By Alicia Clark, The Republic
Most everyone needs a little caffeine boost every now and then — even Mother Nature.
Students at Copper Ridge Elementary School in north Scottsdale are giving nature that boost by integrating coffee grounds from McDonald’s McCafe into compost for their school’s garden.
The school garden has kale, lettuce, other vegetables and a variety of flowers under cultivation.
“(Caring for the garden is) like a fifth-grade rite of passage,” said fifth-grade teacher Nanette Hubbell.
McDonald’s is donating the grounds through a new statewide program called McCafe School Gardens Grow!
Dorothy Stingley, who owns 11 free-standing McDonald’s restaurants in Arizona, helped launch the initiative.
Stingley said 100 schools with the Arizona Department of Education School Garden Program have signed up and are mixing McDonald’s coffee grounds into the soil and compost. The schools pick up the grounds weekly from a local McDonald’s restaurant.
According to a recent audit by trash hauler and recycler Waste Management, the average McDonald’s restaurant generates 29½ pounds of coffee-grounds waste per day.
“The opportunity to partner with schools in our communities to reduce our coffee-grounds waste is a win for everyone,” Stingley said. “Concern for our environment is important to us as well as our customers.”
According to Stingley, some of Arizona’s 300 McDonald’s restaurants have been informally donating coffee grounds to gardens for some time. Now, through the McCafe program, the restaurants have a way to donate grounds in a more streamlined way.
Near Copper Elementary School’s garden, surrounded by composting and gardening materials, Hubbell told students how composting and recycling can reduce landfill waste.
“They’re the people of the future,” she said. “They need to know what they can use from all they produce … in order to recycle and reuse it.”
Hubbell isn’t the only one looking ahead. McDonald’s goal is to make 100 percent of its packages, bags and clear cups come from certified or recycled sources by 2020.
“Right now we have the ability to recycle 75 percent of our waste,” Stingley said. “The coffee grounds are the pilot project for all the sustainable projects coming.”
Eight of Stingley’s restaurants are donating to eight Arizona schools, and she expects to expand.
Stingley is a part of the McDonald’s Supply Chain Leadership Council, where she represents more than 800 female McDonald’s operators from across the country.
As a part of her role on the council, Stingley participates on its sustainability committee, which is where she got the idea for McCafe School Gardens Grow!
“When you start talking about something as simple as coffee grounds and schools, it has an appeal,” Stingley said.
Stingley hopes to grow more interest in the initiative when she presents to the McDonald’s Women Operator Network next week.
So far, the partnership seems to work for school officials as well.
“I am very pleased that our office was able to help make the connection between McDonald’s McCafe School Gardens Grow! waste reduction program and our School Garden programs,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said in a prepared statement.
“It is exciting to see these efforts positively impacting schools in so many Arizona communities. This is exactly the type of private-public partnership I would like to see replicated across our state as we look for innovative ways to support our students.”