From grounds to ground

A cup of Joe, black. An espresso, double shot. A caramel macchiato, extra foam. These tasty beverages are born from dark, fragrant beans harvested in hot, rainy climates along the equator.

Chats composting
Chats customers can bring home one or more five-pound containers of coffee grounds, coffee filters and tea bags for composting.

Some of these beans make their way to Chats, which offers coffees, teas, smoothies and edibles in UNI's Maucker Union. Chats uses between 40 and 50 pounds of coffee per day during the academic year and offers five daily-brew options, as well as its signature blend, Buzz Session.

Lisa Kremer, assistant food service manager within the Department of Residence, doesn't want the life of the beans to grind to a halt. Instead, the grounds get a second life when faculty, staff, students and even campus guests take home one or more five-pound containers filled with coffee grounds, coffee filters and tea bags. These materials (coffee filters and tea bags break down rapidly) are added to compost materials to increase the fertilizer's nitrogen balance.

"This is definitely worth doing because the grounds are no longer going into the garbage, and they're offered free of charge," said Kremer. "They're actually saving the university money since fewer trash bags are used."

With the quantity of grounds produced, not all of them are placed in the five-pound recyclable containers. Those not used are given to UNI's Facilities Services for campus compost materials, which goes hand in hand with UNI's commitment to sustainability.

"Facilities purchases composting materials from an outside source," said Kremer, "but the materials collected from Chats and other campus resources have helped decrease the amount purchased. This also saves the university money."

In 2013, Residence Dining Services and Paul Meyerman, assistant director of operations planning in UNI's physical plant, received the Creating a Responsible Environment (CARE) award. This award acknowledges and honors the efforts of those who significantly contribute to enhancing campus sustainability efforts. The award draws additional attention to UNI's pre-consumer waste-recycling program that has diverted 12 tons of organic material from the landfill to compost for campus landscaping.

For more ways to use Chats composting materials, grab some coffee, a flyer and a five-pound container the next time you're in Maucker Union.