Compost File 4/4/10

Compost File 4/4/10

Note, The Compost Project fills my brain.   I have to think about it a lot and discuss it extensively with my colleagues.  I write about it this way in my blog hoping it will help me better understand what i have to do to move this work forward. . I share it with my colleagues.  Forgive my trespasses, I am hoping this helps me be more effective on a project that is truly stretching me.  greg

Compost files  4/4/10

I have started giving talks to groups about the Compost Project.  I spoke at the Science Cafe/Green Drinks and the Land and Waters Summit.  Several more gigs coming up including the Toxics Action conference and the Grow Smart conference.  I spoke to JWU students and will be speaking to Brown students.

Following the January stakeholder convening we(essentially Katherine and I discussing strategy)  tried the functional committees, pilots, feasibility, communications, etc. It was hard for folks to get their hands around things. My colleagues asked for a different approach.  We moved on to 4 sector committees.  Home composting, restaurants, institutions, and municipal.  Municipal currently has zero members.  The others all met this last week.

The home composting working group will be effective. There is an intersection between this work and their other work. RIRRC has a vested interest  in producing the right materials for the community.  Thank you Krystal, Ellie, and Nicole.

The other committees, especially the Institutions committee, are likely to evolve more into networks than committees.  Each of the schools in the current consortium has in the last few months stepped up their work on compost.  I like to think that the Compost Project talking to all of them independently and together has helped them speed up their work, but in all cases they are primarily responding to internal pressures.  (compost is an idea  who’s time has come.) Their students are very interested.  People working on these things at the various schools do not really need a committee to progress, but could use a network to share information and ideas and occasionally collaborate on gathering specific information. Together we can foster innovation,  we can help create the climate of compost, while the various institutions implement projects that dramatically reduce food waste being landfilled. We can convene when there is a good reason to.   This group is capable of finding solutions for themselves.   My goal is that the various campus solutions build to an even better whole that works for them as well as other institutions.

The restaurant committee may eventually evolve in the direction of a network as well.  it is small now and needs attention , but as more people in the industry start to ponder…..   The network would at least share information everyone could use in making decisions on where to send the food waste and what technologies to use in their own business, and might collaboratively develop local solutions. The restaurant committee gave themselves some research to do.

While we work on collection systems, it is still likely that ultimate success, the full scale removal of food waste from the waste stream in Rhode Island so that it is turned into compost, is going to rely upon the development of a compost facility/facilities.  Therefore my effort continues to drift towards facilities, and how we are going to develop the capacity to compost half a million pounds of food waste a day in Rhode Island.

I have been pondering about developing a fifth committee, the facilities committee.  Katherine and i did not discuss this one in our most recent rewrite, but I continued to think about and was beginning to think about assembling it. But recently things happened to change my approach.

All along it has been clear that Compost is an idea who’s time has come.  It has been clear since the start of the project 16 months ago.  As I began to talk it was clear that in the depths of the depression folks were looking for ways forward more appropriate to the times.  The Green economy has become not only hip, but relevant even for the laggards.  Compost fits all of that.  Waste clean up, carbon footprint, resilience, local jobs, good food, less chemicals, nicer neighborhoods.

Many communities have begun composting recently, with more starting daily.  This denotes that it presents an opportunity that is affordable for communities.  Much of the money needed to run the system is already in the system.

Because compost is an idea who’s time has come, moving forward in this project has been relatively easy.  Doors have opened, reception has been good, when i needed resources they would show up fairly expeditiously.

Facilities hold the biggest challenge.  They require more than a little investment.   There is a lot to do without  more scaled up composting facilities, but some parts of the system, and our ability to ultimately compost nearly all food waste, requires that we develop composting facilities in RI. What kind of facilities, depends on the specifics of a particular location.  The latitude of what is available is wide.

I have had some conversation with EPA and DEM about redeveloping a Brownfield in the city into an compost facility.  The conversation continues.

For all of these reasons a traditional facilities committee was not the way to go.  Therefore i held off developing the committee even while thinking about who to work with on this more closely. I started to ponder whether i needed to be an entrepreneur rather than an organizer for this phase of the project.  Having never done anything quite like that, I started preparing, in my thinking, and by seeking out conversations that would help me learn and swim at the same time. I specifically sought the advice of New Commons. Michelle and Speck sat with me for a hour discussing entrepreneurship as a useful tool for this project and finding partners.  Glad to say that I had already thought about much of what they said to me.

The next day I spoke at AS 220 for Science Cafe/Green Drinks.  At the end I talked to Larry Sprague about building compost facilities and what might be most interesting in Providence.  We continue the conversation, thinking about what kind of a team to assemble to build an inner city composting facility on a brownfield.  Since then I have continued other conversations about entrepreneurship as well and pondered where else to go.   Maybe this is how to better position efforts on behalf of facilities rather than forming a committee. See how it goes. Right now it is where i am putting most of my effort.

But even as facilities fill my brain in the eddies, parking  lots, and back burners I continue to ponder transportation, supermarkets, and waste haulers and how best to bring their presence and information to the discussion/evolution.  It is clear the garbage business is changing very fast.  Businesses are repositioning themselves for a RI throwing away a lot less trash.  Will the timing match that of Providence so that we can surf?  I am trying to keep in touch with various organizations working in these realms, but i need to step up my efforts.

The work Cleanscape/Ecotope and Michael are doing is very independent of what I am doing, and intimately linked.  Machines, recipes, restaurant pilots, browns.  Opportunities. Partner where we can, maybe quite a bit

I ought to at least briefly note before ending this the possibilities at URI and in Newport.  I continue to prod./stay involved, But this will happen on the schedules of those with food waste and composting capacity to bring together. The putting together of numbers by various parties, will help, and thankfully several volunteers have found the Compost Project  recently and are now putting these numbers into useful formats. The better our numbers over the next few months, the more likely things will work.

All in all, I am feeling very positive.  We are going to transform what RI does with food waste over the next few years.

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