One in seven people in Colorado struggle with hunger and yet 40 percent of food is wasted and now a Colorado Springs organization is helping to rescue healthy food and give it to the hungry.
Colorado Springs Food Rescue (CSFR) has been feeding local families since 2013. CSFR operates on three pillars: food access, food education, and food production, but a new social enterprise of their food production mission is taking food waste and giving back.
Their newest program is called Soil Cycle and they are a curbside compost collection service. The service, which began in August, states that their goal is to make composting convenient because food waste in the landfill is harmful to the earth.
Right now our food system could be described as linear: there is production, consumption and then disposal. So Soil Cycle’s Composter-in-Chief Nat Stein is trying to close the loop.
“When you, toss food in the trash, it goes in the landfill, it gets sealed up. So it’s deprived from the oxygen it needs to breakdown, as it would naturally so as it breaks down without oxygen it emits methane,” said Nat Stein.
Methane is 25 percent more potent than carbon dioxide, but food waste with oxygen is powerful too, just in a different way.
“If we can intervene on disposal of food and route that back into production of new food through composting it’s not just more sustainable it’s regenerative,” explained Stein.
Soil Cycle gives members all the supplies they need including an outdoor bucket, a ventilated basket and compostable bags.
All you have to do is make a conscious effort to separate food scraps when preparing meals then put the food scraps into the ventilated basket. Then, just like trash, when it fills up you put it in the bucket outside. Once a week set it on your porch for pick up.
Nat will come along on her electric trike donated by Whole Foods and pick up the food waste. From there, Soil Cycle does the dirty work for you.
They make sure they only have compostable items get in the container meaning only waste from food preparation; not what’s left on your plate after you cook. Also avoiding any foods with oil, cheese or meat.
On top of the food waste, for composting to happen, the pile needs brown waste like leaves. Add a little water, time and love and you have compost.
In the springtime, members of Soil Cycle get some compost back for their gardens. If they don’t need the compost, Soil Cycle will use it in community gardens to grow food for those who need it most.
One of Soil Cycle’s first customers Nimmy Dumm though it was crazy there wasn’t a service like this already in southern Colorado.
“My sister lives in Longmont and they municipal curbside compost, pick up as part of their trash service, we don’t have anything close to that here, this is super exciting,” said Dumm.
Once Dumm found Soil Cycle composting is now part of her routine and she’s sharing the message with others.
“When I go work and I bring snacks like a banana an apple, instead of throwing it away, the peel or core, I put it in jar so I can bring it home and compost it,” said Dumm. “I always get weird looks from people and I’m like, ‘let me tell you why’.”
Dumm hopes this project goes city or county-wide.
“It’s such a good feeling!” Dumm said.
The concept is taking off.
“I think it’s cool to see how satisfying that is for people when it clicks for them,” said Nat.
Soil Cycle is a service so it does cost $32 a month.
The cost is on a sliding scale, so if people who are interested can’t afford the monthly fee Soil Cycle doesn’t want cost to be a barrier and can work with members to find a price that works for them.
Right now the service area is only for Downtown Colorado Springs, but they are hoping to expand to a drop-off site for those outside the service area.
Soil Cycle is also partnering with Pikes Peak Urban Gardens to host a DIY Vermi-composting class for those adventurous enough it try it out themselves.