As an avid coffee drinker, coming to Savannah for a quarter was a challenge as I tried to find some decent coffee spots. Being so interested in coffee, I decided to use that as the basis for my research. Not only were we to select a topic of interest, but also it was meant to have some sense of sustainability.
I began to dig deeper about what coffee was, how it was cultivated and how companies were reusing this natural resource. At first my idea was to find ways to educate consumers about fair- trade coffee v. commercial coffee, but quickly I realized that helping farmers from around the globe would not be easy to do from Savannah. I needed to focus on something more local but still dealing with coffee as its base. With a tip from classmates I headed to the Forsyth Farmers Market to meet a local coffee roaster. I met Phil from Perc coffee and picked his brain about the process. What I learned was that most by-products of coffee were reusable or recyclable. It was odd to me that one by-product, chaff, the outer shell of a coffee bean usually had to get thrown away. With the amount of excess chaff that roasters produce it was hard to keep it for a long period of time without taking up too much space. Chaff became my focus. How to get it to the right people was going to be my goal.
Chaff is great for enriching soil and composting, but it was being under-utilized by becoming waste. I wanted to get the word out about how chaff can be used in gardening and composting, giving gardeners what they want most, black soil. I devised Local Grounds Exchange, a system of distribution between coffee roasters and a local gardening shop owner, Joanie. The plan was to have Joanie pick up the Chaff, have it available for customers and educate them with proper usage.
Joanie’s shop, Uptown Gardening & Hardware was the base of our operation. The shop would both promote and display this new gardening product. I chose to reuse burlap sacks from Perc and make a poster out of them. It would be prominently located at a key entrance point and the sign would be part of a Chaff display. The poster and logo for the system mimicked the look and feel of a coffee bean burlap graphic: bold, simple and informational. The focus of the local grounds mark was the word “grounds.” I created a stylized stencil version of a condensed type, made the “G” an icon that could be used on its own and paired it with a generic condensed face to spell out the rest of the system name. Beside my information poster, customers needed a way to carry the chaff from the shop. To limit the cost on Joanie, I created graphics that could be printed directly on her ordinary brown bags. They act as a prescription on how to use Chaff, have printed gardening and composting information as well as personal notes from Joanie.
More than just coffee, Local Grounds is about bringing together by-products of coffee roasters and local gardening shops, it is about eliminating waste and most importantly it is about building relationships.