By Karyn Boenker
Clean air, water, food, and shelter are some of the most important needs a person has in their life, according to Maslow’s hierarchy. For those of us lucky enough to have access to each, time spent thinking about them is probably rare. However, it would do all of us a world of good to dedicate some mindful thinking to these building blocks of our existence here on Earth.
Air is always there, waters comes from a pipe, and food is delivered to us via grocery stores and restaurants. When these items are used, they change and the process keeping them available is complex. For this article, I focus on food waste.
At the beginning of the food cycle is a farm or factory. The choices made at these origins determine the kind of stickers and labels that end up on packaging. Organic foods are least harmful to the environment and the people who grow our food.
With organic food on the table, consumers can feel good about supporting a more sustainable system than the traditional method of using pesticides and genetically modified seeds. When we compost our food after consuming it we do even more to support a healthy product life cycle.
In essence, mindful choices about simple matters like food make a huge difference. Within our own homes, it is easier to make such conscious choices, but it is harder in a restaurant or public space where composting may or may not be available.
Where does your restaurant and fast food go? Most of it ends up in a landfill, but if you ever grab a bite while you are shopping at Target, your food might be going to EcoScraps, a composting company founded by two Brigham Young University (BYU) graduates.
Five years ago, EcoScraps Founder Daniel Blake was finishing dinner with his brother when he became conscious of the leftover food on his plate. He became concerned that his waste was a problem and started looking into it. Daniel discovered that Americans throw away about 40 percent of the nation’s food supply. In fact, a family of four can end up trashing the equivalent of $2,275 in a single year.
For those who live in cities like San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and Santa Barbara composting is a normal part of the lifestyle. These cities provide composting bins with trash and recycling, some even offer discounts for the effort. For the majority of Americans composting is an unfamiliar idea and term, but the paradigm is shifting.
In September of last year, 100 cities throughout the country offered curbside composting services. Altogether our country sent 250 million tons of trash to the dump in 2010, 34 percent of which was composted or recycled. Companies like EcoScraps want to support the effort to slow impacts on limited landfill space, creating jobs while they take on the challenge.
We see EcoScraps becoming a National Brand that stands for sustainability and environmentally friendly products,” Northern California District Manager Natalie Fleming told Kalev.com. “We are making great progress already with distribution in Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Sam’s, and Costco. We will continue to increase our footprint with these and other retailers across the country.
Credibility and networking were key to the success of EcoScraps. Consumers and retailers are quickly realizing the benefit of compost over typical potting soils. In sandy conditions, for example, a few bags of compost can turn dead soil into something living and fertile. Compost offers tangible environmental benefits that drive loyalty among consumers.
“There is always pretty intense competition for shelf space with these retailers. Being new to the space, we had to convince these retailers to replace existing products with ours,” EcoScraps Public Relations Expert Katy Kenealy told Kalev.com. “We got our first major distribution with Home Depot and that definitely helped to give us credibility with other retailers. But I would say that our story was the thing that resonated most with retailers and allowed us to get on the shelves.”
GETTING DOWN AND DIRTY FOR THE EARTH
Ecoscraps founders, Craig Martineau and Daniel Blake, started the company while they were still in business school at BYU. Their mindful approach to a tough problem began with dumpster diving and renting an abandoned building to store their recoverables.
“I just jumped in [to a dumpster] and right away my shoes and pants were soaking wet. [ . . . ] Eventually we bought boots and plumber outfits and gloves, and I got a lot better at jumping into trash cans,” Co-Founder Daniel Blake writes on the Ecoscraps website.
Dedication and a no-fear attitude helped these dirty jobs evolve into something more rudimentary. The companies slogan, “No chemicals, no poop,” pays homage to the darker side of dealing with society’s waste, assuring and entertaining concerned customers.
“Manure does not have as much nutritional benefit as composted fruits and vegetables and it also carries a distinct odor. [The 'No Poop' slogan] was a fun way for us to call this out,” Mrs. Fleming told Kalev.com
A humorous approach to a tough problem helped EcoScraps set itself apart from the rest, while also immediately bringing a smile to the face of those who might use their products.
“Customers seem to think [the slogan] is very memorable and clever.” Mrs. Fleming added.
As EcoScraps moves into the future they hope to expand their public awareness efforts, inspiring people to learn about their products and the mission behind them. After speaking with staff members it is clear that they are happy with their work and are proud to be making a difference.
As Spring continues to bloom the seasonal cycle brings new life to our planet. This time of year, our fertile Earth gives graciously. We can return the gift through gratitude, mindful decisions, and an awareness of whole life cycles that emerge from behind the food we consume and the flowers we enjoy.
Since we reap what we sow we might as well work on a garden. Visit the EcoScraps website here to find tips for doing just that or check out the Sierra Club’s Guide to Composting video below.