Breathing New Life Into Your Old Coffee Grounds
Good morning! I’d like to start this morning by saying a big congratulations to friends of the column Wyatt and Grace from Honest Coffees, who have just welcomed a little baby boy into the world! How long do you think you have to wait until you can introduce him to coffee…?! 😉
Their ‘Up & At ‘Em’ is our coffee of the month at Greener Media HQ this month. It’s a medium roast, with peanut notes and a sweet suggestion of caramel and vanilla. It’s beautiful! The bean comes from FEDECOCAGUA (Federación de Cooperativas Agrícolas de Productores de Café) in Guatemala, a coop we’re very proud to support. They helped to rebuild community schools and infrastructure after Hurricane Mitch wreaked havoc in Guatemala and support the local Maria Auxiliadora Weavers’ Club in selling their colourful bags internationally. Now that’s what I call Greener Coffee.
At the end of the last column, I invited you readers to decide on the topic for the next one. There were some great ideas (most of which I hope to use for columns in the future), but in the end I decided on Petronella (@PetronellaT) from Bristol’s suggestion to look into how we can reuse old coffee grounds and how people are breathing new life into old coffee in innovative and exciting ways…
She was kind enough to put me in touch with some friends of hers, Rosalie McMillan and Adam Fairweather, a couple living in London who are leading the way in coffee recycling and innovative design in the UK.
Adam is Innovations Director at sustainable coffee company GreenCup and an expert in recycling technologies. He also set up Re-worked, to create stylish office furniture from Cųrface, a material made with coffee grounds GreenCup have collected from offices around London. Rosalie has taken it one step further. In collaboration with Adam, she’s created jewellery pieces of remarkable beauty from the same material.
On a rainy Friday morning, Rosalie’s upbeat and friendly voice greeted me at the end of the phone from her London studio. Adam had just handed her a mid-morning coffee from their Gaggia 105, and she was getting stuck into some pieces she needed to finish for International Jewellery London (6th-8th September 2015), where she has been selected to exhibit in the Kickstart program for emerging designers – “There’s so much to think about!”
I ask her about her relationship with coffee in her workspace:
“Well, it feels like my whole life is centred around it! I have a funny relationship with it, myself though. I love it, but if I drink too much, I start shaking. We’re trying to get into decaf at the moment…”
Rosalie’s debut collection Java Ore, shortlisted for an Observer ‘Sustainable Style’ Award, features original pieces that combine Cųrface, Fairtrade sterling silver and 18 carat gold in striking angular and asymmetric designs inspired by forms in nature. Each piece is hand-crafted in London using high quality, sustainable materials.
For Rosalie, creating jewellery pieces from Cųrface is about adding even more value to coffee waste by combining it with precious metals. It behaves a lot like hardwood, she says, and looks like it, too:
“When people see it for the first time, they don’t realise it’s coffee”
While she tells me that the materials themselves are her biggest inspiration, she is conscious of it’s providence and identifies with her part in a long story from the coffee growers to her unique jewellery pieces (“It’s a great story, isn’t it?!”)
‘My jewellery has a deep connection with wearers. Each piece has a story to tell from the coffee beans growing in Guatemala to being recycled and transformed with care into unique jewellery we can cherish.”
Five pounds from every jewellery sale is donated to Grounds For Health, an organisation dedicated to reducing cervical cancer in coffee growing areas. Their work resonates with Rosalie and the material she works with, but also her customer base, who are predominantly women and care passionately about these issues.
Rosalie and Adam are breathing new life into a waste product, producing unique pieces of art from our used coffee grounds and adding another chapter, too, to the coffee bean’s story. Thanks to Rosalie and Adam, there is life after cup for coffee!
“My interest is that we can use materials that have a perceived value to them, to communicate and get people excited about the idea of sustainability and social change and environmental management.”
Once the #betterofficecoffee is drunk, there’s much more to its afterlife than your short-lived caffeine high! It can be added to compost, used to repair scratches on your furniture, soak up odours in your fridge and to keep slugs and ants out of your house. It can even be used to dye your hair! Find out more with the Coffee Detective here.
What do you do with your old coffee grounds?
A big thankyou to Rosalie and Adam for your contribution to this week’s column, to Petronella and everyone else that offered their ideas for topics. In the next column, on 7th September, I’ll be looking at the social impact of coffee, and how it can change people’s lives for the better.
Thanks for reading, sharing and all the support on social media. I love hearing the thoughts, experiences and opinions of our readers. Keep them coming in the comment section below or on Twitter @Abe_Greener!