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Guayakí Yerba Mate - A Powerful Rainforest Experience

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Metrics & Assumptions

Market Driven Restoration |  Trees Planted  |  Sq. Ft. Rainforest Protected  |  Ecosystem Services  |  Carbon Footprint Reduction

Market Driven Restoration - Guayaki’s unique business model

With a passion for mate, we have pioneered an innovative business modelthat directly links our customer’s purchases to our partner farming communities in the South American Atlantic Rainforests. Our partners sustainably harvest organic yerba mate from rainforest grown cultivations and reforestation projects, generating a renewable stable annual income stream that enables these communities to improve their lives and restore their lands.  Our restoration projects are primarily based in the lush yerba mate growing regions of Argentina, Paraguay and Southern Brazil.

Rainforests are among the most bio-diverse and productive ecosystems on the earth, yet they are being destroyed at alarming rates. Traditional conservation strategies have effectively sustained millions of acres of rainforest, but as population densities increase and competition for land and resources intensifies, these protected areas become islands in a sea of environmental catastrophe and the cost of managing these projects is escalating. At the same time, Indigenous communities who have strong cultural and spiritual ties to the land they inhabit are a powerful force for conservation and restoration yet they are often left out of traditional conservation strategies. Not only does this accelerate the cycle of poverty and threaten the viability of the conserved lands, but also it works to eliminate the cultural diversity and knowledge that the local people embody.

One of the leading causes of deforestation is commercial agricultural, including commercial yerba mate. However, yerba mate natively grows beneath the rainforest canopy, which means that shade-grown organic yerba mate can be utilized as an economic driver for sustaining rainforest. Guayakí’s commitment to partner with Indigenous landowners creates a market-based system for protecting rainforest while creating a learning-based enterprise that enables the local community to learn the technical skills necessary to thrive at the fulcrum where cultural traditions balance with complex multi-national trade. By creating a profitable economic model the community funds forest management and engages in strong governance systems so that all parties can thrive in a bio-diverse and culturally diverse world. Importantly, this model can be shared and duplicated in communities around the world so that these systems can be scaled effectively.

Trees Protected

Guayaki sources yerba mate uniquely from shade grown rainforest projects.  Each project has a nursery set up to improve the biodiversity by planting more native hardwoods and additional fruit tress which serve to attract birds and reestablish biological corridors for migrating animals.   Moreover, in every acre of the yerba mate plantation, we estimate there to be on average of 1000 trees and ever year Guayaki plants on average an additional 50,000 trees.

Like high quality coffee, high quality yerba mate is shade-grown in the rich ecosystem of the rainforest; delivering more flavor and nutritional value. Sheltered from direct sunlight, which can burn the leaves and make them bitter, rainforest grown yerba mate leaves are dark, emerald green and teeming with nutrients and flavor.

Most yerba mate is handled like a typical commodity and commercially grown in direct sunlight for maximum yield.  Sun grown mate offers large producers the advantage of yielding more as well as the ability to bring in larger machinery for the harvesting.   However, these large-scale yerba mate mono – cultivations are lacking in biodiversity, which serves to deplete the soil and reduce productivity year after year (thereby requiring more soil amendments).

By contrast, Guayaki contracts with growers who cultivate yerba mate in the shade of the forest.  We recognize that our yields are lower, but as the premium yerba mate brand, we make no comprises for quality.  Our harvesting teams are instructed to carefully prune the yerba mate trees for optimum quality and health of the tree for future harvests.  We place a premium on biodiversity, recognizing that the Atlantic Forest is home to over 336 bird and mammal species.  With only 7% remaining, it is our priority, responsibility, and ethical imperative to steward this forest.

Square Feet of Rainforest Protected

In 2011, Guayaki is actively stewarding and restoring 27,758 acres of rainforest that works out to be roughly 17.45 pounds of mate harvested for every acre.  Or to put in more relative terms, if you were to drink 2 bottles of Guayaki per day over the course of a year, that would preserve an acre of forest or 43,560 square feet, with each bottle drank preserving roughly 58 square feet.  Every year our acres of rainforest under management will increase as the demand for our yerba mate increases.   The basic premise behind our business model is that the demand for Guayaki’s rainforest yerba mate provides a stable annual income for our growing partners.  Our partners receive a premium price for their premium yerba mate and at the same time this economic incentive (cash for yerba mate) takes the daily pressure off the growers to find other sources of income for their forest.  In most cases, the forest is cut down for wood, and then subsequently grazed by cattle or planted with other conventional crops for income, which is why 93% of the Atlantic Forest has been deforested.  In our model, our grower partners have a contract to sell yerba mate at a premium price receiving a stable annual income all the while preserving their forest for the generations to come.  

Ecosystem Services

Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are known as ecosystem services and include products like clean drinking water and processes such as the decomposition of wastes. While scientists and environmentalists have discussed ecosystem services for decades, these services were popularized and their definitions formalized by the United Nations 2004 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), a four-year study involving more than 1,300 scientists worldwide.
By partnering with communities who live in and around the forest, Guayaki’s focus is to create a structure for generating revenue from the forest as a service rather than as a commodity. The rainforest generates new yerba mate leaves every year, so these leaves can be harvested and sold to generate income for the community who in turn works to improve the biodiversity and resilience of the forest, which enables the community to generate additional income creating a virtuous cycle. One goal is to steward existing rainforest, thus slowing down deforestation so these forests continue to thrive and communities maintain the rights to sell additional forest services as the market for these services develop.

Thriving human communities have always depended on agriculture and despite a detour from this pattern in the so-called developed world over the last several decades, long-term human abundance is still dependent on sustainable agricultural systems. A bio-diverse, resilient ecosystem is the best store of value as it provides crucial services such as generating and purifying water and air, regulating climate and providing food and medicinal herbs.

Based on current models, rainforest generates between $320 and $960 per acre per year ($800 and $2,400 per hectare).  In this example, we have elected to use $800 per acre.  As markets develop these prices may or may not come down, but regardless, this is value that we recognize today even though it cannot be monetized immediately. If even 25% of this value can be monetized over the next decade, the communities who own this land will be able to monetize portions, as they desire.

Source: NATURE |VOL 387 | 15 MAY 1997, the value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital

Carbon Footprint Reduction


Guayakí Yerba Mate is organically shade grown in the rainforest and in reemerging forests.  The forest’s growth captures enough carbon dioxide to make Guayakí’s yerba mate carbon footprint negative over its production cycle.    

Every step of processing the mate, from the drying process to the energy used to put mate into this bag, produces emissions. We assessed each of these steps to determine their respective impact.

The life-cycle emissions of this packaging, from raw material extraction to final disposal, produces 11g of carbon emissions.

We calculated the emissions from transporting the yerba mate, including moving from the drying facility to the seaport, shipping from South America by boat, and trucking to the retailer.

Guayaki Yerba Mate:
For every pound (454 grams) of Guayakí Yerba Mate, 573 grams of carbon are REDUCED from the environment.

What is a carbon label?
A good but imperfect number representing the total global warming emissions a food product creates over its life cycle, from farming and raw material extraction all the way to disposal of the product’s packaging.

Why carbon label?
Global warming is a dire threat to society and the natural world, and innovative solutions are required now.  Governments, businesses and individuals all have an opportunity to help in solving the global warming crisis by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing greenhouse gas sinks.  Right now, there are ways to materially reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase sinks from growing, processing, packaging and moving food products.  Increasing transparency between food producers and food buyers will provide the incentive for more climate-friendly supply chains

Source:  www.consciousbrands.com, 2008 Life Cycle Analysis on Guayaki Yerba Mate’s 1 pound loose package

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