If you brew your own coffee, here’s a no-brainer easy reuse tip: throw your used coffee grounds under a bush outside or in your garden, if you’re lucky enough to have one. Coffee grounds are a great source of nitrogen, an easy way to add nutrients and organic matter to soil, and get this—they repel garden pests! According to information provided by Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service (my go-to source for gardening info, and I’m not even an Aggie), they can be sprinkled right on top of the soil or worked into the top couple of inches with a shovel or spade. Better yet, if you like to garden, use the grounds to help make compost by collecting them in a countertop container, an under-sink food scrap collection bucket or a backyard composting bin. At first, my husband and I collected our used coffee grounds in a countertop container and threw the collected grounds under bushes, in backyard flower beds, in a grove of trees next to our house, etc.; now we throw all kinds of food scraps into that same small container and, once full, throw the contents into a mini backyard composting bin (learn more about our adventures in composting here). If you live in an apartment with limited places to use your grounds or no gardening reasons to make compost, you might still want to collect coffee grounds and other food scraps for local companies that pick these up at your doorstep, to be used by local farmers– yep, “concierge composting” is a thing now; check out Dallas company TURN for one example.
Choosing the countertop container in which we stash our used grounds gave me another opportunity for, and even a lesson in, reuse:
When my husband and I decided to start saving our coffee grounds, I came to the conclusion we would never keep it up unless the place to put them was nearby and easy to use. Simply opening the back door and walking outside with our reusable Keurig pod to throw the coffee grounds away wasn’t the way to go—we tried that, and we’d get too lazy, or it would be raining, or we’d be too busy to take the extra steps. So, I started shopping online and on Facebook Marketplace to find a small, kitchen compost collection bin—I remembered they existed and wanted to find the right one. Storing it under-cabinet wouldn’t work- I knew it had to be on the counter to maximize our using it. And, it had to have a built-in filter. No composting smell was going to invade my kitchen!! And, it had to fit in with our recently re-done kitchen’s décor. Meaning an accessory that was sleek and either wood, white, gold, silver or a combination. But just when I thought I’d found the right thing, it occurred to me that 1.) I really like kitchens to have minimal items on the counter and 2.) this new container would add extra clutter. And then it hit me— why couldn’t I turn one of the existing vintage canisters on my counter into a compost bin? At least two of them were hardly being used anyway, including the one marked… wait for it…”Coffee”. It had just been sitting there because it was part of a set, and “looked good” – we weren’t using it because our fresh coffee grounds are kept in a cabinet closer to the coffee maker, and sometimes in the freezer. And, it just so happens that the knobs on these vintage canisters are easily removed, revealing a hole—perfect for covering underneath with a filter. And, it just so happens that several stores, including Walmart and Target, sell countertop composting filters– around $5-$7 for a 2-4-pack.
So, I lined the inside of the canister with a cut-off plastic grocery bag, removed the knob, taped the filter to the underside of the lid, and voila—a wonderful, stylish countertop bin for collecting our used coffee grounds. We’ve been using it that way for several months and there’s been no smell. (The filters should be changed every two months, as per their instructions.) (Check out photos of the cannister @untrash.blog on Instagram.)
I know that not everyone who wants to try collecting coffee grounds/food scraps has a cool container sitting on the counter just waiting to be used, but this is a great example of how I think many of us think—quick to buy or surf online for something that’s new, or even try to buy something used, before taking a minute and wondering if we may already have what we’re looking for.
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Do you reuse coffee grounds? Have you reused a household item in a unique way just when you were about to buy new? Please share in the Comments!
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(By the way, the plant shown in the photo is a coffee plant; I took the photo when we stayed overnight in December 2019 at a small coffee farm/Airbnb near the southern tip of The Big Island, Hawaii. Sadly it has gone out of business due to lack of tourists/the pandemic but the wonderful couple that owned it took their coffee roaster on the road, acquiring beans from all over the world and roasting them while traveling to U.S. National Parks and other historic sites, coming up with a different blend for each location. They delighted nearby campers with the smell of roasting coffee each morning and offered it online as well. A great resurrection/reuse story for sure– they are taking a break right now but I will post on Facebook and Instagram if their coffee becomes available again!)