If you’ve been to the Farmer’s Market in Dupont Circle, you’ve probably seen Jeremy Brosowsky. As owner of Compost Cab, Jeremy sets up shop each week collecting your uneaten food in order to turn it into amazing compost goodness. He’s been at it since 2010 but has recently picked up even more steam, now running DC’s new citywide dropoff program on behalf of the DC Department of Public Works.
Still not convinced? Read on to learn how something as simple as composting can make the world a better place. Bonus: Jeremy has set up a promo code for our readers and will donate half of the first month’s proceeds to GatherDC!
How did you first get into composting?
My interest in composting comes out of my interest in food. It’s a very typical story. After my first child was born, I became acutely aware of everything that we were feeding her. And the more I learned about food and food systems, the more interested I became in the prospect of growing food in and around the city. Fast forward a few years and a few kids, and we were doing a lot right — cooking at home, shopping at farmers markets, etc. But we were still throwing our waste in the garbage, and that really, really bothered me
What made you want to start your own composting business?
Compost Cab exists to do two things. Make it easier for people to compost, and make it easier for urban agriculture to thrive.
I started Compost Cab in large part to solve my own family’s problem. We knew we wanted to compost, but we live in the city — we were worried about rats in the alley, we didn’t have any space to do it right, and with four small children, we didn’t feel like we had the time to do it ourselves. And then my entrepreneurial instincts kicked in.
The more I learned about food systems, the clearer it became that there are two ways to grow food efficiently and intensively in an urban environment. There’s the vertical greenhouse model, which takes advantage of technology requires aeroppnics and hydroponics and other generally capital intensive solutions. And then there’s the fertile soil model, which lets you grow your plants closer together because the soil is nutrient dense. You can maximize your per square foot production in the city through composting. But it turns out that for most urban agriculture projects, acquiring the raw materials for composting in city was a significant challenge.
We put two and two together and created a business that supports community composting and urban agriculture while enabling people to live their values every day.
Why do you think it’s important for people to compost?
For starters, there are all the environmental benefits of composting: reducing waste landfill, reducing methane released into the environment, etc. But beyond all that we’ve discovered that composting is a gateway drug for sustainability writ large. Composting is a daily, affirmative act of sustainability. Unlike other little steps you can take to improve your carbon footprint, like installing LEDs or a rain barrel (which are great things to do!), composting is something you and your family do every day. It’s a powerful tool for behavioral change.
What kind of foods can and cannot be composted?
If it grows, it goes. That is, anything that is organic can be composted. Food of all sorts, paper products, leaves, grass — you name it. But if you want to compost in your backyard, or through a community based program such as ours, you want to keep proteins out for a bunch of reasons. We have a comprehensive dos-and-don’ts list on our website at compostcab.com.
What if I’m afraid that composting is going to make my apartment smell bad?
We have a saying that speaks directly to that issue. If it smells bad, you’re doing it wrong. Like anything else, composting requires effort, but when done properly, which means creating a proper mix of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water, composting smells more like the forest, not the landfill. Or, you can join Compost Cab, and we can pick up your food scraps and compost them for you. Or, you can drop off your food scraps through DC’s new citywide dropoff program, which we’re running on behalf of the DC Department of Public Works.
Do you ever get grossed out by dealing with rotten food?
Never. To be candid, we (almost) never have any issues with really gross stuff. We take education, outreach, and communication with our members and partners very seriously. As a result we’ve created a super clean stream of compostable material.
How do you connect with the DC Jewish Community?
We’ve been working with Jewish organizations since we started back in 2010. For many years we’ve been donating our services to the DCJCC for their annual Everything But the Turkey Thanksgiving volunteer event, in partnership with DC Central Kitchen. We’ve composted the Labor Seder for Jews United for Justice. We do regular presentations at day schools and synagogues across the region. And then personally, my family is very active in DC Minyan (a community which we helped start), as well as at JPDS (where are four of my children have gone to school). Generally speaking, Jews bend toward environmental stewardship and activism, and we’re proud to help enable those instincts in the realm of sustainability generally, and composting and urban agriculture in particular.
If I’ve never composted before, what’s the first thing I can do to get started?
Head over to compostcab.com. We’ll point you toward DIY resources or how to participate in a dropoff program. Or you can sign up for our home service: we’ll deliver you a collection bin and get you up and composting in no time. To make it even easier to get started, we’ve created a promo code just for Gather DC readers. Anyone who signs up for our home service in May using the promo code GATHERDC will receive half off their first month of service, and we’ll donate the other half to GatherDC!
The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.