BY: TREVOR HEWITT
Dustin Fedako was amazed when backpacking brought him through Holland. Never had he seen biking so engrained in a society.
Shortly after arriving home, Fedako was revitalized but broke. He quickly took on a sales job with a local composting company. Fedako didn’t know the first thing about composting, but he appreciated the opportunity to learn about Texas’s composting habits.
After meeting thousands of Austinites, Fedako gauged their recycling habits. He realized for every person in Austin who was composting, dozens were not. Just as troubling was the sub-group that thought composting meant throwing your banana into a highway ditch. A 2013 study found Americans waste nearly 50 per cent of their food annually.
Fedako got more and more into composting. He began working at local urban farms. It was the giant heaps of organic material there that gave him an ambitious idea.
Most people at the farms didn’t know about composting. Most of them needed more compost for less money. Fedako, a psychology undergraduate, saw a need for consolidation.
It started with the Garden Block program. Fedako worked with communities to create front yard garden beds out of scrap materials. Shipping crates, election signs and wood found outside department stores were all fair game.
Compost Pedallers stemmed from the Garden Block program Dustin Defako established to create front yard garden beds out of scrap materials.
The idea was that, when the gardens were finished, the communities would share the food they grow internally. That means more compost, more local food and more connections. Before the program, Fedako says some people were living on the same street for 20 years without knowing each other’s names. He says, “now they’re coming out to potlucks. They’re coming out to build days … they’re babysitting for each other’s kids.”
But Fedako had an even bigger idea, using teams of cyclists to collect compost. Each cyclist would be assigned to a zone within a community. Each zone would have a collection house. The bikers would go from street to street, picking up compost from houses on their route. Collection houses would then send their hauls to local partner farms. The idea soon became reality. Compost Pedallers was born in late-2012.
Fedako had the idea to create teams of cyclists to collect compost and send their hauls to local partner farms.
Photo by John Anderson
“If we went into your kitchen and we dumped your trash on the ground, we’d find over 30 per cent is actually not trash at all. It’s compostable material. So that means that a third of the stuff that you’re hauling out of your house to the landfill is actually a valuable resource. We’re here to make sure that you never have to put your resources in the trash again,” says co-founder Fedako.
Compost Pedallers stays true to its name. Every single pickup is done by bike. Delivery to partner farms is done on bike as well. “We run on fat instead of fossil fuels,” says Fedako.
For co-founder Eric Goff, composting is a way to get in touch with nature. “When you compost … your food waste breaks down and becomes a resource. And that’s really exciting to see it happen right before your eyes.” Fedako and Goff say the plan is to teach people about composting through helping them understand the relationship between them and their local farmers—the ones who need their organic waste most.
By using the Compost Pedallers to deliver compost to a community farm, the community is able to see their compost broken down into a valuable resource.
The service costs less than $16 US a month. And the team says it’s about more than business. “It’s really important to us to be an active part of our community. We don’t want to just be providing a service. We want to be involved,” says Fedako.
And they are. Compost Pedallers has many customer incentives. One is their rewards program. For every pound of compost you recycle, you receive a point. Points can be used to earn rewards from local businesses participating in the program, including many of the urban farms that Compost Pedallers supplies.
All this, Fedako says, is a way to close the gap between unnecessary food waste and producers in need of organic resources.
Compost Pedallers is expanding every day. They started in late 2012 with 30 homes on their route. Today, that number is almost at 500. To date, they have composted over 250,000 pounds of compost into fertilizer for local farms.
I don’t know about you, but I would much rather hear a bike bell jingle over the rumble of a fuming garbage truck.
Since late 2012, Compost Pedallers have delivered over 250,000 pounds of fertilizer to local farms.