Grounds for Growth

Issue Date: 
April 27, 2015

What can you make with used coffee grounds?

Reduce, Reuse, RecycleAmong other things: compost fodder, paste to reduce under-eye puffiness, feed for a worm farm, bug/cat/critter garden repellant, scalp and body scrub, and de-icer for slippery sidewalks.

Who knew?

Well, the Oakland Bakery and Market on Fifth Avenue has it figured out. That store alone produces almost a dozen pounds of used coffee per day—debris that would typically go into the waste stream, says Nick Goodfellow, student sustainability coordinator for Pitt’s Dining Services and a Pitt Environmental Coalition member. That may not seem like much of a problem, but because coffee is the second most-frequently traded commodity after oil, every little bit adds up.

And that’s why Oakland Bakery and Market is the hub for Grounds for Growth, an initiative that started in 2014 as part of a larger effort to make Pitt’s Dining Services more environmentally friendly.

Each day, Goodfellow or a student volunteer collects grounds and their filters, then drops handfuls of the brown gold into biodegradable, compostable plastic bags, which are then available for free in the bakery. “Your hands feel very clean afterwards,” says Goodfellow. “Invigorated.”

Because of the program’s success, Goodfellow hopes to expand the initiative to other coffee shops around campus, although storage is an issue. The grounds must be kept cool to avoid fungal growth. Market Central provides some chiller/freezer space—excess grounds are kept in five-gallon buckets—but it’s limited. Additional grounds go to a local worm farmer or are sprinkled throughout the campus’s green spaces.

But the potential benefits of expanding Grounds for Growth make the challenges worthwhile. “It’s really not a hard sell for people,” says Goodfellow.