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ChangeWorks: Grounds to Ground

Grounds to Ground co-founder Yvette Tablada sets up shop with her all-natural soil conditioner and pest repellent, made from recycled coffee grounds.

Grounds to Ground co-founder Yvette Tablada sets up shop with her all-natural soil conditioner and pest repellent, made from recycled coffee grounds.

When we talk about making our lives greener and more socially responsible, there’s evolved a set of “rules” we now follow. We buy organic (or at least all natural), we separate our plastics and break down our cardboard boxes, we bring reusable bags to the grocery store, and we turn out our lights when we leave the house.

There’s a growing social conscience emerging everywhere, but it can all feel a little nebulous. After all, plastic bottles can travel miles after you toss them in your blue bin, and we rarely see where it is that they end up.

What about the excesses and deficits we see every day in our community? Why not reuse what we have too much of in a way that’s visible and valuable to the people who threw it away in the first place?

Yvette Tablada is someone making that connection for us.

If you’re like most Americans, you love coffee. You also -- along with the coffee shops fueling others like you -- likely throw the contents of your coffee filters away.

Yvette is finding a way to recycle, treat, and repurpose those grounds right here in New Orleans in a way that shows up, literally, in our backyards. As she tells it, “We’re making a viable product out of what otherwise would have been thrown in a landfill just to deteriorate.”

A bag of Grounds to Ground's signature blend of spices and coffee grounds.

A bag of Grounds to Ground's signature blend of spices and coffee grounds.

In March of 2014, she founded Grounds to Ground, a mission-driven company focused on creating a more sustainable community by recycling coffee grounds into soil conditioner and pest repellent for our city’s backyards, front yards, and urban gardens. The products are safe for animals, children, and the environment and suitable for use in organic gardening.

Yvette doesn’t come from what you would call a traditional gardening background. She started off as a Biological Engineer working on nuclear power plants and offshore drilling rigs, before her attraction to social issues compelled her to pursue a Master in Public Health. It was through her studies that she started to dream up Grounds to Ground.

Grounds to Ground brings a green, sustainable solution to what has long been a chemical industry. And that’s just the beginning. The company aspires to nurture the community practicing green, sustainable living that is growing here in New Orleans.

“New Orleans is a city that is evolving. Right now, it’s just the right time and place to start a business around a community that is willing to embrace change,” said Tablada.

By nature of its process, Grounds to Ground offers an opportunity to cultivate a community around turning coffee waste into a resource. For coffee shops, this is an opportunity to reduce waste, cut costs, and offer a valuable product to devotees. For urban gardeners and the socially conscious, Grounds to Ground provides an entirely non-toxic, natural way to keep gardens healthy.

The product itself is beautifully simple.

In the true image of a start-up, Tablada and her co-founder Andres De La Puente operate out of their garage, where they mix their signature food grade blend of spices and coffee grounds by hand into every bag of their product.

Yvette blends the Grounds to Ground mix by hand in her garage.

Yvette blends the Grounds to Ground mix by hand in her garage.

But don’t let their pared-down production fool you into underestimating this growing company. Ground to Ground’s innovatively simple solution earned them a spot as one of ten ventures selected to pitch at the $10,000 social enterprise business pitch competition PitchNOLA; entry into Propeller’s ten week business accelerator program for water entrepreneurs; as well as a spot on the shelves of local vendors like Good Eggs, Urban Roots, and Charvet’s Garden Center.

In a season that breeds excess, Grounds to Ground brings us a way to turn at least some of our waste into something that’s good for us and our community. Especially as you begin to think about cleaning off your lawns post-Mardi Gras (think throws, food containers, and maybe some wayward parade goers), it’s reassuring to know there’s someone helping us re-grow our patchy yards and replace that debris with something green.