Chantel Lanier here, taking over John's blog for this week. Our NextGen Committee held its annual retreat over the weekend, so I’ve been thinking a lot about values, missions and personal rules to live by. John has been able to articulate his personal rules for many years. “Comfort over style,” and “process over results,” top his list. Mine have evolved over time and through various circumstances, but “say yes to interesting opportunities,” and “be a lifelong learner,” have emerged as some of my most important. It was an easy decision, then, to accept an invitation to tour CompostNow’s operations at King of Crops a few weeks ago.
Turns out that CompostNow utilizes a method similar to many backyard composters – a pile. They take all of the organic matter collected from their subscribers and utilize a tractor to combine it with carbon matter. They let it sit in a pile so the inside can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit. They utilize the same machine to rotate the pile and also move it farther back on the land (to make room for newer piles). Eventually the compost becomes soil and is returned back to CompostNow subscribers and community farm partners.
I’ve been curious about composting since John and I began utilizing CompostNow’s services last summer. I thought it must take place in huge machines capable of generating really high temperatures that could break down organic matter quickly. I knew I was in for a different experience when I stepped out of my car in the middle of a beautiful afternoon and could hear only the sounds of chickens clucking and other tour participants chatting. I took a deep breath and smelled…nothing. If anything, it smelled like crisp, fresh, unpolluted air. I certainly didn’t detect any unpleasant odors I would have previously associated with composting.
Even if all I learned on the tour was the “how” of composting, it would have been fascinating. What made it even better was learning about all of the thought CompostNow puts into every aspect of its business. Here are some things that really stood out to me:
- CompostNow shapes customers’ perspectives on composting by providing a clean bin every time. As a residential customer, I always find my bin freshly lined and ready to be refilled after each pick-up. Commercial customers receive large black bins that look similar to garbage and recycling bins. They get washed and dried at the facility and are returned to the businesses in pristine condition. (Yes, we actually examined and smelled these bins on the tour. They were perfect.)
- Why are the bins black? Why is the logo aqua? As we discussed on the tour, CompostNow’s branding was designed to stand out. Founder Matthew Rostetter says, “I wanted to stray from the typical ‘green’ business…. I designed a logo that was clean, modern and conveyed a sense of activism. I chose the aqua color because it was a mix of green, associated with environmental sustainability, and blue, symbolizing the clean air that is saved by smaller landfills.”
- Eventually CompostNow doesn’t want to be in the business of composting (kind of…). If I remember correctly, CompostNow handled more organic matter in 2019 than it had in its first six years of business combined. Soon the volume of organic matter it collects will exceed the capacity of its King of Crops facility. CompostNow is addressing this by working with people who want to start medium size composting facilities. CompostNow helped create the legal pathway for these facilities to operate and also provides the knowledge, support and compostable materials to help get the facilities off the ground. Eventually CompostNow will deliver organic matter to its partner composting facilities and focus solely on the logistics of collection. The plan is to keep operating the King of Crops facility to offer tours and educational opportunities.
One thing that struck me as I held composted soil in my hand was that it’s the closest I’ve ever been to trash turned into treasure. I thought about all of the different things I dump in my compost bin every week and how they’ve all become something so useful and important. It was a cool moment. If you don’t already, I urge you to try composting – whether that means subscribing to CompostNow or doing it yourself in your own backyard.