Peoples Coffee

Coffee sacks waiting to be put to creative uses

“World Fair Trade Organisation Principle Ten: Respect for the Environment
Organizations which produce Fair Trade products maximize the use of raw materials from sustainably managed sources in their ranges, buying locally when possible. They use production technologies that seek to reduce energy consumption… They seek to minimize the impact of their waste stream on the environment.”

We at Peoples Coffee have a mandate that means we’re always looking for ways to up our sustainability game. We are accountable both to World Fair Trade Organisation environmental guidelines, and to our own values. We use recyclable coffee bags and compostable take-away cups, we choose only sustainable products and we always have an ongoing conversation about what we can do better. We’re very proud of the fact that this year we have been nominated for a Sustainable Business Network Community Impact Award, but we know we can always be doing more. We often find that being truly sustainable means getting truly creative. Thankfully, we now have Pinterest to tell us how to do that.

We always have excesses of coffee chaff, coffee grounds, coffee sacks, and shipping pallets, and like good greenies, we aim to wherever possible find the highest re-use for those materials: To re-purpose them in their current form, rather than to use more energy breaking them down. Obviously, we cant turn every coffee sack that comes our way into a twee cushion, but we can help you to do it. So if you need more cushions in your life, and you feel a hankering for some upcycling action, stop by the Roastery and leave with as much chaff, grounds, sacks and pallets as you can carry. To encourage you, I’ve compiled a list of uses for these items.

1. Coffee Chaff

I hate to break it to you but there’s a chance your compost isn’t composting. Compost needs a mix of carbon and nitrogen to produce the desirable microbes. Nitrogen comes from food scraps – most of the stuff we would compost anyway. But carbon comes from brown ingredients; sawdust, egg cartons, brown paper bags. It’s crucial to include brown ingredients in your compost, and fortunately for your petunias, we’re here to help.

Coffee chaff

Coffee chaff is dry bean husks left over from roasting. It looks a bit like sawdust, and it’s perfect for your compost heap. It’s also great as chicken coop litter. We always have a sack of organic chaff sitting around at the Roastery free to a good home. So first in first served!

2. Coffee Grounds

Pinterest exploded when I inquired as to uses for coffee grounds. Every home and living blog on the internet fell over themselves to offer me advice, so I’ve had to narrow it down to a few ideas – but there’s no shortage of them out there.

Fresh coffee grounds

  • In the Garden:

Coffee grounds contain so much goodness that they’re basically crack for vegetables. Carrots especially love caffeine – mix some grounds in with your carrot seeds before you sow them and they’ll be off to a great start. Though grounds are not a whole fertilizer in themselves (for that you’ll need to add some brown material like chaff), you can sprinkle them on your garden for a booster, or add them to the compost heap. Grounds are also a natural pest repellant. They’ll deter ants, snails, slugs and even some small mammals like cats. We’ve been giving our coffee grounds to Jocelyn for the garden at Island Bay’s Home of Compassion for six years, and she swears by them.

  • On your body:

Coffee grounds make excellent soaps and body scrubs, and it’s actually quite easy to make them – most of the ingredients you’ll have in your kitchen cupboard. Coffee soap makes a great kitchen soap – it will get rid of all garlic and onion smells from under your fingernails. You can make a simple coffee body scrub just by adding a bit of coconut oil to your coffee grounds. There are plenty of trusty soap recipes out there.

coffee ground soap

(Photo from

Coffee grounds are also good for hair growth and colour maintenance- massage some into your scalp in the shower and smell like a roastery for the rest of the day (but only for dark hair – they’ll turn your blonde locks a bit muddy for a few hours).

  • Elsewhere

Coffee grounds absorb odours. You can keep a container in the fridge or car as a natural deodoriser, or put them down the waste disposal to freshen it up.

Soak grounds in hot water to produce a natural golden/sepia dye without undesirable chemicals.

Coffee grounds can also add flavour to your cooking if you’re brave enough. This blog recommends them as a meat rub.

3. Coffee Sacks

Coffee sacks are durable and easy to work with, and they also have a really rustic and interesting look. I had only to look in my immediate vicinity today to spy some ingenious uses for coffee sacks. In fact, the notice board above my desk is simply a coffee sack stretched over cork board, courtesy of my accomplished office-mate Efi.

My desk at Peoples Coffee

I discovered more up-cycled coffee sacks when I popped out for lunch at the wonderful Ramen Shop today, chose a drink from a menu printed on a coffee sack, and sat on their coffee-sack upholstered chairs.

Chairs at the Ramen Shop

Of course, at a pinch, the humble coffee sack also makes an elegant fashion accessory – as our colleague Jamie demonstrated one slightly raucous eve…

Jamie models the latest fashion

4. Pallets

We at Peoples Coffee have been so inspired by the genius of The Pallet Kingdom, who have proven through social enterprise that shipping pallets may be turned into any piece of beautiful furniture you could think of. These guys are masters of up-cycling and sustainability, and you can pledge to their Kiwi charity here.

The Pallet Kingdom Chair

Photo from the Pallet Kingdom

You can sand them down and paint them, or leave them as they are, you can take them apart for the wood, or use them in their original form. In terms of pallet DIY, the easier options include planters and shelves, but pallets can also be re-purposed as coffee tables, sofas and beds.

Again, the folks at the Ramen Shop have proven their upcycling credentials by making all their shelving entirely from old pallets – and it looks great!

Shelf at the Ramen Shop

In conclusion – there is no reason to throw away chaff, sacks, grounds and pallets – but we need you to help us put them to good use. If any of these ideas inspire you, or if you have your own creative uses for our stuff, come down to the Roastery, score some of it, and turn it into absolutely anything you can think of! We encourage a koha to go to Trade Aid’s Next Generation Coffee Fund – which helps farmers weather the short-term losses involved in pruning and rehabilitating coffee trees.

Better living everyone!

October 8th, 2014

Posted In: Uncategorized


  • Louise says:

    Hi Kelle

    I am so interested in get some of the coffee bean sacks. What would be the process

    Regards Louise

    • Kelle says:

      Hi Louise,

      If you’re local you can just stop by the Roastery at 22b Newtown Ave – we’ve generally got a few lying around!

  • Erna says:

    Kelle! I am now excited!!! Just read your comments written on Oct 8 last year about the endless opportunities to re-use coffee sacks!! I would love to know if you guys still have sacks available AND if I paid for delivery costs would it be at all possible to send some my way up to Auckland? Many thanks and great web site!!!

  • Rhianna, Molly, Mia,Anna says:

    Hi there, we are from Southland Girls High School down in the South Island. We are doing an enterprise class where we come up with a product, make it and sell it at market day. One of our ideas are coffee sack tote bags, we are interested in buying some coffee bean sacks from your company to make this product. We were wondering how much the coffee bean sacks were individually, if it was cheaper to buy it in bulk and, if we could get any discounts. And how many you were willing to sell us?
    Rhianna, Molly, Mia and Anna

  • Angie says:

    Hi there, am in Wairoa, Hawkes Bay and was wondering if you would send some sacks at my expense please.

  • Lee says:


    I am trying to track down some coffee sacks with either green or black font/lettering?

    Would you have any with these specific colours available for sale?

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