Tessa and I are garbage geeks. It's been a shared passion that's brought us closer together. We first met at an environmental get-together when we gravitated toward the same "zero waste" working group. Ever since, we've been collaborating on ways to redirect wasted resources and build a circular economy. In the process, we fell in love. Starting ScrapDogs Community Composting together is really about sharing this love that we have (for each other, for our community, and for trash) and making a living out of it. If you want to, I guess you could call it a garbage love story.
In 2015 we created an organization together called Return Recycling to build zero-waste pathways for educational institutions. We worked with NYU for two years doing waste characterizations (aka digging through trash for data) in common areas of the main academic building. We learned a lot about the waste industry in the process. It gave us an appreciation for product design and the economics of recycled/recovered materials. Because roughly half of most municipal solid waste is organic, building compost programs is the lowest hanging fruit for most budding waste reduction programs. We regularly advocated for it as an institutionalized process at NYU. With bureaucratic pushback, we became fascinated by the trials of composting efforts in NYC and sought to better understand the process. It’s been an ongoing effort for us. Since we graduated in 2016, Tessa and I have worked full-time and tried to build Return Recycling on the side.
Over time, Tessa and I have been forced to acknowledge that, despite our involvement in fulfilling work, neither of us are really that inspired by NYC - or happy living in it. I grew up in Rockport, Maine and continued to talk Tessa’s ears off about the kinds of experiences I had there. I must have been a broken record. The ocean, the hiking, the people, the lifestyle… She returned the favor by telling me more about her love for Cape Cod. It was always clear to the two of us that we enjoyed time outside of the “urban spectrum." Whenever we could get away, we’d travel upstate to spend time near New Paltz or Beacon, NY, but the commute dragged on us. In many ways I think we both felt trapped by the city and its sprawling buildings. Our friends were leaving the city to live in Vermont and California... we were holding on to our careers here, and questioning our own motives. Where could we go, and do what we love?
Sometime during the spring of 2017, the Midcoast Waste Watch issued a report on residential waste disposal behaviors. One of the main findings of the report was that residents needed help with compost and organics collection. Because of the work that we were doing with Return Recycling, the report kind of jumped out at Tessa and me. It represented an opportunity to make an enormous difference in a community that I cared a lot about - and that could provide Tessa and me with the lifestyle that we were both looking for. We called up the folks at the Midcoast Waste Watch to confirm some of the findings. We spent some time thinking over our options and researching commercial composting methodology. Then, finally, when we adopted our dog, Rhubarb, we knew that we had to leave the city. (We hope she’s ready to be a mascot.)
Although the name of our company is an homage to Rhubarb - and our gradual realization that we needed to leave NYC - Tessa and I have always considered ourselves “ScrapDogs” when we’re working with trash. If you’ll follow the metaphor: we’re community-fed animals. We thrive off a collective will for a better world, aim to spread compassion, and aren’t afraid to get dirty to survive.
Our goal is to build a compost company that serves as a community resource. We want to replenish the soils of the midcoast, fight carbon emissions from landfills and incinerators, and work to build a visible "food loop." It’s time to prevent food waste and other organics from going to landfill, and instead use the resources to build our gardens and food systems.
From here on out, you’ll hear more from us on a weekly basis. We’ll let you know where we are in the development process, share how we’re feeling about the work that we’re doing, and even ask for help when and where we need it. You can rely to keep you updated.
If you’ve ever got questions, don’t hesitate to ask us:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-691-2213