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300 Pounds Later – A Coffee Story

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Sitting on the dock in Catalina Island and watching bioluminescence follow our fingertips in the water, the girl scouts and I bonded over nature, art, and science. They had taken me along on their Catalina trip to lead Traveling Naturalist Programs for them. Little did I know that this bond would extend beyond that trip. While hanging out on that warm June night, the scouts and I sat in a circle to talk about ideas they could do for silver award projects. Most of the other girls had already accomplished theirs and 2 girls had yet to come up with something. We exchanged all sorts of ideas, including getting coffee shops to start recycling their grounds and actually getting the customers to take those grounds home with them.

8 months passed by and I had not seen them. I would occasionally get a text that they were off doing this, that or the other but in general, I had a lot of catching up to do. Now we were at Zyzzxx Desert Studies Center and I was to lead some desert hikes, painting programs, and geology as their personal Traveling Naturalist. We were all excited to see each other again and after showing the girls around, Cate was excited to inform me that they did their silver award project. I had completely forgotten about our conversation that day on the docks so as you can imagine, it took me by surprise when she said “ Katie and I recycled coffee grounds back into the earth!”

“Wait, What? You did? The same project we talked about 8 months ago?” I said with joy. Nothing impresses me more than action, and these two girls were doers, not talkers. Katie Flores and Cate Peterson are the heroes in this story. Although they do not drink coffee themselves, they took action to make sure that the coffee grounds actually got put back into the soil.

If we think about it, coffee beans are grown in very nutrient rich areas and imagine that it can take one mature tree per growing season to produce one pound of coffee. That’s a lot of trees farmers have to grow to meet our demand for our morning fix. Not only that, we pass some water through the ground up beans and then throw the spent grounds away! The truth is that this bean not only gives us a kick but can also give our soil a kick and keep out unwanted pests. The acidity of the coffee is something that roses like, but rodents do not.

Hanging out with Cate in the desert, I felt more connected to the earth than ever. Here were two girls that were making a difference for this beautiful planet.

Excited to hear more about what they did, I inquired further “How many pounds did you keep of those pounds?

“We reused and recycled 300 pounds of coffee grounds and put them on green areas within an office complex in Mission Viejo and we spread them in different parts of our neighborhood. I probably kept about 50 pounds for my own yard. We also taught guests about recycling their coffee grounds and got them to take home little baggies we made.”

“Wow! That’s amazing” I said.

“It taught me to recycle and to be more active about helping the environment. Coffee grounds are often wasted and they are so good for so many plants. They contain water and nutrients that can go back into the earth.” Cate said. “The people at Hidden House Coffee Shop and Pink Ribbon Donuts were very kind to save the grounds for us.” Katie said.

Cate Peterson and Katie Flores rescued 300 lbs of coffee from being disposed of in a landfill where the nutrients would never be returned to the earth. The earth revolves in a continuous cycle and when we take from that cycle and not give back, the cycle starts to operate on crutches. People then start trying to fix the crutch with more quick fix solutions and then those quick fix solutions need solutions. This silver award project should be a green award project, for it exemplifies simplicity and offers us inspiration for what we can all do to give back to the cycle we take from on a daily basis. Change is always at our fingertips, no matter how big or how small.

To learn more about recycling grounds, please join us at Hidden House Coffee Shop at 10am on Sunday June 7th. Cate and Katie will be presenting their silver award projects and afterwards, I will be giving a presentation on coffee.

Hidden House Coffee Shop is located at :

31791 Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Sama Wareh, Outreach Coordinator, Environmental Nature Center

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