Production

The grounds of Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa originated as a farm. Unfortunately, as history has it, the farm burned down but currently, with Le Germain at the helm, it is now home to a plant-based system, sustainability processes, farming, closed loops, and is a renewable resource! Even the animals got to stay and yes, you can meet them!

Le Germain uses ancient and local heritage species of flora to help reduce their CO2 footprint and boost biodiversity and awareness. Beehives promote regeneration, chickens provide fresh eggs and fruits & vegetables from the gardens are prepped fresh each day. To learn more about Le Germain’s sustainability commitments, click HERE.

We had the pleasure of dining at Faux Bergers, a local restaurant who prides themselves on restoring local craftsmanship in cooking by using local producers who are passionate about high-quality products. Their mission is to design a diversified, healthy, respectful and personalized food offering by working with various players in the agri-food sector in Charlevoix.

Education in Coffee & Production

Before we get into Nespresso’s initiatives, we must understand coffee and where it comes from. Nespresso coffee is harvested and processed in countries of origin. This means that the coffee is pulped, fermented, washed and dried in the same country it is picked from. Did you know that coffee comes from the seed of a coffee cherry? This is also called a “green bean” and it is transported to roasting facilities in Switzerland. This is where the beans are blended and roasted, ground and encapsulated.

Nespresso’s countries of origin: Guatemala, Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Colombia, Mexico, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Peru, South Sudan and India.

To revive environmental & human resources, Nespresso has created the Positive Cup program to improve and innovate sustainable consumption to anyone who drinks their coffee. They have VERY ambition goals that I find inspiring and hope to see them hit.

Our ambition and goals for 2020:

  • 100% Sustainably sources coffee
  • 100% Responsibly managed aluminium
  • 100% Carbon efficient operations

To be able to reach these goals, Nespresso partnered with the Rainforest Alliance in 2003 and coffee farmers to produce exceptional coffee all while protecting the environment. The Rainforest Alliance’s mission is to conserve biodiversity. This partnership helps to ensure the farmers’ livelihoods and the welfare of their families and communities are a priority. From this partnership came the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program. This program has grown to 100,000 farmers from 13 countries and ensures the best farming practices for people and the planet while producing high-quality coffee. Additionally, it provides the farmers with training, financing and technical assistance to improve their own quality, sustainability and productivity. To date, 93% of Nespresso coffee is from the AAA program and over 56% of their farms have achieved certification from the Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade.

We need to remember that Nespresso farmers are cultivating crops on a mass scale. Because of their large-scale production processes, it is imperative that they ensure their crops do not become harmed. Nespresso farmers do use pesticides to combat the infestation. An infestation of a single crop can deplete an entire cycle of production for each farmer. This is important to keep in mind when you decide where in the grey-zone of sustainability Nespresso sits with you.

What about water waste? Each mill treats the wastewater generated from processing the cherries (green beans), so there is no water pollution. The mill also saves a staggering 4.2 million litres of water a year, as farmers are no longer doing their own processing.

To ensure that farmers will not be harmed by climate change, Nespresso has installed a satellite to monitor for changes in climate that could be harmful to each farmer’s crops. This is just a small detail in the grand scheme of how Nespresso is taking care of their farmers & crops.

Below is imagery from a unique experience that we took part in on our last day of the retreat. A coffee tasting helps discover the unique aromatic profile of each coffee. One of the elements is evaluating the crema, which can tell a bit about the quality of the extraction and gives an idea of the coffee profile. Fully tasting a coffee can help identify different tastes like acidity, bitterness, sweetness and aromatic notes. This is done for every coffee..

Nespresso Capsules & Sustainability Programs

Now that we know more about how Nespresso coffee is produced, let’s deep dive into what happens after the coffee capsules are used.

First, let’s talk about the packaging! Nespresso capsules are made from aluminium which is an infinitely recyclable material! Roughly 75% of aluminium in production globally is recycled. Nespresso has initiated the Second Life program that turns used capsule aluminium into products such as the RE:CYCLE bike from Velosphy! We had the opportunity to ride these bikes through the countryside that use 300 recycled capsules as a part of the creation of the frame for each bike. There are currently only 1000 limited edition bikes created. Nespresso is currently looking into recycling old capsules into new capsules.

What about the packaging that your capsules come in? 100% recyclable! We can’t forget about the coffee grounds that are left inside each capsule. Once separated from the aluminium, coffee grounds are converted in the form of biogas into natural fertiliser. Integrated into a methanisation process, your coffee grounds are transformed into biogas and used to produce heat or electricity and provided to farmers to create a much higher grade of soil. In Canada, the grounds are composted. By recycling your Nespresso capsules, you’ve closed the loop on the entire process! From cherries to capsules to back into the ground, you did it!

Nespresso offers different recycling solutions depending on where you live in Canada. Nespresso has created a few programs and one of them includes the collaboration of the local recycling facility in each province. If your city does not offer a recycling program, reach out your MLA and request the shift. Nespresso needs to work with government officials to accommodate each city and their current programs.

How do you begin the recycling process? Obtain your FREE recycling bag from a Nespresso retailer and they are automatically added to your online orders. The available solution in your area will be offered depending on your postal code.

Once your capsule is collected they are shipped to a partner in Canada to undergo a technological process that separates the coffee grounds from the aluminium. This entire process is of no direct cost to you or your city. Nespresso covers the cost of recycling. Each facility is monitored on a monthly basis to ensure that all capsules are being recycled.

From start to finish, Nespresso aims to maintain every step of their process. People and Planet are at the forefront of their mandates and it is apparent in each move that they make. A Nespresso coffee machine is a convenient way for us to make our coffee and limits the need to order coffee elsewhere that enables more production of plastic cups and companies who are not leading the way of sustainable systems change. Did you know that 25% of the carbon emissions each person creates when they make coffee comes from the use of water (boiling, etc.)? A Nespresso machine only uses the exact amount of water needed for each cup to ensure that no water is wasted, thus lowering our carbon footprint. Speaking of footprints, Nespresso has pledged to the Pur Project to offset the carbon emissions of the trip. From flights to all ground travel involved, pledging to the Pur Project allows for the opportunity to offset emissions by choosing different methods of post-consumer waste like tree planting. I’m going to start doing this on an individual level every time I travel.

I hope you found this informative and feel empowered to share the information! Let me know what you think in the comments below or send me a note at @RandaSalloum on your social platforms.

If you enjoyed this post, check out other ones on sustainability such as Luxury Thrift Shopping Tips and The Difference Between Fast Fashion & Slow Fashion.


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