12,000 coffee sacks into $12,000

In 2009, Ethical Bean Coffee’s CEO and founder Lloyd Bernhardt initiated a partnership with Lee Valley Tools to make our jute coffee bags available to their recycling savvy clientele. Since then, it has resulted in over $12,000 being raised for Lee Valley’s two official charities! If that wasn’t enough, the partnership has diverted 12,000 coffee sacks from landfill, and created a host of awesome ideas about what can be done with burlap sacks and a touch of creativity!

The program itself is simple:

  1. We receive our amazing, 100% Fairtrade certified and Organic coffees in jute bags from cooperatives all over the world before lovingly roasting them to perfection.
  2. The bags are then collected and distributed to donation stations by the wonderful folks at Lee Valley Tools in Vancouver and Coquitlam.
  3. Lee Valley customers visit the location closest to them, and donate $1 per bag and cart away as many as they can carry.

That’s it.

100% of the money collected by Lee Valley is split between their two official charities, the Nature Conservancy of Canada and United Way. Win-win.

On top of it all are the awesome stories we receive about what people do with them.

It comes as no surprise that many bags are used for gardening. Green-thumbed Vancouverites love jute sacks to protect their trees during the winter, lay under mulch, and grow potatoes. Fittingly, the sacks also double well for potato sack races!

The unique look of the sacks also appeals to designers, upholsterers, and up cyclers of all stripes. Coming from all over the world, many of the coffee sacks come with distinctive logos and markings from the country or cooperative, and of course a Fairtrade and Organic logo or two. This visual potpourri of the global coffee trade adorn everything from walls of workshops to bedrooms, and are used as displays in storefronts all around the Lower Mainland.

In fact one such creative, Heather Fulcher, recently visited our office and roasting facility to share what she was doing her jute bags.

A short browse on her blog shows her true blue dedication to creating a second life for items of all sorts, and she certainly delivered when it came tothe coffee sacks. The sacks go on to new life as pillows, beautifully stuffed and sewn, featuring the unique hieroglyphic like logos and markings of the coffee cooperatives we buy from. We are thrilled to have two such pillows decorating the couches at our Ethical Bean Café. Heather has also created a beautiful tree skirt, just in time for the holidays, and lovely placemats. We loved having her at our office and roasting facility, and she even grabbed a couple of extra bags on her way through! Definitely take a minute to poke around her blog, which can be found here.

The peak times for bag collection is during Fall and Spring, so if you’re looking to get your hands on a couple (or 20) yourself, call ahead or try to plan in advance of when you’ll need them. There are lots of bags but they can go quickly.

Thanks to everyone who has participated in this program. You are the catalyst behind $12,000 being raised for charity and 12,000 repurposed bags!




Learn more about the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Learn more about the United Way.




4 Responses:
  • Monique Russell


    I have been trying to find these type of sacks for weeks. As a new crafter I am interested in acquiring some of your sacks. Please let me know if you ship to United States.

    Thank you

    • Marianne Pemberton

      Hi Monique! We tend to keep our sacks local due to shipping and footprints. I would recommend searching out the nearest coffee roaster to you and sending them a quick e-mail. If they don’t have any to spare they might be able to point you in the right direction!

      If you ever find yourself in Vancouver BC we can certainly help then 😉

  • Leah L

    Hi there,

    I am looking to obtain a few coffee sacks (with trade marks from Ethiopia and Colombia). Can you tell me how best to contact you to obtain these locally (in MetroVan)?


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