As the business grew, Arora and Velez also built a partnership with locally based Peet’s Coffee, somehow convincing the company to pay them to cart away used coffee grounds, which means they now turn a small profit on their biggest raw material. And as the two began giving tours of their West Oakland warehouse, where they would eventually grow as many as 500 pounds of fresh mushrooms per week. Then visitors started asking if they could take the coffee/spawn mixture home and try it themselves.
Back to the Roots has created 31 green-collar jobs in West Oakland, and they’re collecting and diverting about 40,000 pounds a week of coffee ground waste from the landfill. And turning waste into food just once isn’t enough anymore: They plan to start embedding vegetable seeds into the kits’ cardboard boxes, allowing budding farmers to grow their shrooms, plant the box, fertilize it with the leftover coffee grounds, and (hopefully) come up with tomatoes, basil, onions, or parsley. Back to the Roots has reached an estimated 10,000 kids via a Facebook campaign that donates mushroom gardens to elementary school classrooms nationwide.
Moral: Nothing is waste, waste for you is gold for someone else.