View Blog Archive ITP Blog - Archives > CityLab7 – Fertile Grounds

Posted - 04/28/2011
CityLab7 – Fertile Grounds
Coffee grounds

Pause. Seed. Blossom. Or, in this case: Roast, Grow, Repair.

Fertile Grounds is the connective tissue that unites key components of existing businesses – coffee suppliers, retailers, farmers markets, city utilities – to develop and brand an urban food system process that is less wasteful, less carbon intensive, profitable and replicable. In this way, we hope to reduce the carbon impact of daily lifestyle choices related to food while promoting a sense of community and repairing the natural environment.

How does Fertile Grounds work?

Fertile Grounds will provide premium locally roasted coffee from which the spent coffee grounds will be repurposed; once removed from the waste stream, these reclaimed grounds will be used as a growing medium for oyster mushrooms.

Our harvest will yield two products: delicious mushrooms, which can be sold at farmers’ markets or local food stores, and nutrient-rich compost that can be used as a means of storm water infiltration or for bioremediation of contaminated earth.

Forging Partnerships

Identifying key partners is our first task; they include a coffee operator, a mushroom grower, and a landowner in control of receiving site for the compost.

CityLab7 will partner with a local coffee company to run and maintain the Fertile Grounds coffee operation. We will work closely with the operator to develop an efficient and easy-to-use coffee ground collection system, as we will need to capture the grounds before they are co-mingled – and thus, contaminated – with food waste.

We will also identify a mushroom grower who can use these grounds for growing oyster mushrooms, which will then be sold to restaurants or at farmers’ markets. Finally, a partnership with an entity such as a public utility, parks department, school, or a community garden program is necessary in order to place our nutrient-rich compost.

If possible, the Fertile Grounds coffee operation will be located near the actual receiving site so that customers can see for themselves the value of their choice while they hold the coffee – and potentially, the mushrooms – in their hands.

Proof of Concept

A key component of our project is to record data. Specifically, we will track overall profit, mushroom yield per crop, the reduction in landfill volume as a result of diverting coffee grounds from the wasted stream, and the percentage reduction of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) based on soil production. We will also measure the amount of soil we were able to remediate, and monitor storm water quality and quantity over time.

Education and Community

Fertile grounds is aimed at educating people in order to inform their basic lifestyle choices – choices that we don’t often think about, but which and have a great impact on our carbon footprint as a society. As with overcoming any challenge, awareness is key.

Using the data collected, we will communicate to our customers the impact of Fertile Grounds through real-time results displayed at the coffee operation, and online through a loyalty card program. Rather than a traditional loyalty program (“By 10 coffees get one free!”), we will develop a program that tracks consumers’ purchases to quantify their individual environmental and social impacts of buying a Fertile Grounds coffee. We will offer similar information to those who purchase our mushrooms.

In creating this community of carbon-conscious consumers, we will also be connecting people with each other in meaningful ways around food: in person at the market, at special events, passing each other in the neighborhood as they see the soils they’ve helped to build, and even online through the loyalty card program.

Border Exchange

At our core, CityLab7 is about sharing: sharing knowledge, sharing food, and sharing the love.

For this third phase of Invoking the Pause, we have teamed up with the Taco Food Wagon of Sabores team to do just that. We will work via a concept mash-up to furhter each other’s work in regional food system innovations and explorations, trading off visits between Seattle and Tucson to brainstorm ideas, push concepts, tell powerful personal stories, and – of course – share tables.

CityLab 7 is a 2011 Invoking the Pause Grant Partner