Circular Coffee

When being focused on our different jobs from day to day, we sometimes forget that we’re part of a bigger picture. We all fill a part in the value chain, from planting a coffee tree to making a delightful double espresso. But let’s zoom out even further. We now see that our ‘coffee-chain’ is also connected to all kinds of other chains – the packaging-, milk- and transport industry, to just name a few.

But when we’re all connected, then how does it come that we don’t use our resources better? Why do we use brand new cardboard boxes, whilst other industries throw them away anyhow? Why do our coffee joints throw out the coffee sludge, while this can be used as a very good natural fertilizer? Can’t we send our bags back to the farmer, so that they can use them again? Can we start connections with industries that can prevent us of from always buying brand new resources?

It is this kind of thinking This Side Up tries to stimulate in the future. As an actor in the middle, we tie all small dots together, giving us also the opportunity of having a ‘birds-eye view’. It is this kind of thinking that is pushing towards a Circular Economy, where resource streams circle around as long as possible. This will be financially attractive, and has a sharp eye for the social impacts as well.



The Workshop

On November 9th 2017, the kick-off was given at the This Side Up headquarters in Amsterdam. On this night, This Side Up invited all friends and family to come to the ‘Circular Coffee Workshop’ at our offices in Amsterdam. It was an event aimed at working out all kinds of new ‘circular ideas’ for our so much beloved coffee industry. It was a great success.




The product

The product of the final brainstorming session is shown below in a graph. The 4 ‘blocks’ in the middle represent the 4 actor groups in the value chain that were present at the workshop. The colour coding of the ideas is as follows: green represents ideas with an environmental impact, red is a social impact, blue a financial impact and the light yellow is a combination of several. Some of the colour coding can be arbitrary, but it gives a clear indication of how to organize our great ideation session. The ‘cloudy’ blocks are discussion thoughts added to the initial idea.

Copyrights to Maarten van Keulen

Copyrights to Maarten van Keulen

SO what now?

Based on this ‘ideas-map’, Lennart and Maarten have picked 5 ideas to start with, and these will be worked out and slowly implemented over the coming months. The results of this adventure will be published in a Scientific Journal in the course of 2018, to have a maximum impact and stimulate as many people as possible to embark on this fantastic journey.

  1. Planting shade trees and improving the soil microbial activity at the coffee farms, financed with activities between coffee bars and the final customers.
  2. Using packaging from other industries that throw this away anyhow.
  3. Minimizing the amount of milk cartons and stimulating less polluting milk alternatives.
  4. Building a community of Specialty Coffee Bars and Roasters in Amsterdam and the Netherlands, that can stimulate certain projects like a ‘bring your own cup’-week.
  5. The roaster as a central collecting point of coffee sludge, which will be distributed to farmers and other communal garden initiatives.

Together we can do this

Doing it together as a community, and giving space for each and everyone’s creativity is a central point of this endeavour. This Side Up points out a direction, concentrates our focus and comes forward with possible ways of getting to the set goals. The coffee industry is a busy world; so let’s not make it more complicated than it should be.

This web page will be updated on a regular basis. Please stay tuned. If you have any comments or ideas, or want to be part of our community and email-list, please send an email to:


Maarten van Keulen is a master student Sustainable Business and Innovation at Utrecht University and will have implementing this way of thinking as his full-time occupation from the Autumn of 2017 until the Spring of 2018.