Reposted with permission from the Gainesville Giving Garden

bucket full of used coffee grounds underneath a squash plant leaf

a bucket full of used coffee grounds that will serve as an organic soil amendment

What does circular community action look like? How can a small cup of coffee contribute to the community at large? Opus Coffee wanted to find out.

Opus Coffee and the Gainesville Giving Garden partnered in Spring 2022 to turn coffee shop waste into soil amendments. As a result – waste is reduced, soil is improved, vegetables are grown, and more families have access to local, organic produce. When an individual buys coffee at the Opus Airstream, a caffeine kick isn’t all that they get. Through something as simple as enjoying an oat milk latte, they are able to support growing organic produce, which is distributed at no cost to families who need it most.

How? Let’s break it down:

Coffee is purchased from Opus’ Airstream, and their team of baristas pulls an espresso shot and makes the drink. Then, instead of simply discarding the used grounds in the trash, which would lock it away in landfill, the “puck” is collected in a 5-gallon bucket, destined to rejoin and amend the soil. The recycling of grounds tremendously reduces the waste produced by the Airstream coffee shop. Through a partnership between the Gainesville Giving Garden, Opus Coffee is able to turn trash into treasure.  On Saturdays, their team delivers 12-15 lbs of coffee grounds to the farm.

On Sundays, the Giving Garden’s regular volunteer day, the farm crew works to disperse coffee grounds on the vegetable beds. This organic, recycled fertilizer attracts microorganisms that support plant growth, as well as earthworms. Earthworm burrows do wonders for aerating the soil, and their excrement contains many of the nutrients that are essential for a thriving garden. Coffee grounds are also shown to improve drainage, aeration, and water retention in soil. If you’ve been to the Gainesville Giving Garden, you’ve learned that the farm was once a forgotten parking lot, transformed for a purpose. Even after demolishing the abandoned asphalt and bringing in truckloads of compost and top soil – there is still work to be done to create a healthy home for edible plants. Among other missing nutrients, soil tests showed one major nutrient was sparse at the site: nitrogen. The farm team used nitrogen-fixing cover crops and organic fertilizers to improve soil health, yet the need for nitrogen has remained constant. Enter Opus Coffee, and now the garden has a sustainable, cost-free source of nitrogen in the form of used coffee grounds.

The Gainesville Giving Garden will be growing spring-time plants throughout the upcoming months. Think peas, beans, and tomatoes, all which require a hefty amount of nitrogen. Throughout the duration of the growing season, vegetables will be harvested and delivered to families who can’t easily access farmers markets. Whether time or money is a hurdle to accessing local, organic food – the garden works to remove those barriers for participants. Entering Fall 2022, the garden will increase the number of recipients it serves as it looks to expand impact at a sustainable, incremental pace. Thanks to Opus Coffee, the farm can optimize vegetable production and feed more quality vegetables to more recipients.

So, that is how a cup of coffee contributes to the community at large. That is how a cup of coffee can help create a reality where food inequity is mitigated. That is what circular community action looks like.

Opus Coffee is also a financial donor to the Gainesville Giving Garden. Their donation contributes to the startup costs to be incurred with farm-expansion in Summer 2022. Thank you, Opus!