This has been one of the slowest moving and most rewarding projects of my life. We designed a system at Trans Am Cafe to process food waste and turn it into compost. It is the act of “rebirth,” letting nature do it’s thing, turning what was once discard (or dead), into value (life). And diverting thousands of pounds from a landfill every month. Philosophically quite rich for for a bunch of rotting food in a wooden box.
I started working at Trans Am Cafe in September 2017. Already pretty deep into my “zero waste” mission, I thought it would be cool to work in an environment that could directly feel the impact of people practicing waste-free living. I could imagine the money and energy we would save building a community of coffee drinkers committed to creating no trash.
It was a pipe dream, admittedly. I soon shifted my intentions to another area of the cafe that would benefit from action towards sustainability; food waste. In NYC 60% of all waste is organic, which means it ought to be composted and returned to the earth, but instead ends up in a landfill, not really decomposing and releasing methane into the air.
To divert the cafe’s food waste would be a huge accomplishment. One I sought out to achieve with the help of the Strongest Foundation, which offered me a $2000 micro grant.
Above: contractor and artist Nick Clear building the bins from discarded pallets picked up in Staten Island. Below: Iko helping me dry out “Bokashi” which you can read about here. I couldn’t have done anything with the help of many people
The system should be able to process all of the cafe’s food scraps. How much that ends up being, and how long it takes until it’s usable is still up for discovery. We started collecting again this week so I’ll be able to give more details soon. The finished product is compost, broken down food that can be put back in the soil to fertilize plants. And it’s so good for plants!
Our first mission once we have enough finished compost is to line all the trees on our block in Ridgewood (they could use it tbh). Also to donate to community gardens or sell to costumers who have their own plants / gardens in the neighborhood.
first load in the first bin!
Already, when we spend time outside working on this project people stop and ask us what we are doing. This is amazing and allows for conversations about life and death and sustainability to occur organically in our community. Plus I just love getting my hands dirty and allowing for others to do the same.
There will be more updates on this as the weather gets warmer and more food scraps are collected. Keep following the newsletter to check-in on this project. I am keeping a very detailed log. Also if you know anyone who might want to cover this for a local newspaper or eco-blog let me know!
Above: Dirty gardening hands! The best!
Below: Trans Am Compost Bins in their restful glory.