You are “The Compostess”, a composting expert. Could you explain how you first became interested in and involved with composting.
My first career was in journalism. As a magazine and newspaper writer, my day-to-day was steeped in celebrity/pop culture and urban lifestyle trends. It was a very fun and exciting career, but after a few years I felt a strong pull to go beyond the fast-paced glitz and—very literally—get down to earth.
I took some time off and traveled. On my journeys, I met people who had deep connections with nature, something I never had as a born-and-bred city girl. I started to see my daily choices very differently. I asked myself: what kind of impact do I make on this planet? What choices can I make to help contribute to a better world?
Composting provided me with a powerful connection to nature and the basic cycle of life. It allowed me to slow down and sniff the roses (as the worms munched on them, of course). I had always been a recycler, but never knew I could do anything useful with my food scraps. Learning I could transform my ‘trash’ into a vital soil resource was incredibly empowering.
When did you decide to share this interest with people in New York and turn it into a business?
The idea came to me while attending the NYC Master Composter Certificate Course. I was lucky enough to have the time and flexibility to spend one evening a week for several months taking a deep dive into compost education. However, many busy New Yorkers do not have that luxury. I wanted to create a way to bring this awesome information to people on their terms, at their convenience. I wanted to help individuals and groups develop a compost practice that best suites their lifestyle and needs with the attention and detail that a personal trainer or a tutor brings to their clients.
You also teach people how to compost at home in the city. What are the benefits of this?
The New York City Independent Budget Office estimated in 2012 that the average New Yorker produces three pounds of waste a day. In 2004–2005, The NYC Department of Sanitation did a waste characterization study and found that 29% of NYC’s residential waste was suitable for source-separated composting.
That’s nearly a third of our waste that could be easily diverted from landfills and transformed into an amazing soil amendment—and that’s not taking into account an additional 22.8% of paper/cardboard destined for recycling can be pulled into compost’s equation as well. The potential for good to be done, one household at a time, is staggering.
New York City doesn’t seem like the ordinary place to compost. Why were you interested in setting up your business there?
I am a native New Yorker and New York is my home. People here are becoming more and more interested in finding sustainable ways of living, and they see that they don’t have to live in the country or give up things they enjoy to live mindfully. I’m here to tell New Yorkers they can have their Manolos and their worm bins too!
Do you think people in New York are generally interested in a ‘greener’ and more sustainable life?
For sure! You can see it everywhere you look. Gone are the days of the Hummer and SUVs; the roads are now packed with smaller cars and, most importantly, bikes. Retailers take pride in, and consumers seek out, menus and items that offer locally sourced, reclaimed, and upcycled materials. There are tons of green groups that meet to discuss and live out sustainable building, permaculture, beekeeping, windowbox and community gardening, green tech, green business…the list goes on and on!
What are examples of green city life in New York City?
Some of my favorite examples of green New York life include: urban beekeeping, a rise in greenmarkets, rooftop farms, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), bike culture, school and community compost programs, and artists of all kinds who recycle and reclaim materials in their work.
In addition to home consultations and private events, I enjoy doing volunteer community outreach. I have taught young Girl Scouts about composting, and I provide compost information at community events.
Do you think these add to the quality of urban life in general?
What are the aspects of city life you like most?
I love the passion, drive and vision New Yorkers have to innovate and change the world.
If you had one wish, what would you like to see change in New York, or other cities, to make them more livable?
I would love to see more connection and compassion between city dwellers. It’s very easy to shut out the hustle and bustle of the city and live in a bubble with your eyes down and headphones on. However, small miracles happen with the tiniest acts of kindness. When people begin opening up to each other, they begin to see how every gesture affects the world around them. When that happens, suddenly people start making decisions to help shape the greater good.
Interview: Lia Pack