The Breakdown: Bringing Bike-Powered Composting to Austin, One Pedaller at a Time

East-Side Compost Pedaller Stephen Bonett bikes around a neighborhood in East Austin collecting compost from members’s homes.

East-Side Compost Pedaller Stephen Bonett bikes around a neighborhood in East Austin collecting compost from members’s homes. By Emma Banks

By Emma Banks, Caroline Khoury, Alexis Chastain, and Britini Shaw.

Eric Goff and Dustin Fedako are businessmen, but the pair doesn’t play by the same rules as most. Goff believes in existing as a “not-just-for-profit” business, staying true to the Slow Money philosophy that teaches entrepreneurs growth that actually helps the economy and gives back to the community from which it came, instead of simply taking. Enter: East Side Compost Pedallers, a business that just celebrated it’s one-year anniversary and is sharing what it knows about community, waste and good, nutrient-rich soil.

Composting is not a new phenomenon. What’s new are the Pedallers and their philosophy: take a century-old practice and make it cool again. Get those neighbors interested. Sign up your aunt and uncle. Score points for having a bucket full of compost gold. It’s time for us to realize our trash’s potential, and take full advantage of it.

“My favorite reason to compost is that it makes your kitchen less smelly!” Pedaller Stephen Bonett said. “In other words, you can really reduce your waste stream out of your kitchen, so the stuff that goes to the landfill is less, and for me that means that I empty my garbage less, and I like that.”

There are four part-time pedallers, and each goes on pick-up routes two or three times a week, collecting compost in green buckets from members in the neighborhood, weighing it – they have a rewards system, points based on weight – then cleaning out those buckets. But that doesn’t mean the Pedallers’ main pitch isn’t about the environment. (Spoiler alert: it is…and they have a good reason for it too.)

“When food waste breaks down in a landfill, it creates methane, which is 21 times worse for global warming than carbon dioxide,” Goff said. “So you can have a big impact on one of the biggest problems facing our planet today.”

Equally important is localizing the issue of wastefulness, especially with another tier of Austin’s Zero-Waste Plan going into effect in 2017. The new requirement? Every restaurant in the city must start composting. And the Pedallers want to lend a hand.

“We hope to be able to grow and help accommodate all the restaurants that want to sign up for bike-powered composting,” Goff said. “Currently, we serve some restaurants, like Blue Dahlia, Justine’s and East Side Pies, plus homes, apartments, office buildings and schools.”

Their bikes might be a bit funny looking, but pedallers like Bonett take pride in their work and what they’re doing for the East Austin community. The business started with one neighborhood- the central part of Cherrywood- and it now serves about 250 houses.

“I think our biggest impact is the visibility of the project,” Bonett said. “Since people see these crazy bikes going around, they ask a lot of questions, and I think a lot of people get to hear about what composting is and how you do it- it’s easier than you think.”

 

 

 

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