The average U.S. household creates 1,600 pounds of compostable material per year, nearly 40 percent of total waste. That’s 36.7 million tons of carbon that could be composted instead. The Compost Fairy exists to divert much of that waste from landfills. “When you send organics to the landfill it causes a ton of serious environmental problems,” said Mike Larrivee, co-founder of the Compost Fairy, a Memphis nonprofit organization. “Digging a hole in the ground and forgetting about it has consequences when stuff decomposes there. It breaks down anaerobically, which causes methane. Concentrated animal feedlots and cows grab headlines for methane but 20 percent of methane comes from landfills. A pound of methane has the same impact of 80 pounds of Co2.”
Compost is made up of a variety of materials, but generally has three basic ingredients: browns, greens and water. Items to compost include fruits and vegetables, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, nut shells, paper, grass clippings, houseplants, leaves, wood chips, cotton rags, dryer lint, fireplace ashes, hair and fur. Beyond the benefits of reducing carbon emissions and removing much of the unnecessary waste that currently goes into landfills, compost is beneficial for gardening. It enriches the soil, helping retain moisture and suppressing pests. It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. It also encourages the creation of hums, a nutrient-rich material.
The Compost Fairy has three ways for the Memphis community to participate. Self-service community drop off has no cost for those individuals who want to bring compostable materials to the Cooper-Young Farmers Market or the Memphis Farmers Market Downtown on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Residential service is available for $20 a month. The Compost Fairy provides an airtight, sealable bucket to fill with compostable materials. Once a week, the Compost Fairy collects the bucket and replaces it with a clean one. Finally, an office/restaurant service is available starting at $50 a month for businesses that want to compost. Businesses receive a 14-gallon roller bin to fill with compostable materials, which is picked up weekly and replaced with a clean bin. Twice a year, the Compost Fairy delivers screened, finished compost to use for various landscaping and gardening projects at home. Businesses can choose to donate it to schools or community gardens instead.
The Compost Fairy started in October 2017, but its origins date back a few years prior with the desire to obtain additional kitchen scraps for home gardening in the Cooper-Young community. The Compost Fairy has hit a tipping point, thanks to a significant growth in businesses using the service. Long term they want to create a franchise model for the Memphis metro area so individuals can elect to have the service at their home or business. “We want it to transcend economic and geographic boundaries,” Mike said.
While the Compost Fairy depends on subscriptions to sustain and grow the service, board member Caroline Smart said donations to the nonprofit can help it remain as a free drop-off location at farmers markets. “But if you want to get active, just start composting today and drop it off at the farmers market, even just your coffee and veggie peels,” she said. For more information about the service, how to make donations or to volunteer, visit compostfairy.com.
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