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Online Wellness Community Natural Health and Anti-Aging News
Online Wellness Community Natural Health and Anti-Aging News
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Shrooms With a Brew

It was Spring ’09 and we were fourth years at UC Berkeley. Both of us had offers in corporate America. Investment
banking and consulting seemed to be the futures waiting for us after graduation. All that changed one day after
listening to a lecture in one of our business ethics courses when we first heard about the idea that gourmet
mushrooms can be grown entirely on recycled coffee grounds.

We could really do something with this idea: we discussed the possibilities. America is absolutely addicted to
coffee. The world production of coffee is nearly 7 million tons a year. Only 1% ends up in the cup, while 99% ends
up in the land fill. The possibility of diverting this waste stream, into something of value, gourmet mushrooms, was
something we just couldn’t let go. As the weeks went by, we really dove into first seeing if we could actually grow
mushrooms from coffee grounds, and then seeing if this idea could work as the basis of a full scale social venture.

The first plan of action was definitely an interesting experience. We went around to local coffee shops collecting
used coffee grounds. Out of the 10 buckets of the mushrooms we planted, only one grew. In that one bucket though,
we saw potential. We took that batch to the local Berkeley Whole Foods, and the team members we showed it to
took a real interest. We created a plan and submitted our business proposal to “Bears Breaking Boundaries,” an
entrepreneurial competition sponsored by the UC Berkeley Chancellor to provide $5,000 in initial funding for a
ground breaking project. And that’s really the story of how we got started, giving up the corporate titles to carry a
new one: “The Mushroom Guys.”

After graduating, we then started Back to the Roots, a name symbolizing sustainability, innovation and social
responsibility. What is so unique about Back to the Roots is its completely closed loop system. We first utilized a
large waste stream to produce something of value: gourmet oyster mushrooms. The mushrooms were harvested and
sold across NorCal Whole Foods Markets. The leftover coffee grounds, enriched by the mushroom growth, turned
into premium soil amendment that was then donated to local nurseries and urban farms, giving back to the
community from which we gather the coffee grounds from.

We are on track to divert over 1 million lbs of coffee grounds in 2011 and have helped families grow over 250,000
lb of fresh oyster mushrooms right at the home. Starting off as purely an urban mushroom farm, Back to the Roots
has recently transformed into an organization dedicated to letting everyone grow their own fresh food right at
home…as local as it gets! We’re doing this first through our Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Garden.

The Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Gardens, sold on our website and at over 250 Whole Foods across the nation, are
packaged in post-consumer cardboard and printed on with soy ink, an environmentally better alternative. The soil
inside is safe &sustainable too – 100% recycled coffee grounds! And while you may be worrying that the
mushrooms taste like coffee, plenty of chefs, like Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, can attest to their authentic nutty

Through our Easy-to-Grow Mushroom Garden, we hope to encourage people to go “Back to the Roots” of

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