Did You Know?

Coffee Grounds Perk Up Compost Pile With Nitrogen

Science Daily (July 10, 2008)

Coffee grounds can be an excellent addition to a compost pile. The grounds are relatively rich in nitrogen, providing bacteria the energy they need to turn organic matter into compost.

About 2 percent nitrogen by volume, used coffee grounds can be a safe substitute for nitrogen-rich manure in the compost pile, explained Cindy Wise, coordinator of the compost specialist program at the Lane County office of the Oregon State University Extension Service.

“A lot of people don’t want to use manure because of concerns about pathogens,” said Wise.

Contrary to popular belief, coffee grounds are not acidic. After brewing, the grounds are close to pH neutral, between 6.5 and 6.8. The acid in the beans is mostly water-soluble, so it leaches into the coffee we drink.

Since 2001, Wise has trained and coordinated OSU compost specialist volunteers. They have collected and composted nearly 200 tons of coffee grounds from 13 coffee shops and kiosks in Eugene, Springfield, Florence, Cottage Grove and Veneta. That’s the equivalent of about 25 large dump trucks full of coffee grounds.

Lane County alone is estimated to generate a million pounds of used coffee grounds per year, said Wise.

“Recycling this valuable soil amendment and compost ingredient makes sense both economically and environmentally,” she said.

Wise is encouraging gardeners and those that compost in other communities to arrange to collect coffee shop grounds for composting. But be sure to make prior arrangements with a coffee shop to collect grounds. Then, take a clean five-gallon bucket with a lid, label it with your name and telephone number on the bucket and lid and leave it at the shop and then pick it up at the shop’s convenience.

Here are some suggestions for using composted grounds in the yard and garden from the OSU Extension compost specialists:

Mix grounds into soil as an amendment. Make sure to keep them damp. Add some nitrogen fertilizer if you do this, as coffee grounds encourage the growth of microbes in the soil, which use up nitrogen. While microbes are breaking down the grounds, the nitrogen will provide a source of nutrients for your plants.

Spread grounds on the soil surface, then cover them with leaves or bark mulch.

Add grounds to your compost pile, layering one part leaves to one part fresh grass clippings to one part coffee grounds, by volume. Turn once a week. This will be ready in three to six months.

Or, put them in an existing unturned pile. Just make sure to add a high carbon source, such as leaves to balance it.

Grounds may be stored for future use. They may develop molds but these appear to be consumed during the composting process. Or a large plastic bag works for storage as well.

Paper coffee filters may be composted with the grounds.

Keep in mind that uncomposted coffee grounds are NOT a nitrogen fertilizer. Coffee grounds have a carbon-to-nitrogen ration of about 20 to 1, in the same range as animal manure. Germination tests in Eugene showed that uncomposted coffee grounds, added to soil as about one-fourth the volume, showed poor germination and stunted growth in lettuce seed. Therefore, they need to be composted before using near plants.

Wise and her composting protégés have been conducting informal research on composting coffee grounds. So far, they have observed that coffee grounds help to sustain high temperatures in compost piles. High temperatures reduce potentially dangerous pathogens and kill seeds from weeds and vegetables that were added to the piles. They have noticed that coffee grounds seem to improve soil structure, plus attract earthworms.

When coffee grounds made up 25 percent of the volume of their compost piles, temperatures in the piles stayed between 135 degrees and 155 degrees for at least two weeks, enough time to have killed a “significant portion” of the pathogens and seeds. In contrast, the manure in the trials didn’t sustain the heat as long..

“We were amazed at the results we got with coffee grounds when we did the trial,” said Wise.

Jack Hannigan, an Extension-trained compost specialist, is pleased with the results he gets from the coffee grounds he collects from the Fast Lane Coffee Company in Springfield to use on his farm in Pleasant Hill.

“I make hotbeds that run about 150 degrees,” Hannigan said. “It kills the weeds. I can get the piles hotter and break down the compost better with coffee grounds than I can with manure. It works great.”

Coffee grounds also can be added directly to soil but the grounds need a few months to break down, Wise said. “We’re not certain about how coffee grounds act with the soil, but anecdotally people say they do dig it into the soil,” she said.

An additional benefit of diverting coffee grounds from the landfill is that it helps cut greenhouse gas emissions, said Dan Hurley, waste management engineer for Lane County’s Short Mountain Landfill.

“To keep organics out of the landfill is a good thing for reducing greenhouse gas emissions because organics decompose and produce methane. Methane is about 25 times as bad as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas,” said Hurley.

Recycling coffee shop grounds also fosters interactions between community residents and local businesses. The coffee grounds stay in their communities, meaning that fuel isn’t being used to truck them from far-flung areas of the county to landfills.

See Also:

Earth & Climate
Recycling and Waste
Environmental Issues
Organic gardening
Organic lawn management

Contributed by E.O. member, Judi Strahota


The United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) is now considering approving the use of agri-chemical company Monsanto’s patented genetically engineered “Roundup Ready” Alfalfa. You may not think about alfalfa much when you’re drinking organic milk, but organic alfalfa is important to organic farming, as a nourishing animal feed that’s also a nitrogen-fixing soil enhancer. Once Genetically Engineered (GE) alfalfa is introduced, its contamination of non-GE plants – including organic – is all but inevitable. And because alfalfa is fed to dairy cows and other livestock, contamination puts organic dairy and meat at risk, too!

Speak Out Against Genetically Engineered Alfalfa

Monsanto’s Alfalfa has patented GE components that make it sterile, so it is impossible for farmers to harvest, store and plant these seeds in a naturally recurring cycle. In this way Monsanto can effectively monopolize the seed market for this essential cover crop. The newest version of Roundup Ready Alfalfa is Monsanto’s attempt to continue their monopoly with a new patent on their alfalfa now that their current patent is about to expire. While this standard operating procedure makes good business sense for Monsanto, it takes the control out of the hands of farmers who are trying to manage their farms sustainably and holistically along organic or biodynamic principles.

If the USDA helps make conditions favorable for the new Roundup Ready Alfalfa, then independent farms and alternative seed-banks will be dealt a serious blow and organic alfalfa crops will be increasingly easily compromised with GE materials. Now is your chance to be heard. Tell the USDA to protect organic food and farmers from GE contamination, and NOT TO APPROVE Monsanto’s GE Alfalfa. You CAN make a difference. Tell the USDA that you care about GE contamination and your right to GMO-free organic foods.

Your Participation is Critical! Take Action by February 16

A 60-day comment period is now open until February 16, 2010.  This is the first time the USDA has done this analysis for any GE crop, so the final decision will have broad implications for all GE crops. The failure of the agency to address the impacts of GE alfalfa will have far-reaching consequences for farmers and organic consumers. Let’s not be Monsanto’s guinea pigs!

Where to Take Action:

Submit comments via the Center for Food Safety Action Center tool If you have time to write an original response, you can also submit your comments directly to the USDA.

By Mail: A written letter is very powerful. Mail your comments to:

Docket No. APHIS-2007-0044
Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238

Talking Point Suggestions

  • Let the USDA know you do care about GE contamination of organic crops & food
  • Tell USDA that you will reject GE-contaminated alfalfa and alfalfa-derived foods
  • If GE alfalfa is deregulated, widespread GE contamination of non-GM and organic alfalfa is inevitable.
  • Organic alfalfa is a critical component for organic farming and feed.
  • Remind USDA it’s their job to protect Organic farmers, and all farmers who choose to grow non-GE crops.
  • GE alfalfa would significantly increase pesticide use and thereby harm human health and the environment.
  • Harm to small and organic farmers is significant.
  • USDA should extend the comment period.

More In-Depth Information:

In 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its illegal approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. USDA failed to conduct an environmental impact statement (EIS) before deregulating the crop.  An EIS is a rigorous analysis of the potential significant impacts of a federal decision.  The federal courts sided with CFS and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the GE plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in an EIS. They released a draft EIS on December 14, 2009. Draft EISSupplemental documents

It appears USDA again intends to deregulate GE alfalfa without any limitations or protections for farmers, consumers or the environment. In the new EIS, the USDA has completely dismissed the fact that GE contamination will threaten export and domestic markets and organic meat and dairy products.  And, incredibly, USDA is claiming that there is no evidence that consumers care about GE contamination of organic. We know that’s not true.

Learn more and get talking points from the Organic Valley Family of Farms website: http://www.organicvalley.coop/farm-friends/. Then take action at the Center for Food Safety, or submit comments online to the USDA directly.

After you write, let us know at rootstock@organicvalley.coop. We’ll post some comments on our website to inspire others to speak out.

Thanks for all your support for family farmers and a sustainable organic future for all!

Note: The majority of thus information is sourced from Organic Valley Family of Farms.
Additional information is integrated from an investigative piece that was broadcast on Chicago Public Radio in late January.

Noted below. Further evidence to support the Empirical Opera Mission.                                            So lets get outside, move our bodies and interact with the real world!


Turns out, your mother was right: It’s time to get off the couch and stop watching TV. It’s killing you. Australian researchers found that each hour spent watching TV translates into an 18 percent greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and an 11 percent greater risk of all causes of death, reports the Los Angeles Times. The first thing that comes to mind is that obviously those who watch more TV will have a greater risk of death since they’re probably more likely to be overweight and less likely to get exercise. But researchers found the connection between TV-watching and death from cardiovascular disease even among those with a healthy weight who exercised. And we’re not talking about small numbers. Those who watched more than four hours a day had an 80 percent greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than those who watched fewer than two hours a day. Bottom line? Even if you exercise, it’s not good to be sitting inactive in front of a television (or computer!) for hours at a time.

This post from Slate Magazine | Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010
Read original story in Los Angeles Times | Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010

The Story of Stuff

Narated by Annie Leonard

This sparse effective animated lesson about sustainability starts with critiques of the current wasteful global production and consumption cycles and evolves into an active and engaging lesson of greening for the future.