A progressive venture that looks to rethink and repurpose spent coffee grounds for a more sustainable future.

Photo of Arshia Narula
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Please confirm you meet the following criteria

  • We have submitted the supplemental form linked in the description above
  • We are aged between 14 - 20 as of February 11, 2021
  • We live in the United States or its territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa)
  • We are not employed by, or directly related (parents or siblings) to a current General Motors (GM) or Ashoka employee
  • We have been working on this project for at least three months
  • We consent to Ashoka and/or GM featuring our work on their website, social media, and in other materials regarding this Challenge using the information in our application
  • We confirm we have the rights to use and share any content uploaded on this entry form

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Website: Instagram: (@groundify)

Date You Started Your Project

04 / 01 / 2020

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Coffee is the most popular beverage in the world, with more than 400 billion cups consumed each year. When spent coffee grounds are sent to landfills, they produce harmful greenhouse gases that lead to global warming. Spent coffee grounds are a unique organic waste that are nutrient rich and instead of ending up in landfills, they should be used as a value-added product in different processes that benefit our environment.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Groundify aims to champion the shift towards a circular economy in the coffee industry by redefining the way spent coffee grounds are repurposed to keep them in the economy for a sustained duration of time. While many coffee brands promote the sustainability of their farms, little attention is paid to the positive environmental impact of the spent coffee grounds. This is the problem that Groundify aims to bring the most attention to through the production of byproducts made by spent coffee grounds. Our service includes the pickup of spent coffee grounds from large coffee ground producers, namely restaurants, cafes, and other industries that look to partner with us. Once picked up on a specific schedule, these coffee grounds will be transported to Groundify’s manufacturing facility in which they are repurposed into sustainable eco-friendly products, such as candles and skincare products. Through this innovative service, we successfully divert the spent coffee grounds from landfills in which they cause a multitude of negative implications and repurpose them into new products available to the public.

3. Please tell us how you are using science, technology, engineering or math to address your environmental challenge.

Groundify utilizes STEM through the use of Groundify's patent-pending invention that eases the coffee grounds-drying process and through the development of Groundify's eco-friendly articles. As Groundify has innovated a circular process to repurpose spent coffee grounds, Arshia and Gurnoor have invented a patent-pending smart-drying container that utilizes moisture and mold sensors to dry the spent coffee grounds when they are being collected at Groundify's partnered cafes. This invention utilizes sensor technology to monitor various chemical components of the spent coffee grounds, preventing mold formation and streamlining the product development process. Moreover, Groundify utilizes primary research on the chemical components of spent coffee grounds to produce eco-friendly high-quality candles and sustainable all-natural skincare products. By collecting scientific primary research from Duke University, Columbia University, PlanetArk, and the UN Sustainable Development initiative, Groundify has streamlined the production and collection process, thereby creating an efficient circular economy. Through this, Groundify has become a forerunner in driving positive environmental change.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

The beginnings of Groundify originated on a road trip in the valleys of Austria. As we were naively touring the great cities of Austria in September 2019, both of us could not help but notice how clean all the cities were. Compared to our recent visit to our parents’ hometown in North India where the most common waste disposal method was trash burning, trash and landfills seemed to be nonexistent in the cities of Austria. Although we disregarded this thought for the remainder of the trip, it began to spark curiosity on our way back to the U.S. and through several days of thinking, they realized the importance of ensuring that our society moves towards a landfill-free society. Both Gurnoor and Arshia slowly began to materialize this issue into a social venture that would address the problems in our society, Groundify.

5. Video (Keep it simple, your phone on selfie-mode is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

Groundify has partnered with 7 independent cafes to repurpose 1,600 lbs. of spent coffee grounds into 300 units of eco-friendly candles and skincare products, leading to $3,500 in sales and $7,000 in grants from the Young Entrepreneurs Academy and the Blue Ocean Competition. Groundify established Groundify Green, a coalition to drive sustainable development education. Groundify facilitated discussions with UNIDO Tanzania while mobilizing 45 volunteers to drive sustainability efforts.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Groundify is the first and only enterprise in the U.S. that takes the end-to-end ownership of spent coffee grounds – from the café to the consumer. We do so by providing a scalable, sustainable, and value-added spent coffee grounds pickup service to cafes while repurposing the grounds into eco-friendly candles and skincare products. By pioneering this idea, we reduce dependence on landfills, create a circular economy, benefit participating cities, and reduce the harmful greenhouse gas effect, all taking us one step closer to fulfilling the United Nations SDG 13.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made.

In the last 3 months, Groundify has launched as an LLC in Texas, becoming the only social startup to combat climate change by repurposing spent coffee grounds into value-added products. It has partnered with 5 independent cafes to repurpose over 1,000 lbs. of spent coffee grounds, thereby preventing over 650 lbs. of carbon dioxide pollutants from entering the atmosphere. Groundify has also directly impacted over 63,000 young innovators and environmental activists by educating the DFW region about sustainable development and positive environmental action. Moreover, Groundify has established strategic alliances with EarthX to produce media content, the Young Entrepreneurs Academy to foster youth social innovation, and the City of Frisco to promote sustainable businesses. To stay profitable, Groundify has sold 200 candles and skincare products, generating $2,000 in sales.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Groundify plans on expanding to new geographic markets, establishing international alliances, and growing the team. Groundify anticipates having 50 cafe partnerships in 5 U.S. metropolitan cities by December 2021. This will allow Groundify to expand to new geographic markets through local cafes, thereby promoting grassroots sustainability efforts and fostering ecosystems of positive environmental action. By establishing alliances with sustainability organizations such as EarthX and UNIDO, Groundify will conduct on-ground education campaigns and climate change workshops while bolstering local economies through Groundify-affiliated local cafes. Groundify will grow to 250 volunteers to execute social media and on-ground operations.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

Through a strong presence on local news outlets, social media, and partnered cafes, Groundify has mobilized 45 volunteers to create an ecosystem of youth-driven social innovation across Dallas/Fort- Worth. Through Groundify Green, Groundify has spread awareness to over 63,000 youth, and it plans to grow its market reach, ultimately establishing an innovative ecosystem of positive environmental change and equipping young entrepreneurs to spread awareness about sustainability.

11. How would you partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

By partnering with changemakers, social innovators, and leaders, Groundify looks to bolster its social impact. By increasing community education about sustainability and by growing Groundify's partnerships - local and international - Groundify will drive steps towards positive environmental action and sustainable development. Working with fellow changemakers, Groundify looks to streamline Groundify Green's education initiatives while growing its ecosystem of innovation and sustainability.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

To educate citizens about the severity of environmental issues, Groundify looks to amplify its educational initiatives by hosting international sustainability conferences, informative interviews, and by providing user-friendly informational tools on its online platforms. Through educational initiatives and as local cafes act as mediums to spread awareness about sustainability, Groundify is fostering community-led efforts to advocate for sustainable development and positive environmental action.

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Family support
  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

14. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you? You’ll be able to select only one option.

  • Project Plan & Strategy

Are you employed, or directly related (grand-parents, parents, sibling) to a GM or Ashoka employee?

  • No

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Word of mouth

Evaluation results

4 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Probably - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Probably not - 0%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 100%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 0%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 0%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 0%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4 - Yes, I think so - 75%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not. - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

4 - Yes, I think so - 100%

3 - Maybe - 0%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4 - Yes, I think so - 50%

3 - Maybe - 25%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 25%

4- Yes, I think so - 50%

3- Maybe - 25%

2- Probably not - 0%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 0%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 100%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 100%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 33.3%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 33.3%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 66.7%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 100%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 0%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 50%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 50%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 50%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 50%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

Other option - 0%

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Matthew Marchyok

I like this idea more than my morning cup of coffee! That is saying a lot!! Stay true to your vision! Thank you for your work on this important project!