Climate change due to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is causing extreme weather events, melting polar ice, and threatening our world as we know it, so mitigation strategies that can reduce GHGs are super important. One such strategy is composting organic waste from kitchen scraps and plant trimmings from the yard, turning them back into the soil instead of sending them to landfills. This reduces methane from landfills (about 5% of global GHGs!) and leads to healthier soils, which will then require less fertilizer, water, and other energy-intensive inputs. It may also lead to carbon being sequestered or kept in the soil instead of being released as CO2.
As I’ve written before, some cities collect organic waste on a large scale, but many do not. As city dwellers may have trouble composting at home, this is an important problem, and one that has been addressed by start-ups that collect compostables from people in cities for a small monthly fee, and maybe some free compost for their houseplants!
These city compost start-ups are green in so many ways. As I just mentioned, they contribute to mitigation by keeping organic matter out of landfills, hopefully leading to soil improvement and carbon sequestration. But on top of that, they often pick up the compost by bike, using less gas than the big trucks that would otherwise collect the same waste. What’s more, they probably do a better, more professional job than people who compost at home, which can make a difference in how much GHGs are released during the composting process. Finally, they do their work on a smaller scale, using fewer gas-powered forklifts, backhoes, etc. than the centralized, city-run facilities.
I can imagine rich networks of these sweet little businesses dotting the landscapes of our cities and suburbs, taking care of composting on a hyperlocal level and contributing to community-building and gardening in city spaces at the same time. Here’s an updated list of some of these companies, for your inspiration!
- Green Restaurants Alliance (GRAS) now runs ReSoil Sacramento, a network of compost host sites at school gardens and farms where 17 restaurants have their waste composted. They also have bike-powered pick-up for residential members for $25/month.
- Santa Cruz Compost Co. serves communities in California south of San Jose and the Bay Area.
- Bootstrap Compost , “Greater Boston’s Food Scrap Go-Getters” started by a young man in 2011 who started his own eco-business after having trouble finding a job the old-fashioned way, collects compost by bike, T (subway), vehicle and any means necessary. They service a wide range of schools and companies as well as residences.
- Military vets are keeping busy around Washington, DC with Veteran Compost, a company that was also started by a young person facing a tough job market. Their vermicomposting operation on a family farm in Maryland keeps piles aerated to minimize GHG emissions.
- Austin, TX is where you can spot Compost Pedallers picking up compost by bike. Customers are rewarded with points good for free pizza, coffee, yoga, T-shirts from hip, local shops, or — wait for it — finished compost!
- BK Rot in Bushwick, NYC has a large waiting list of companies wanting bike-powered compost pick-up. Their residential program was made redundant when New York City finally expanded its residential curbside organics pick-up to their area.
- Falmouth, MA‘s woman-owned Compost With Me is doing similar things “down the Cape,” as they say. The largely bike-powered operation uses simple 5-gallon buckets and local farms to add organic matter to the Cape’s sandy soils, doing important mitigation work. They also have a program for commercial customers and are involved in community composting initiatives.
- Compost Crusader in Milwaukee, WI services multi-unit buildings, companies, and events that want to reduce their waste, with a service package that includes staff training, waste management assessment, and more. Compost Express does the same for residential customersin Milwaukee and 2 other communities.
- Jerusalem Farm in Kansas City, MO runs the Pendelton Heights community compost program, a bike-powered curbside pick-up program.
- At $18/mo., Philadelphia’s Bennett Compost‘s weekly residential pick-up service is hard to beat. However, they are pickier than outfits like Veterans (above) – no meat, oils, or dairy products area allowed in Bennett’s bins.
- Oh wait, I just found THREE that beat their price! Realeyes Homestead runs biked compost pick-up for $16/mo. in Elmwood Charter Township, Michigan. Maybe living wages are not as high there as in some cities?
- Garbage to Garden reports that they are used by 1 in 7 households in Portland, ME. Just $14/mo. until June 1st! Their volunteer program helps keep the service accessible to everyone – members can choose to work for a certain number of hours for them or their community partners instead of paying a monthly fee. They also collect used cooking oil, which is repurposed by the producer of the local soap they use to wash their bins.
- We Compost It uses large garbage trucks to serve three urban areas in Maine with weekly curbside pickup for just $8.99/month, which includes access to finished compost from their facility.
- In many cities and regions of North Carolina now, CompostNow acquired the bike-powered start-up Tilthy Rich Compost and now collects all food scraps including meat, bones, pizza and the boxes it came in! Collection costs $19 for biweekly pickup, $29 for weekly. It seems they may also be operating in Atlanta, GA.
- Compost Queens in San Antonio, TX is a family-owned business offering biweekly, monthly or drop-off service to residential and commercial customers.
- Back2Earth in South Miami seems to have been started just a couple of months ago by 4 kids offering a free compost pick-up service. They mention the same mitigation benefits in their tweets as I did up above!
- RustBeltRiders in Cleveland may be the next company to start residential pick-up. They currently collect food scraps from businesses and restaurants, and they allow drop-off from members who pay a yearly fee for access to finished compost and more fun perks.
Climate change mitigation sounds like some difficult process that needs high-tech solutions, but these scrappy young eco-preneurs have shown that all it takes is a bit of heart, some pedal-power, and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and get your hands a little dirty. I look forward to hearing about more of these start-ups and sharing their names with you soon!