We have a farm in The Fields. If you’ve ever wondered what happens in The Fields for the 361 days of the year that Wonderfruit isn’t being hosted, most of the answers lie there. It’s where we turn the leftovers of the festival into compost, where we grow fresh ingredients for the group of workers who call The Fields home, and—thanks to Nespresso—where we experiment with new ways to use coffee waste products, productively.
Nespresso has an entire ecosystem around the world dedicated to collecting capsules that their customers have already enjoyed, tearing them down to their component parts (aluminium and coffee grounds), and returning these to the coffee growing and preparing processes. Each capsule is emptied of spent grounds, which are then heat treated and dried to ensure sterilization, and the aluminium is washed, crushed, shredded, and recycled into new capsules. Recycled capsules are a part of Nespresso’s commitment to 100% carbon neutral capsules by 2022. The nutrient-dense spent grounds are the part of the circular equation that we are most excited by. We get a steady supply of the brown gold, to experiment with on our farm.
Our Nespresso coffee experiments have produced some pretty amazing results, and we think they could be even shared as examples of sustainable, future farming practices.
Here are three ways we’re repurposing Nespresso coffee grounds at the farm:
Mushrooms are magical. Even the normal, edible types. They grow fast, they grow in the dark, they break down organic material in the ground, and they are the ultimate sign of healthy soil. In our mushroom shack in The Fields, the mushrooms grow in bags of coffee-laced soil. If you’ve ever seen a pile of coffee grounds covered in mold, you’ll know why this is a great source of nutrients for mushrooms. They love coffee almost as much as we do.
This is beneficial because mushrooms need rich soil. The type of soil that requires a lot of fertilizer, moisture, and additives to sustain their growth. By swapping to a coffee grounds-infused mix, we can grow the same volume of mushrooms without dipping into our high-value, nutrient-dense compost stores.
Pack a few seeds into a mix of coffee grounds and clay, roll it up into a ball. Wait for it to dry, and you’ve got yourself a seed bomb. Seed bombs are portable, easy to plant, and contain everything the seeds inside need to get growing—including naturally pest-repelling coffee grounds. They’re a handy solution to inaccessible areas in need of greening or reforestation, and can make cute gifts for budding gardeners.
Seed bombs are a relatively trendy concept, but they’re not new. Forest communities have used the technique for generations, ensuring that seeds could be transplanted across great distances without disturbing the precious undergrowth. Seed bombs help to gamify the reforesting process, by making something most people see as mundane (planting seeds) something exciting and fun.
If you’ve ever spilled coffee on white clothes, you already know how this one works. Coffee, even spent coffee that has been enjoyed as a beverage, can permanently stain cloth. Which is exactly what we want from a natural dye. We’ve perfected the process of taking a few leftover grounds, mixing them into a concentrated mix, and using the mix as either a watercolor for painting, or a dye for textiles. The resulting colors vary from off-white to chocolate brown, and react differently depending on their application. It’s a little unpredictable, but always beautiful.
Natural dyes are an organic, biodegradable alternative to artificial, chemical dyes. Natural dyes require less water, they leave less waste in waterways and soil, and they are safer for the skin. Coffee isn’t the best dye, but it beats using inorganic chemicals to achieve a similar result.