New start-up Sprout Coffee is placing conscientious coffee at the heart of tea room breaks and business meetings.

For founders Ed Sladen and Steve Joy, sustainability is about mapping and minding their coffee’s journey from the ground to cup, and back again. The Melbourne-based company is the first of its kind to introduce a specialty coffee solution to workplaces that focuses entirely on end-to-end sustainability. “Our approach considers the entire lifecycle of coffee, that is, not only the sourcing of beans, but in the roasting, packaging, distribution, use and disposal,” says Ed.

Sprout’s solutions range from DIY self-stocking and cleaning to full service supply, maintenance and support, and even an in-house barista. Every aspect of the business, from reusable and biodegradable cups, to carbon offsetting of machines, to Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance Certified blends, is evaluated for its ecological impact.
"Our approach considers the entire lifecycle of coffee, that is, not only the sourcing of beans, but in the roasting, packaging, distribution, use and disposal"


Turning the concept of waste coffee into purposes that would benefit the environment and community is something Ed put into practice during the Sustainability in the Workplace course. The project introduced a waste management process, something of a passion for Ed and his business partner Steve that incorporated the concept of a closed loop, whereby the waste produced by the coffee is diverted from landfill. This process helps offices divert coffee grounds from going to landfill at the rate of eight grams per cup.
“We wanted to create a sustainable process for recycling that used the coffee we generated from our coffee machines,” says Ed. "There are some fantastic nutrients in the used coffee that are produced after the cup has been poured.”

The project was successful in establishing a partnership with Melbourne Zoo. All Sprout’s coffee grounds are now recycled through Melbourne Zoo’s Hot Rot Compost System to be redistributed and sold on as ‘Zoo Gro’, a concentrated compost and organic fertiliser. The system condenses the coffee grounds together with other waste products and decomposes it overnight to make a useable and nutrient rich garden compost.

A key to the success of the project was using the skills Ed and Steve obtained from the Green Steps course to navigate the consultation process and align business values more effectively. “Our aim was to partner with a like minded organisation that has a strong focus on sustainability in their business,” says Ed. “The Melbourne Zoo is a perfect fit for a partnership to develop an industry leading coffee recycling process.”

The idea of a coffee solution with no waste has had an impressive impact on the corporate space so far. “There’s been an incredibly positive response,” Ed says. “We’re working with a cross section of organisations, from an automotive company and a department of Monash university, to a skincare brand. Our next step is to get ISO14001 and B-CORP certified.”

In the short-term, their goal is to build awareness about Sprout Coffee and its service, getting more offices on board. They also want to build engagement with their customer’s staff members. By making staff aware of sustainability, they hope to communicate the complexity of coffee and create long lasting change in the sector.

“We provide an awareness component to our service,” Ed says. “Right now we are looking at supplying biodegradable cups with Zoo Gro in them for staff members to grow plants to take home. Providing the useable compost back to the organisation is one way of involving the staff and closing the loop.”

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