When we first started this project, I was very excited to learn more about sustainable ways we can have a positive impact on our environment and help eradicate ecocide, but had no idea where to even begin. But when Polly showed me a video about Blue Economy and how it works, I got hooked.
What is the Blue Economy?
The Blue Economy, a concept coined and advanced by Gunter Pauli, in essence encompasses the idea that you innovate and work with ‘what you have’ in order to create cheap and sustainable local systems of production and consumption. Blue Economy supports the notion that successful business, coupled with quality as well as equality, is indeed possible. Basically, you use waste or other materials, in order to create new products instead of simply throwing them away. These innovative business models have been immensely successful worldwide. In fact, the first 100 cases of Blue Economy in action have already been published. Due to the large amount of cases available, I decided to focus on Case Study 3: From coffee to protein.
From coffee grounds to gourmet mushrooms
Production of coffee amounts to 7,5million tons a year. This is also the amount of waste left after coffee grounds have been brewed. However, this organic waste is hardly put to use, even though it is perfect for gourmet mushrooms. Yet ironically, thousands of hectares of forest are being cut down every year for the production of gourmet mushrooms. The premise of the Blue Economy then would be that, whilst you had to pay higher costs for such products as gourmet mushrooms due to costs in transportation (which is not only costly, but also environmentally harmful) before, costs are now reduced given that hardly any transportation is needed anymore, since they are produced locally and at low costs.
The first example of this I stumbled upon in my research was that of Chido’s Mushrooms, an enterprise based in Berlin, Germany. Chido’s is a business model based on mushroom cultivating method on coffee grounds developed by Chido Govera. They pick up coffee grounds from cafes and restaurants by bike and then cultivate mushrooms. At the moment, they cultivate 4 different types of mushrooms, which they then sell to restaurants and private customers.
Chido Govera herself has had a huge impact regarding the Blue Economy around the globe. At the age of 11 she was selected as one of 15 orphans to participate in a fungiculture project financed by the ZERI Foundation (Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives). Now she travels around the world and teaches mushroom cultivation to hundreds of people in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa, the Congo, just to mention a few. Her simplified sustainable mushroom farming method provides Food Security by converting organic waste into food. How is this directly linked to Chido’s Mushrooms you ask? Well, a workshop held in Berlin which was focusing on Chido Govera’s work inspired the entrepreneurs of Chido’s to start up their business. And they have done so quite successfully thus far. Chido’s Mushrooms has received media coverage from various (German) TV Channels, as well as having won the 2012 SustaInnovation Award. The idea behind this award was to check for innovations that generate the same benefits/goods with much fewer resources.
What has been fascinating for me to find out, is the various initiatives linked to this idea that can be found in different countries, across all continents. At the very least, I have been able to find Projects and business ideas of this sort in Ghana, Kenya, Colombia, Germany, the USA and Australia. What this innovative thinking demonstrates is that a Blue Economy isn’t just wishful thinking. It’s something that can be realized and that can generate profit, whilst providing quality and cheap goods. So why don’t you try it out yourselves and get yourself your own mushroom kit?
“Our mission is to make food personal again through the passionate development of tools that educate and inspire, one family at a time.” (Back to the roots enterprise – USA)
Find out more about the concept of Blue Economy here:
Where to get your mushroom kits:
Chido Govera’s website: