But first, coffee.
There's something about that first sip of coffee in the morning that many of us look forward to the moment we wake up. To most of us, it is more than just a drink, but part of our daily ritual that leaves us feeling woken up, warm and ready to conquer our day. As a result, it’s no surprise that coffee is the second most consumed beverage globally, after water.
Over 2.2B cups of coffee are consumed everyday around the world. That's a lot of coffee, and it results in a lot of used coffee grounds. However, coffee grounds are usually only used once and then considered waste and disposed of.
A master’s thesis turned into a start-up.
The idea for GroundsUp started as part of my master’s studies. I wanted to find a waste material and figure out how I could create value from it. This was a theme I was passionate about however I didn’t know which waste to use and what to make from it.
Why coffee grounds?
Looking back, I now realize how my bachelor’s degree in Wood Products Processing played a key role in my journey. In school, I studied all types of wood products, from dimensional lumber made from solid wood to others like medium density fiberboard made from sawdust. Sawdust is quite comparable to coffee grounds if you think about it. They are fine particles that are considered a waste material and theoretically would be easy to collect from coffee shops. Sawdust is a byproduct of wood waste and coffee grounds a byproduct of coffee, one of the most widely consumed beverages around the world. I knew that it was possible to turn sawdust into a composite material, so I thought, why can’t we do the same with coffee grounds? I started to experiment and found that like sawdust, coffee grounds can be easily dried and glued together to form a solid material.
From idea to our first prototype.
Every day after my morning coffee, I would remove the used coffee grounds from my French press and set them aside to dry. After about two weeks, I had gathered enough coffee grounds to begin experimenting. My first prototype, a drink coaster, was created in December 2021 in my apartment kitchen.
Just four months later, I sold my first product on Etsy. Customer’s began leaving comments about the innovative nature of my products and material. We were able to tell a story through our products and their texture and aroma was one-of-a-kind. From there, we continued working on our material and developing new products. We also began focusing on partnerships with coffee shops and offering them furniture made from their own coffee waste. We are only getting started and we thank you for being a part of our story. Whether you are a customer buying our products, talk about our products with your friends, or even just think twice about how you dispose of your coffee grounds, it all counts.
From pitch competitions to cash grants, funding has been put towards furthering GroundsUp's research and development, bettering our designs and learning how to make our products and operations as sustainable as we can.
- #3 Place Entrepreneurship | BCIT Innovation Challenge, Jun 2023
- Interaction Award | Norman Esch Award Stage 1, Jun 2022
- #1 Place | Penny Appeal Canada Social Accelerator Fund, Nov 2022
- Development Award | Norman Esch Award Stage 2, Nov 2022