Earthworms’ Castings: Java Terraria Plants perk up repurposed pots

Java Terraria Plants

By Jean Ponzi

A retired recycling colleague rang me up seeking a use for orphan coffee pots, from the charity where she now volunteers. Naturally, I thought: PLANTS!

That call seeded a fun eco-project. The iconic home-brew coffee pot (not plastic!) growing sedums, adorable succulent plants so good at living that one of their folk-names is Never Die. Java terraria are one-of-a-kind terrariums, made with love by a Buy Local Live Green Drink It Strong advocate and plant ally: me. 

Tabletop nature spaces pour an invitation to dance with plants! Sedums will cohabit with the brownest human thumbs. Grow your confidence with our leafy partners in the Dance of Life! Plant-breath produces what all us animals need to breathe, and vice-versa. Plants are so easy to love. 

Available exclusively at Stone Spiral Coffee and Curios in Maplewood, Java terraria supports this local enterprise. Sales of these terrariums benefit my favorite coffee-art-music-philosophy corner gathering spot, with a portion of proceeds going to Home Sweet Home, the non-profit source of the pots. As we all pull together, may we all get through!

Giving this project a bio-scientific name, Java terraria, is a nod to the noble history and resilience of Sedum, a family of plants so hardy that any Homo sapiens caring for them can succeed. Another common name for these perky plants in the large Crassulaceae, or Stonecrop, family is Life Everlasting. Really.

Succulent sedums are so well adapted to drought (like when you neglect to water) you can refresh them with a spritz bottle. Some sedum varieties need full sun, but many will thrive in the limited light-space nexus of apartment windows. 

The genus Sedum was first described in 1753 by Carolus LinneausMister Taxonomic Nomenclature himself – the Swedish botanist who established the two-name, or binomial, system of classifying plants. In Latin, of course. Then animal scientists tagged it too.

Another sedum shout-out: it’s the star performer for Green Roofs. Colorful, dense perennial foliage regenerates year-to-year. Once established, sedum will thrive on available rainfall. Acres of sedum grow atop the Ford and Rolls-Royce plants, Nintendo of America, California Academy of Sciences, and the Javits Center in NYC. Local sedum-planted roofs are at St. Louis Science Center, Sheet Metal Workers Local 36, New City School and other progressive sites. Living roofs help cool buildings while plant roots slow stormwater runoff, protecting water quality by reducing sewer overloads from increasingly common gully-washer rains.

Java terraria’s creative reuse honors the purpose of Home Sweet Home, the terrific Brentwood based “furniture bank” that literally makes housing livable, furnishing homes for families in need. Their coffee pot oversupply is a common issue for non-profits that circulate household goods. If my well-intentioned donation includes a Melita that doesn’t work, the charity has two options: pay to landfill the broken item or activate your resource network, hoping to find another user. 

Notice I didn’t say they can fix it. The mission of Home Sweet Home is “distributing gently used or new furnishings.” Some charities do focus on repair – of some items. When did you last fix a Mr. Coffee? A good electronics recycler will accept and deconstruct “anything with a cord.” But what about that glass pot? 

It’s not the type of glass accepted by conventional recyclers. Glass items like food jars, drinking glasses, window glass and coffee pots all melt at different temperatures, so anything other than food container and bottle glass will contaminate the material stream that flows from our recycling bins to manufacturers of recycled-content products. Added metal rings and plastic handles save you from dropping steamin’ pots o’ joe, but they are recycling bin contaminants too. 

Home Sweet Home is doing its diligence, working down the re-use chain with anything they can’t give to clients. And what they do with what they need! 

Founder and Executive Director Betsy Reznicek adapted the concept of a furniture bank from other cities. With a rented truck, borrowed warehouse space, two staff members and a $3,000 donation, Home Sweet Home delivered to its first family in October of 2015. Through strong community support and partnerships, Home Sweet Home now serves over 600 families a year. They run four trucks daily with 15 staff and over 100 volunteers. Their now 10,000 ft2 warehouse is often packed with gently used or new furnishings. COVID safety prompted pivots, but good work goes on. People, systems, space and relationships have re-homed over 114,000 individual household items, given with care and dignity to families in need.

Being an artisan line, Java terraria is produced in small batches. A special Vernal Equinox edition will have sweet rocks tucked into moss around the sedums plus accessories: handmade hot pads and biophilically festooned repurposed spritz bottles.

 Stone Spiral Coffee is at 2500 Sutton Boulevard, three blocks north of Manchester in Maplewood. Current health-and-safety limited hours are 8 am to 1 pm, daily, serving a breakfast menu. Boost the love from your Java terraria purchase with a takeout carton of Ruth’s Homemade Stone Spiral Soup, in heat-and-serve varieties for vegans and carnivores. And, of course, your beverage.

Join Jean Ponzi for Green conversations. A community service since 1989, her enviro-interview show Earthworms podcasts from KDHX St. Louis Independent Media.