Coffee and Compost

By Tracey Bianchi 4-09-2010

I was reminded of a little gardening tip last week that has my dear husband Joel rolling his eyes. Joel is a good sport. He's said farewell to plastic bags, paper napkins, incandescent lighting, industrial cleaning products, and more. He rolled up his sleeves and plotted out the garden after we moved in last Spring. He beat down wayward pumpkin vines that took over the lawn last October.

Poor guy never knows what is an eco-tweak around our house and what is just my absentmindedness. For example, a few months ago the only remaining kitchen sponge in our home was so over-used and disgusting that I had to pitch it. Of course I did not have any back ups handy. So for a few days we went sans dish sponge until he finally caved and asked me "so, are we like against sponges now or did you just forget to buy one?"

Just forgot.

My poor family, every item in our home seems constantly up for interrogation or dismissal these days.

So you can imagine his dismay when I announced that we would now be dumping all the coffee grounds into the garden. "Gardener's gold" I have heard these grounds are called. Especially for those tomato plants that like life a little more on the acidic side. Did you know that thousands of Starbucks stores give away their coffee grounds to gardeners. They even have a catchy little title for it "Grounds for Gardeners."

You can swing by and pick up a five-pound bag of the black wet sand if your local store participates. Dump them right into the garden and watch growth and compost happen.

So we are collecting grounds, in a bag, on our kitchen counter. Sounds simple, no? Ahh, but you see we have one of those single cup machines that takes little plastic cups filled with coffee and presses out just the perfect amount. So once you are done sipping away you need to peel off the foil top and dump all the little grounds into the bag. Your fingers get all black and mushy in the process. You get maybe a tablespoon of grounds and it is a bit of an undertaking for one spoon of coffee.

Then the bag, filled with damp dark goodness just sits on the counter and waits until the next day.

Joel looks at me with an oddly raised eyebrow and a "you are seriously kidding me" look every time he intersects with the humid, condensation ringed bag. But he is a good sport and has no apparent plans to stand between me and my grounds in the garden.

So if you are looking for an eco-tip this week, a way to get easy nourishment for your garden while keeping junk out of the landfill, then save your coffee grounds (and the paper coffee filters too). Toss them into the earth and watch them bump up a few plants. Stop by and ask your local baristas to share their trash with you, too. Keep what is good for the earth in the earth and out of the landfills. And raise a skeptical eyebrow along the way.

Thanks honey!

portrait-tracey-bianchiTracey Bianchi blogs about finding a saner, greener life from the heart of the Chicago suburbs. She wrote Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet (Zondervan 2009) and blogs at

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