Group photo of UO students and Riff Cold Brewed CEO Paul Evers

A Sustainable Alternative

Riff Cold Brewed is unveiling what it calls the “dirty little secrets” of the global coffee industry and is working to change it for the better.

The Bend, Oregon-based company describes itself as built on the power of collaboration, and one way to achieve that is through partnerships with student groups at the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business.

Most coffee drinkers are unaware that coffee “beans” are actually seeds from the fruit of the coffee plant. For every 25 billion pounds of coffee bean processed for export, around 100 billion pounds of coffee fruit, processed as a byproduct, goes to waste. This mass of coffee fruit is dumped in waterways, where its sugar content destroys the ecosystem, or is sent to landfills, where it sits and produces an amount of methane gas equivalent to 36 million metric tons of CO2.

Riff saw this as a challenge and set out to find a solution. Enter Alter Ego, their all-natural, sparkling energy drink made from upcycled coffee fruit.

Not only does Alter Ego help the environment by reducing coffee fruit waste, the addition of coffee fruit processing has a large positive impact on struggling coffee farmers socially and economically. Requiring no additional crops or investments, coffee farmers may be able to virtually double their income and potentially create more employment opportunities.

Riff is currently collaborating with students in management instructor Joshua Skov’s Life Cycle Analysis course to assess the sustainability impact of Alter Ego and is also planning two future projects with the student-run Oregon Consulting Group.

In February, Riff Cold Brewed’s CEO Paul Evers visited campus, where he spent the day speaking to students—including those in Skov’s course, the Sustainable Strategy and Implementation course taught by Izabel Loinaz, Ryan Cabinte’s MBA seminar, and the undergraduate chapter of Net Impact.

Students heard Alter Ego’s story and sampled newly released flavors. Reviews were overwhelmingly positive—students said they appreciated not only the taste, but the ethical, sustainable initiatives behind the product as well.

“We are an Oregon brand—we love the University of Oregon,” Evers said. “We would love to continue to work more with the U of O. That’s where we’re seeing collaboration and partnership—students help us improve our practices. They get exposure to this innovative, growing venture and their insights allow Riff to be a better steward of the environment and be more aware of social equity and issues.”

—Terri Chrestenson, Class of 2022