Name, title, name of organization:
Santa Cruz Community Compost Co.
What does your organization do? What is your service area?
Santa Cruz Community Compost Co. is a bicycle-powered, community oriented, compost collection service. Customers collect their food scraps and other compostables in the bin we provide. Then, we pick it up weekly via cargo bike and deliver it to a local urban farm where we transform it into high quality fertile soil that is either returned to our customers or made available to the host farm.
How many pounds of food scraps does your organization divert from the landfill each year in creating compost? How many miles do your riders bike compost each year?
Since our first haul in June 2014 we have diverted more than 130,000 lbs of waste from the local landfill and we’re hauling around 2000 lbs more every week from around 250 local homes and businesses. Though we don’t track our riders’ miles, we cover ground from Shaffer at Delaware all the way to 42nd Ave and even take a trip up to the UCSC faculty housing once a week.
How did you decide to use bicycles for transporting the compost?
The idea was originally sparked by a company in Austin, TX, the Compost Pedallers, that operates using a similar model. While bicycle transport does present some challenges, we believe in operating our business in a way that is energy efficient, inspiring and honors our core values. Bicycles are clean, quiet and when people see us out riding it puts a smile on their face.
What’s one of your favorite memories associated with your organization and composting?
I’m a single mom and in the first 6 months of operating routes, I often had my then 5 year old son riding on the back of my bike with me as I trekked all over town. He would keep me company by singing “Keep on the Sunny Side” and he would chant “go mama, go mama, go” whenever I had to go up a hill. I feel so grateful that he has been able to share in this experience and see what is possible when you work hard for something you believe in.
How did you get involved with composting?
I grew up composting so I’m someone who feels very strange whenever I’m faced with throwing a banana peel in the trash. Most of my previous knowledge, however was in the realm of small, backyard piles. I have had to learn as I go about how to handle such large amounts of organic waste and I still have a lot more to learn. I have become so excited now about the microbial universe living within a compost pile and the incredibly transformative process that occurs there that the work I’m doing is becoming a sort of philosophy to me.
What does “sustainability” mean to you?
I don’t think that “sustainable” is just a catch phrase for the green movement. To sustain something is to find the balance between what is possible and what is plausible. Sustainability is getting out on your tiptoes, reaching out for your most perfect Ideal, but not letting your feet leave the ground because you can’t inspire others when you’re floating in a bubble way out of reach and it’s our collective efforts that will really make a difference. Sustainability to me is waking up each day, doing the very best you can and believing that your neighbor is doing the same.
Has this job influenced you to compost at home or live more sustainably in other ways?
This work pushes me to my limits sometimes physically, socially and emotionally and while I had always considered my lifestyle to be sustainable because I eat organic, compost, and reuse my plastic bags and twistie ties at the bulk bins, I had never considered whether my inner life, social life or physical existence were truly sustainable. I’ve really tried in the last few years to apply the spirit of sustainable living to more than just how I consume things. Now, I ask myself questions like, “Am I an energy efficient vehicle?” “How does the energy I expend contribute positively to my community?” “Where is my time/energy/spirit being wasted and where is it being transformed into something useful?” I see the transformation that occurs in my piles--rotting detritus that smells somewhat like baby vomit becoming fresh living healthy soil that smells like the rain forest--and it gives me hope that even the most rotten things in life can, with time, be transformed into something beautiful.