ATLANTA, Ga. — The ZERI Foundation was recognized by the Specialty Coffee Association of America this month for its work helping coffee farms utilize their waste.

ZERI (Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives) started a program in Colombia 15 years ago using waste from coffee farms to grow mushrooms. ZERI says that shiitake mushrooms grow three times faster in the waste than normally. Any waste left over from growing the mushrooms is then used as animal feed.

ZERI's waste-to-mushrooms program has already created 10,000 jobs in Colombia and Africa, providing at least two jobs per coffee farm. ZERI hopes to spread the program even further throughout the 25 million coffee farms in the world.

The program is even coming to the United States this month as two students from University of California Berkeley's Haas School of Business, Alex Velez and Nikhil Arora, launch BTTR Ventures. The company will take local coffee ground waste, use it to grow mushrooms in an Oakland, Calif., warehouse, and donate the remaining waste to City Slicker Farms in Oakland.

The Specialty Coffee Association of America gave ZERI its annual sustainability award at its 21st Annual Exposition in Atlanta this month.

Coffee - CC license by babbagecabbage; shiitake mushrooms - CC license by frankenstoen