The impact on the environment of a small urban mushroom farm

The impact on the environment of a small urban mushroom farm

Your impact matters! Why? Allow me to explain.

Thanks to the policy of the national Dutch government, traditional agriculture has only one knob to turn. That is scale. If prices fall, and with that the income of the farmer, the solution for the farmer is to produce more to compensate for the difference.

As a result of this scale, the farmer is forced to work with huge machines. We take more from our soil than we add. Partly for this reason, the organic matter content in the soils has been decreasing for years. This is one of the reasons why the UN has declared 2015 "The year of soil".

The use of fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides [nowadays called crop protection by the industry] affects our environment and our health. Among other things, it can cause Parkinson's disease. Farmers who work with certain pesticides are up to 60 percent more likely to get this incurable brain disease. [source in Dutch]

Externalisation of costs

The current production methods causes pollution, CO2 emissions, particulate matter, soot and nitrogen dioxide and the costs incurred to mitigate these problems are passed on to society. The so-called externalisation of costs.

The number of companies in this sector is decreasing and the size and the pollution is increasing. The Dutch agriculture sector causes € 6.5 billion in environmental damage every year! The sector is the second most expensive polluter, concludes the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency in a report on Monetary Environmental Damage. [source in Dutch]

Coffee grounds

We grow mushrooms on spend coffee grounds. Most of those are otherwise burned in the incinerator. Burning organic material is the lowest way of processing available to us, because after burning it, the unique properties of the material are lost and the nutrient cycle is interrupted.

Given the challenges that our society faces, rotterzwam never chooses to burn organic material. We always aim for the highest quality processing available. To determine this, we let us be inspired by the biomass vision of Nature & Environment [a Dutch non-profit] and the UN message about the condition of our soils.


An important aspect of sustainability is that what you can produce locally, such as potatoes and flowers, you also produce and use locally. Unless it is not possible in terms of climate (think of growing coffee beans) or technical knowledge (think of making the parts for an iPhone).

Sustainability has become a container concept: it is used con~stant~ly
But what makes your product or service sustainable?

In our view, the term can only be used purely if you define, record and communicate the bandwidth. This requires transparency. The big agriculture, food processors and waste processors are currently unable or unwilling to provide the transparency to support the sustainable claims they make. 

Thats why impact matters

Because it's seriously lacking in other businesses and as consumers want to see more companies taking accountability for their impact on the environment, it's an opportunity for us urban mushroom farmers. :-)

That is why we have a marketing and communication package as a permanent part of our services. In these, impact reports, social media expressions and awareness campaigns ensure transparency. We also share the amount of energy our solar panels produce.

It is good to know that our impact reports (and part of the other communications) are linked to the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs of the United Nations.

In addition, we calculate a Social Cost Indicator or Environmental Cost Indicator. These financial values have been established and standardised for each environmental impact. They include the expected costs for society to reverse the environmental impact from a product. This indicator is an increasingly important element of public tenders!

Our business model has economic and ecological benefits. We get paid to collect the coffee grounds from our customers because we provide all this data and insights. Interested in how this could help your business forward or help start a mushroom farm? Consider joining our Summer School or inform about our online mushroom support.

But we would like to know: How are you making your impact visible?


Reading next

The most important price argument for fresh mushrooms
How to make a basket for straw pasteurisation

Leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.