As we are discovering with many ingredients in today's innovative consumer economy, coffee is quite the underutilized product. In fact, when we brew a cup, only 1% of our coffee actually ends up in our mugs. The rest? Sent to die in a landfill—an estimated 2-billion tons worth every year. But, it doesn't really die there, though—it emits methane, which in terms of global warming, is 20X worse than CO2.
If you've heard the rounds on the circular economy (catch up here), you're likely wondering why we are sending 2-billion tons of compostable, natural fertilizer to the dump anyway. And, that's what the fellas at Life Cycle thought too. So, they went to work collecting used coffee grounds from Australian coffee shops to use in the most delicious way: growing gourmet mushrooms.
Their method of mushroom farming is a huge innovation to sustainable farming. They are on their way to creating a mushroom farm in every Australian city. Since their inception, the company has recycled 400 kilograms of coffee waste, which they've used to grow 3,200 kilograms of mushrooms.
After collecting coffee grounds around Fremantle, Australia, the home of their first mushroom-farm, LifeCycle mixes the grounds with mushroom spores. They leave that to grow in shipping containers—yes, shipping containers. Mushrooms are a great option for urban farming, as they need almost no light, electricity, or water. They then sell their mushrooms to restaurants or make them into medicinal extracts and powders that can be added to your drinks. After mushrooms are picked, the infested soil is used in local farms.
The best part of this venture is perhaps the DIY aspect. Whether you're looking to grow in your kitchen or become a full-on farmer, you can take the shroom by the stock. They've just launched a National Mushroom Network, providing the resources for mushroom-entrepreneurs to start their own farms and sell to their communities.