Thursday, April 25, 2013

Collecting coffee grounds - one man's garbage....


In order to properly balance the sheet mulch in our orchard, I wanted to find a free source of nitrogen.

A little research and I discovered that coffee grounds contain nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and trace amounts of minerals. One caution is coffee grounds are acidic and can increase the acidity of the soil. I'm not terribly concerned about this here in Madison, because our soil is quite alkaline, the opposite of acidic.

So a few weeks ago I gathered up all the 5 gallon buckets I could find, and started dropping buckets off in the morning and picking them up in the afternoon.

The first café I visited, EVP Coffee on Madison's E. Washington Blvd. After a few days in the staff recognized me and just waved me towards the closet where I helped myself to my old bucket and replace it with a new one. At first I thought I was probably being a pain to the barristas, and then I realized I had to get in line! 
EVP on East Washington Blvd., Madison, Wis. where the staff were happy, even eager, to give me their coffee grounds.

The closet where the barristas store grounds for gardeners.

The same was true for Moka also on E. Washington Blvd. There, mine was one of two buckets receiving coffee grounds. I tried thinking of other high-volume cafés and realized that there are three coffee shops in my workplace (I work in a complex with three buildings and nearly 3,000 people!) Two of them are not far from my desk, so I've been bringing buckets to them as well.

No one even blinked an eye when I approached them to collect grounds, nor appeared to be bothered on my many rounds to swap out buckets. It wasn't until tonight however, that I realized how good the situation actually was.

I stopped in at EVP Coffee in the late afternoon, and it was pretty quiet so I got to chatting with the barrista. After swapping out my bucket, he told me that I was doing him a great service. Several years ago, before Madison implemented mechanized garbage pickup, the coffee shop's garbage bins got so heavy, garbage men refused to move them. Even though we now have mechanized garbage pickup, the employees are still happy not to throw the grounds away.

So this really is win win win. The coffee shop reduces its waste stream and I get a valuable source of nitrogen. And as of a few years ago, garbage men didn't get hurt moving heavy bins full of wet coffee grounds.

Garbage bags of coffee grounds sitting in my driveway, waiting for sheet mulching day, April 27, 8 a.m. - noon.