Tag Archives: environment

A Coffee Cup Designed to Change the World

MiiR Logo

When we talk about water at SCG, we’re usually dishing about mineral content, filtration or how to remove pesky scale build-up. Although water makes up 98% of the coffee that’s our daily lifeblood, we often take it for granted. Did you know that almost one billion people across the world live without access to clean drinking water? Imagine three times the total US population struggling to find a safe water source — it’s a staggering statistic.

Inspired by his time in Liberia, Bryan Papé founded MiiR in 2009 with a simple idea: How to provide clean drinking water for one person for one year. Now this Seattle-based company uses their product design prowess to positively impact communities worldwide through their water bottle and travel tumbler sales. Using their one4one program, MiiR partner’s with One Day’s Wages to fund clean water projects around the world. One dollar from each water bottle and tumbler sale provides clean drinking water to someone in need for an entire year. One bottle, one dollar, one person for one year. It’s a simple and powerful commitment to clean water and community empowerment.

We are thrilled to partner with MiiR to bring you their newest product, a coffee cup designed to change the world. The MiiR Travel Tumbler is an insulated double-walled stainless steel tumbler, built to keep your piping hot pour over or chilled cold brew at an ideal temperature. For every tumbler sold, one dollar is donated to clean water projects around the world. One of our favorite features is that each tumbler comes with an impact bracelet that lets you track how your purchase affects local communities worldwide. Simply enter your unique code online, and MiiR will follow-up with you within 6-18 months with GPS coordinates and photos of the clean water projects to which your tumbler is linked. Transparency and tracking are one aspect that sets these products apart from other one-for-one business models out there, and we’re excited to see how our tumblers can make a difference.

Social enterprise, sustainability and streamlined design — we dig you MiiR!

 

 

Back to the Roots: Putting coffee grounds to work

What do you do with your coffee grounds?  Compost them, toss them in the garbage, leave them in your knock box and forget about them until you get yelled at by your house mate? Don’t do the latter, mold is a serious health concern, people. ;)

Co-founders Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Arora put recycled coffee grounds to work every day at their company Back to the Roots. The pair met at UC Berkley, and were inspired by a lecture that discussed the potential to grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Sparked by this fun fact and a little entrepreneurial spirit, they started growing mushrooms in a bucket of used grounds, and eventually developed mushroom growing kits that you can use in the comfort of your home.

The kit comes with a cardboard carrier, bag of recycled coffee grounds, mushroom spores and a water mister.  With a little TLC (mist the bag twice a day) and in as few as 10 days, you can harvest your first batch of oyster mushrooms and most kits yield at least two crops.

Check out my first batch after 14 days. These mushrooms ended up on my plate sautéed with garlic, olive oil, chili flakes and tossed with angel hair pasta. Delicious!

Back to the Roots is on track to recycle 3.6 million pounds of coffee grounds from Peet’s Coffee and Tea in 2012, and help families grow over 135,000 pounds of fresh food in their own homes. Sustainability + yummy mushrooms = many happy tummies. I bet you’re going to think twice before tossing out your coffee grounds now – am I right?

Keeping Women Healthy in Coffee Producing Communities

Sixteen years ago on a trip to Mexico with a good friend, Dan Cox, the president of  a U.S. Coffee company, discovered an ever growing problem in many coffee producing countries: Cervical cancer.

Visiting with good friend and retired OB/GYN Dr. Francis Fote, he explained to Cox how the rate of women dying in these countries is the highest in the world, but is also one of the most preventable cancers when it’s caught early.

‘In coffee growing communities most women don’t have access for screening and treatment,’ said Jane Dale, Grounds For Health Development Director. ‘When Dan learned this he said it was unacceptable and that they needed to do something about it.’

Taking action, Cox and Fote set out to raise cervical cancer awareness and improve screening by servicing pap smear clinics in Mexico. This began the work of Grounds for Health and today it has grown in a number of other coffee cooperatives in other countries.

From its inception as a small service provider, Grounds for Health has now become a training organization to reach more women. Educating communities in the Single Visit Approach, it ‘has proven to be the most effective way to screen for and treat cervical cancer in low-resource environment,’ states GroundsforHealth.org.

The organization has also expanded from Mexico and is now running programs in Tanzania and Nicaragua, training their doctors, mid-wives, nurses and health providers on cervical cancer services and prevention.

‘In a low-tech technique, it’s a technique that is basically as simple as washing the cervix with household vinegar, waiting for three minutes and, if there are abnormal cells, you’ll be able to see it with the naked eye,’ said Dale. ‘Training is important because that’s where sustainability lies.’

Dale explains that women who have accessibility to screening and treatment at least once in their lives have a 30 percent less chance of dying from cancer.

Since 1996, Grounds for Health has screened over 16,000 women. Sharing the work of Grounds for Health with the coffee industry, Cox has created an organization that has been supported by almost 200 coffee companies since 1996.

‘We’re all about empowering these communities, giving them the skills and confidence to provide their communities forever,’ Dale said. ‘We still do screen and treatment but it’s all part of training now. The program has definitely evolved since it started. All the private funding from companies has made it possible for us to be responsive and nimble in changing and modifying the programs as conditions dictate in these areas.’

To learn more about Grounds for Health and to find out how to visit this organization’s mission, please visit www.groundsforhealth.org.

Health Watch: Java not to Blame for Sleepless Babies

Coffee was what kept me up during those late nights of studying in college; for expecting and new mothers, you’d think it would be their lifeline too! I figured caffeine was the fuel that helped them during long, sleepless nights with their newborns.

But to my surprise, drinking caffeine has been a concern for many mothers. It’s been believed that mothers should cut down on their coffee habit because of adverse affects that could affect the sleeping patterns of their bundles of joy. However, researches have found that coffee does not affect your child’s sleeping habits.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you can keep drinking that Grande Double Mocha you crave each morning, but studies have failed to show any heightened risk correlating between a mother’s caffeine intake and sleeplessness in her child.

Heavy coffee drinkers are defined as consuming about 300 milligrams or more of caffeine per day via coffee or any caffeinated beverage. “In 2010, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said that 200 milligrams of caffeine a day —  about the amount in a 12-ounce cup of coffee — probably did not carry pregnancy risks.”

In an article in HealthDay, Brazilian researchers conducted an analysis of sleeping patterns of more than 4,200 infants until the age of 3 months. The mothers of these infants had light caffeine consumption before and after delivery. Led by Dr. Ina Santos of the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, the study was designed to analyze the possibility that caffeine linked to disrupted sleeping patterns in newborns and babies. Of the 4,200 babies, 885 mothers were interviewed after delivery and three months later to gauge their caffeine-drinking habits. Each baby was then examined after delivery and had follow-up exams three months later. Santos and her colleagues stated that all but one mother consumed caffeinated beverages.

Twenty percent of the mothers were considered to be heavy consumers and 14 percent had heavier caffeine consumption three months after giving birth. About 14 percent of the babies frequently woke up during the night. There was some indication that nighttime wake-ups were more prevalent with babies whose mothers were heavy caffeine drinkers during pregnancy and nursing, but Santos claims these numbers were still not significant.

‘Nighttime wakening among babies that age can be due to so many different things,’ Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas said. ‘So to tease out caffeine’s role is going to be very difficult.’

Caffeine can cause sleep disruption among adults, but researchers aren’t finding any hard evidence that java consumption, at any particular level, is directly connected to the sleep pattern disruptions of babies.

One More Cup Away from Diabetes

Well, looks like coffee’s done it again. As if we needed another reason to grab a second cup of joe in the morning, now you’ll have good reason — one for the kick and one to help fight diabetes!

The Harvard School of Public Health has done a series of studies uncovering the health benefits of coffee for preventing diabetes. In the well-known Nurses’ Health Study, they looked at 982 diabetic and 1,058 non-diabetic women without cardiovascular disease.

‘They wanted to see if the beneficial effects of coffee on metabolism were from changes in the hormone adiponectin,’ said Jonathan Galland, health writer for HuffPost Healthy Living. Adiponectin is key in that it promotes insulin sensitivity which protects individuals against Type 2 diabetes.

What they found was women who had four or more cups of coffee per day ‘had significantly higher adiponectin’ than those who did not drink coffee regularly.

Across the world, scientists in Germany, Finland and Denmark have been raving about the benefits of increasing one’s coffee intake to improve cholesterol levels and blood levels of inflammatory compounds.

Referring to the European scientists studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ‘Coffee consumption appears to have favorable effects on some markers of sub-clinical inflammation and oxidative stress and to increase plasma concentrations of potential biomarkers of coffee intake.’

In Layman’s terms, since subclinical inflammation is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes , coffee mediates and reduces  the risk of type 2 diabetes amongst people who drink coffee habitually for years.

But it’s not only caffeinated coffee that helps prevent diabetes, studies have shown that decaf may have the same positive affects also!

It’s not necessarily the caffeine that gives individuals the health benefits, Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health explains to WebMD. Coffee is jam packed with other nutrients, such as antioxidants, that he says contribute to, ‘the whole package.’ Antioxidants help prevent tissue damage caused by molecules called oxygen-free radicals.

Coffee also is full of minerals (i.e. magnesium and chromium) that helps the body use the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar (glucose). In type 2 diabetes, the body loses its ability to use insulin and regulate  blood sugar effectively.

So if you’ve been looking for an excuse on which to pawn off your java addiction, now you’ve got a few health points to reference! Sip that second (or third or fourth) cup of the day and ruminate on how well you’re treating your body — and your taste buds.

Cost of Kopi Luwak Leads to Civet Cruelty

Whether you call it Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee, the java produced through the ‘natural processing’ system (AKA the digestive tract) of this cat-like marsupial from Indonesia has been given high marks (and prices!) in terms of cup quality around the world.

But what many have considered an exotic yet expensive luxury bean is not just costly to the privileged coffee drinker, it recently has become costly to the lives of the producers — the civets themselves.

For those new to ‘cat poop coffee,’ Kopi Luwak ‘is the product in which coffee cherries, the complete fruit of the coffee plant, are eaten by the palm civet cats of the far East, typically in Indonesia. The cats digest the cherries but excrete the inner beans, which are then roasted and brewed as any other coffee bean,’ describes Boughton’s Coffee House.

Historically, these beans were harvested in a natural way — foragers would search the forest floor for civet feces to find these beans. Since finding them was a lot of work and there was an arguably very small supply, it resulted in a high price — a small cup could run between $30 – $50 and a pound of the stuff could cost upwards of $600.

With those kinds of prices and a rise in popularity, however, this novelty bean has been transformed from a happy accident, as it were, into a factory-like production model designed to increase financial gain and meet the worldwide demand. Instead of foraging for the beans in the civets’ natural habitat, they are now caging them and feeding them cherries in order to increase available output.

‘With the sudden rise in popularity, the far majority of legitimate Kopi Luwak coffee sold today comes from grizzly civet cat farms where rows and rows of the enslaved creatures bred specifically for coffee production are kept in small cages and force-fed coffee cherries — ripe or otherwise — until they die,’ states coffeestrategies.com.

This ethically questionable method of harvesting Kopi Luwak has only come to light in the past few years, and there are reports that the average small farmer keeps around 102 civets and collects 550 pounds of processed coffee per month.

Is their flavor worth their high price — in terms of both monetary and ethical concerns? If you’re a fan of Kopi Luwak, it’s something only you can decide … but we think it’s well worth at least a few moments of healthy consideration.

Espresso Machine Maintenance with Urnex

Keeping your equipment sparkling clean is just as important as the freshness of your coffee and dialing in  your grind & tamp — in fact, without the former, the latter will be an exercise in futility. If we have to tell you that rancid coffee oils will adversely impact the quality of your shot, we’re sorry. But if we have to be the first, then we might as well do it right, right? So we asked Louie Poore, who specializes in educating professional baristas on proper equipment care for Urnex, to give us the rundown.

First, he introduces us to Urnex’s new Full Circle, sustainably-produced cleaning products — including a toe-to-toe comparison of Cafiza and Full Circle’s coffee equipment wash.

Next, he walks us through using tablets to backflush the La Marzocco GS/3.

Finally, Gail shows us the newly arrived 1, 2, Brew Kit for Espresso Machines, which features the goodies you need to keep your machine in tip-top shape (plus a bag of Velton’s Coffee of your choice!).

Nespresso Batteries

Proving that caffeine can get more than just your body going, designers Mischer*Traxler created batteries utilizing old Nespresso aluminum capsules, coffee grounds, strips of copper and salt water. As part of Vienna Design week, the batteries were setup to power clocks displayed in Nespresso Austria’s display window.

In addition to questions of flavor/quality, one of the common concerns folks have about Nespresso machines is the capsules — specifically, are they eco-friendly? They are definitely recyclable, but you need to clean them out beforehand (often more work than some folks want to do) so here’s another option instead. Crush ‘em up and use them to power your alarm clock! We assume no liability when you arrive late to work, however.

New: Bibbity Bobble-ty Boo!

Yeah, sorry for that headline.

The Great Garbage Patch of the Pacific Ocean probably doesn’t need any new additions to its plasticine mass, so if you haven’t already kicked your one-hit-wonder-plastic-bottled-water habit to the curb, picking up a Bobble will make it easy — and tasty!

If you’re like us, you’ll refer to it either as ‘boggle’ or ‘bobble’ (depending on your mood and/or the time of day) interchangeably, but if there is one thing this reusable water bottle doesn’t do, it’s boggle the mind. Sporting a recyclable activated carbon filter that will remove chlorine and other misc. tastes or odors so your water tastes fresh and clean, the Bobble makes delicious water on the go a simple enterprise.

You can also choose from a selection of filter colors — yeah, that means coordinating your water bottle with your wardrobe is a distinct (albeit terrifying) possibility. And the Bobble is free of all those nasty plastic suspects: Phthalate, BPA & PVC, so drink deeply.