When Conor Guidarelli and Wes Kalloch make their weekly trip to Turtle Swamp Brewing in Jamaica Plain, they’re not on a beer run. The horticulturists have another mission — to make nutrient-rich compost for the plant collections at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University.
Besides picking up about 2,000 pounds of wet, spent grain from Turtle Swamp, they also get as much as 40 pounds of used coffee grounds each week from Recreo Coffee in West Roxbury. Both are ingredients in the recipe Guidarelli and Kalloch created in 2018 for the Arboretum’s soil-management program.
The donations from the two local businesses are a considerable contribution to the environmentally sustainable composting program the Arboretum tailored specifically to the needs of its collections. An added benefit: It makes use of organic waste that would otherwise be destined for a landfill.
“This is part of an important initiative at the Arboretum to support small local businesses and become more integrated into our surrounding communities,” said William “Ned” Friedman, Arnold Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, director of the Arboretum, and a longtime Jamaica Plain resident. “And from a tree’s perspective, what could be better than a mix of coffee and beer spread over your root system?”
Guidarelli, who was hired in 2016 to help guide the soil and composting initiative, said the Arboretum is managing green waste in-house in an environmentally responsible way.
“We are working hard to be more sustainable, to sequester carbon, and improve the organic matter of the soil,” he said.
That’s not an easy task on a 281-acre collection of woody plants from around the world, many of which are members of species threatened with extinction. The horticulture team must address the needs of each species, while keeping an eye on fluctuations in temperature and precipitation, pests, diseases, and other environmental factors.