for National Geographic News
A decade ago Rod Sprules was designing a heated suit for search-and- rescue technicians. He was flipping through a reference book to look up the energy content of propane when he came across an interesting tidbit about coffee.
It said coffee grounds release more heat than wood when they're burned. Sprules, a mechanical engineer by training and an entrepreneur by heart, wrote down the fact in a book of ideas that he keeps and went back to work.
A few years later, while Sprules and his wife, Joanne Johnson, were living in Paris, he scoured his notebook for promising business ideas and rediscovered the coffee entry.
He went down from his apartment to a small café to ask the perplexed proprietor for some coffee grounds. Back upstairs, he dried the coffee grounds in the oven, stuffed them into an old cigar tube, added some candle wax, and set it on fire.
"It burned really well," Sprules recalled.
The Java-Log was born.
Today the Java-Log, the first fire log made from coffee grounds, has become a hit with the green crowd. It burns brighter and hotter than sawdust logs while producing 85 percent less carbon monoxide than traditional firewood. Last year more than two million Java-Logs were sold.
"The environmentalist in me wanted to demonstrate that you can make something environmentally friendly and still perform better," Sprules said. "So far, sales have been fantastic."
After the first experiments in France, Sprules, who is Canadian, could not wait to get back home to develop his idea. On his return, he filed a patent for the Java-Log.
He set up shop in the garage next to his house in Ottawa. Planet Coffee, a local coffee shop, allowed him to scavenge its garbage for used coffee grounds.
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES