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Starbucks Offers Free Coffee Grounds for Gardens & Compost Piles

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Tuesday July 27th, 2010 | 9 Comments

Do you ever wonder what coffee shops do with all those leftover coffee grounds?  Instead of tossing out all those grounds, why not put them to good use?

In 1995, Starbucks Coffee Company launched its Grounds for Your Garden campaign, which offers customers a complimentary five pound bag of used coffee grounds for the garden or compost pile just for the asking. Not only does the program reduce landfill waste, coffee grounds are a valuable source of nutrition for the garden.

So just how good are those coffee grounds for your garden?  The folks at Sunset requested a lab analysis on Starbucks’ coffee grounds from the Soil and Plant Laboratory, Inc.  According to the report, the grounds provide 0.06 percent phosphorous, 0.6 percent potassium and 2.28 percent nitrogen.  And if tilled into the soil at a depth of 6 to 8 inches, the grounds will “substantially improve availabilities of phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and copper” improving the soil structure over both the long and short-term. 

With more than 15,000 Starbucks coffee shops in 50 countries, just imagine how many coffee cups and coffee grounds go to waste?  But since Starbucks first opened its doors in Seattle back in 1971, the company has initiated numerous programs to reduce its environmental impact. 

In an effort to reduce landfill waste and its environmental impact from coffee cups, the company has numerous recycling goals in place.  One is to encourage customers to bring in reusable cups when buying a beverage.  Canadian and U.S. customers who bring in their own reusable mug or cup, get a 10 cent discount on their drink.  Starbucks is also working towards its goal of serving 25 percent of its beverages made in the stores in reusable serveware or tumblers by 2015.   According to the company website, Starbucks served more than 4 million more drinks in reusuable cups in 2009 compared to 2008.

Starbucks has also reduced its water consumption in 2009 by more than 4 percent and reduced electrical use by nearly 2 percent in company-owned stores.

Sustainable Enterprises offers some helpful tips and suggestions for anyone interested in using coffee grounds in the garden or compost pile.

Image courtesy of Ways2GoGreen


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  • http://greengopost.com Leon Kaye

    Great post. My understanding is that they've always been available, but you had to ask the manager, so I'm glad SBUX is being more agressive about getting those grounds into landfills and out of the garden.

    By the way, they are great for blueberry bushes and other plants that need acid soil! :)

    • Greenunderbelly

      Just curious, Leon…Have you tried them on your own blueberry bushes? It's my understanding that the acidic quality of the grounds is leached away (water-soluble) during the brewing process and actually, these grounds decompose to provide a very neutral pH…

      • bcbingram

        .. Dang it Greenbelly, always throwing up the truth right in the middle of a conventional discussion.
        You were the kid that first told us, ‘Reindeer can’t fly’
        Thanks for the counter point.

  • http://progressivetimes.wordpress.com T. Caine

    While getting rid of coffee ground is a nice step, it seems minimal in terms of the business that Starbucks runs and other opportunities they have to improve. Starbucks could be getting rid of all of their plastic cups and those silly little splash sticks that they also make out of plastic. Those sleeves that they have to “protect” people from hot coffee should definitely be made out of recycled paper. I have not even seen a Starbucks that has a recycling bin for the plastic and glass bottles that they sell (that all of them have) which many cities already have systems of collection. It doesn't get much easier than that. Helping to finance healthy compost seems glamorous to grass-roots efforts, but they are missing some easy steps to reduce their footprints.

    • Greenunderbelly

      Amen, and their efforts require much more than a gardener here and a gardener there…they require citizen-led models of sustainable ag., much like the program in place in Missoula, MT and Moscow, ID


  • http://www.kvinnasokerman.se/ Dejta

    Wow, that's impressive! I've seen a coffee house where they are placing the left over coffee granules in an ashtray, they say it neutralizes the smell of the whole place.. And Starbucks is right on creating, eco-friendly tumblers! Cheers!

  • subske

    Interesting article, as I am working with a office coffee machine business http://www.purebean.com.au at the moment I am really starting to get to know quite alot about coffee machines and the beans. I found this article really something that kept me reading.. Thank you

  • Waylon

    Great post, though it reads a bit like an edited-down press release. For example, Starbucks does very little to discourage use of to-go cups…in fact, they're probably the number one supply/demand source of to-go cups on our planet. Can you get your coffee for-here? Yes, if you know to ask.

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  • yardfarmer

    The local Starbucks employees in Yulee Fl are a hassle to deal with in trying to get these free grounds for the garden. They always act like it’s an imposition and forget to save them etc (even after being called that morning).

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