The Zero Waste Coffee Project

About furniture and building materials: How Happy Goat intends to use coffee waste for interior design

When Happy Goat Coffee, a Specilaty Coffee Roastery in Ottawa/Canada, decided they wanted to make their operations more sustainable, they didn’t take this statement lightly. The first and most obvious challenge was to find ways to repurpose the silverskin or chaff, a by-product of the coffee roasting, into edible products. 

The second and less obvious challenge Happy Goat took on, was to repurpose the spent coffee grounds from their coffee shops. Working with UOttawa´s Telfer School of Management, the MBA consulting team found the best bet is to collaborate with a nearby biogas plant and turning the spent grounds into biogas. 

The final and perhaps least obvious challenge is to not only create consumable products or energy from coffee waste or by-products, but also rather to create an entire coffee shop built from this or other organic waste and by-products.

Working in collaboration with an MBA consulting team from the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management, Happy Goat set out to discover which organic waste and by-products, be it from coffee or other organic sources, could be repurposed into sustainable building materials which would then compose the interior of a Happy Goat coffee shop.

This was done through several steps including: researching pre-existing materials and resources, identifying the materials best suited to Happy Goat’s retail space, and investigating cost, sustainability and regulations applicable to these materials.

Following a thorough investigation, the consulting team from Telfer presented Happy Goat with over 50 options for sustainable building materials that could be used to design their eco-friendly store. While most of the companies offering these sustainable options are based overseas, the number of options for materials such as spent coffee grounds to be repurposed instead of being sent to landfill are abundant.

Orineo is a Belgium-based company that uses biodegradable materials like spent coffee grounds to make items such as floor coverings and furniture.

Decafé is a brand by a Spanish designer who has created stylish accessory like lamps, bowls etc. using a bioplastic that is made from recycled coffee grounds. 

That’s Caffeine is a British brand that produces various interior design products, such as tiles, from spent coffee grounds.

Society Coffee out of New Zealand has created 100% compostable straws made from spent coffee grounds. 

So, the next time you imagine what sustainability looks like in the future of the coffee industry and beyond, don’t forget to think outside the box. In order to attain a truly sustainable, zero-waste coffee we must be prepared to repurpose coffee by-products into raw materials that can be used for both edible and non-edible products which themselves leave no waste after their end of life. Happy Goat is not only looking into how to serve edible products made within this closed loop cycle, but also how to design an entire closed loop store to present these products within. That’s reason to be excited for the future. The pandemic put everything on hold – but not for ever! And anyone who knows about exciting environmentally building materials or accessories made from organic waste, Happy Goat is eager to hear about it!

Pippa Norman is a journalism student entering into her third year of studies at Carleton University/Ottawa (2021)