Since 2019, the idea of using coffee waste was turning our minds, not just because we consume it a lot (specially our italian volunteers), but because there is a big consumption in all over Europe, and there is a lot of coffee grounds that turn into dumpsters.
Nowadays, coffee has become indispensable and the demand is increasing. Unfortunately the process of growing coffee plants can negatively effect the environment. Due to increasing cultivation of the coffee bean, forests are being cut down to “maximize sun exposure” to the coffee plants. Farmers are also focusing on growing only one species of plant, which can put their entire crop at an increased risk of falling to diseases.
On top of that, coffee plantations demand a huge amount of water to function. “A 2003 UNESCO study, for instance, found that a standard cup of coffee requires 140 liters of water, most of which is used to grow the coffee plant itself.” However, sun cultivated coffee often employs intensive pesticides and chemicals that present serious health and ecological concerns. These heavy synthetic fertilizer inputs contribute to increasing contamination of waterways and aquifers.
The process of separating the commercial product (the beans) from the coffee cherries generates enormous volumes of waste material in the form of pulp, residual matter, and parchment. Over a 6 month period in 1988, it was estimated that processing 547,000 tons of coffee in Central America generated as much as 1.1 million tons of pulp and polluted 110,000 cubic metres of water each day. The environmental impact of the coffee trade impacts the Earth’s soil as well.
These are some of the reasons why we started to recycle the coffee grounds and use them for a mushrooms production.
We started with a little scale, producing 1kg of oyster mushrooms. After the production process was examined and improved, we decided to grow and engage local bars and cafés into this circular economy project, that we call Café Vert. Nowadays, we have different partners in Carcassonne, who didn’t hesitate in joining the project and give us their coffee waste to reuse it for creating more life.
Our volunteers were very interested in being part of this project, so in 2020 we had Robert from Ireland, who inmediately took the charge of the mushroom’s making and he did it all along his 1-year ESC volunteering program. Now he is back in the campsite, continuing his fungi passion and teaching the new volunteers about the process of production, monitoring and harvesting.