Small business expands neighborhood-based compost service

Composting ambassador volunteers needed

Steamboat Springs residents Oliver, left, dad Tim and Emi McCarthy dump their compost bucket into a neighborhood ambassador’s composting bin. (Courtesy photo/Feed for Seed

After a 10-month pilot program with a foundation of 100 customers, the local small business Feed for Seed is expanding its neighborhood-based composting service in the greater Steamboat Springs area.

Currently, the service is offered in the city of Steamboat and in Steamboat II and Silver Spur subdivisions west of the city, but additional composting ambassador volunteers can help the program grow, said Feed for Seed co-founder Mark Berkley of Innovative Regeneration Colorado in Steamboat.

The program allows customers to collect organic materials in at-home small buckets and then dump the buckets in a neighborhood composting ambassador’s 48-gallon bin Tuesdays or Thursdays, or customers can empty their composting buckets from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays at a Feed for Seed truck at Howelsen Ice Arena in Steamboat. The city of Steamboat is a supporter of the service, allowing use of the parking lot.

The service has been well received so far, said Winn Cowman, Feed for Seed co-founder.

“People who are signed up love it, and they all have commented on how much less trash they produce and reduced smells in their trash,” said Cowman, who has worked in the waste diversion industry for 20 years and earned a master’s degree in environmental policy and management from the University of Denver.

The collected organic material is transported to a leased location in Phippsburg, where it is processed for months to become compost, Cowman said. The first batch of tested compost will be available for current Feed for Seed customers within the next few weeks, and eventual plans are to sell the compost in bulk to the community.

Composting pick up or drop off for commercial entities is available, with several downtown businesses and Steamboat Mountain School participating so far, Cowman said. Similar to trash and recycling services, the compost service has a fee at $25 a month. But the for-profit local small business is working to break even as the co-founders are donating their labor as business ramps up, Cowman said.

One supportive customer is Clyde’s Pies Wood Fired Pizza on Seventh Street in downtown Steamboat, which also is a 1% For the Planet sustainable business member, owner Clyde Nelson said.

“I’m a huge advocate of zero waste efforts. Anything that we can do to promote more businesses taking part in commercial composting, we are supporters of that,” said Nelson, who is hosting space for three of the bear-proof composting bins for other downtown restaurants or businesses to use.

The neighborhood collection bins were found unused at a Denver resource yard and were repurposed for the composting service with bear-proof retrofitting by Hayden-based business Bear Block. Feed for Seed kicked off last summer with customers taking their compost buckets to dump Wednesday afternoons at the ice arena parking lot, but the expansion to a neighborhood ambassador program makes the service more convenient with closer collection locations and more hours and days.

Cowman, whose second job is waste diversion director at nonprofit Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, said organic material collections for composting could allow restaurants to reduce their trash collection frequency and costs. She said the long-term goal for area waste diversion efforts would be for municipalities to switch to a pay-as-you-throw model, where trash, recycling and compost services and costs are combined and balance out the services in an economical manner.

Thus, one goal of Feed for Seed is to encourage city and county leaders to “rethink how (they) encourage composting and recycling,” Cowman said.

“Our vision is to make composting convenient and integrate it into the Yampa Valley’s waste management practices. Recycling organic waste makes sense on all fronts since it reduces trash production, offsets landfill costs and recycles a valuable resource,” Cowman said.

In the first 10 months of the pilot, Feed for Seed has prevented more than 108,000 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent from being released into the atmosphere, which is comparable to emissions from driving 130,000 miles in an average American car, Cowman said.

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