The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) presented its annual awards last night. One is the Sustainability Award, which honors individuals, businesses, or organizations in the coffee industry that have created projects which expand and promote sustainability. Criteria include projects that are innovative and have social, economic and environmental aspects, that can be replicated at different scales, and are inspirational. This year’s award winning project certainly fits the bill.
The 2009 award goes to the ZERI Foundation’s coffee-pulp-to-mushrooms project. Every coffee farm produces tons of coffee pulp — the final consumable portion of a coffee cherry is less than one percent, so most of the fruit is waste. Something has to be done with it, because it has the potential to pollute waterways if left to ferment and leach into streams. Usually, it is composted and then used as mulch and low-quality fertilizer.
ZERI’s project promotes the use of the pulp to grow mushrooms, which provide a protein-rich food for the community and generate income and jobs when marketed to grocery stores. After the mushrooms are harvested, the used pulp substrate can then be fed to goats, chickens, pigs, or other livestock, which in turn provide additional food as well as manure (to enhance compost).
The ZERI Foundation (Zero Emissions Research & Initiatives) is a “global network of creative minds seeking solutions to world challenges.” The mushroom project was has a rather long an interesting history, which ZERI director Gunter Pauli outlined, along with two women instrumental in working on the project: Carmenza Jaramillo of Colombia and Chido Govero of Zimbabwe. Give it a read, because it is quite exceptional and demonstrates the potential of this project to greatly improve the quality of life in coffee communities — and beyond.
I have a summary of the 2008 winners here, which includes a list of past recipients.