Welcome to BioBag’s Community Heroes series! Each month, we will highlight community heroes that are making a difference in their communities and working to make their local environments cleaner and healthier.
This month, we are taking a look at Moonshot Compost!
Moonshot Compost’s mission is to help people learn to see excess food not as trash, but as a valuable resource to a community, one with nutrients to be returned to the soil. They hope to help dedicate this resource to the highest and best use, whether that is backyard composting, composting at a community or urban garden, or through a larger facility. Founders Chris Wood and Joe Villa provided us with some more information about Moonshot Compost, which you can read below.
What led you to start your composting operation?
Moonshot Compost: We started Moonshot Compost to try to answer a question: “Why hasn’t food waste recycling happened in Houston?” Chris left his job in corporate America, and Joe left his job in transportation logistics about the same time, and [they] started collaborating on this central question.
We had initially assumed the lack of food waste recycling was due to insufficient composting capacity. We attended a United States Composting Council week-long training on operating a composting facility and began learning everything we could about composting in Houston. What became clear was Houston has lots of good composting, but there was very little transportation. We heard story after story about businesses and institutions over the prior three years who had made inquiries with composters for food diversion programs, but invariably, the programs failed for lack of logistics. And then we learned more about the tipping fees in Houston, and how much pressure the low tipping fees put on the entire value chain for selling compost. At that point, we decided we were going to figure it out.
We started planning in earnest in January 2020, we launched our residential pilot program in June 2020, and began collecting monthly service fees in July 2020. We don’t say we’ve figured anything out yet. We have received great advice from kind and wise people with similar businesses across the country. If this works, it will be in large part because so many people have shared so much of their time and wisdom with us.
Who do you serve, and how can people get in touch with you if they want to start composting?
Moonshot Compost: We tell anyone and everyone we meet that we collect and consolidate food waste for composting from residences, restaurants, and other businesses in Houston. People can find us on the web at www.startcomposting.com, by phone at 713-955-0011, and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our residential program is primarily curbside pick-up, though we have an amazing drop-off location at an urban farm in central Houston. Our commercial program tends to be very individualized for each client. We make a commitment to our industrial composting partners to deliver a contaminant-free stream of food waste. That means that when we are working with restaurants, schools, apartments, and other businesses to design a plan, we take each of their specific circumstances into account to make diverting easy and keeping contaminants out just as easy. Because food diversion programs are still a new concept for many businesses in Houston, we find this approach quickly removes any stigma and gets people excited about the potential. We also return compost to our subscribers twice per year, which is a great opportunity to advocate the benefits of “closing the loop.” Our subscribers were really energized by our compost delivery in early October.
How much organic material do you typically take in on a weekly basis?
Moonshot Compost: We are young as a company, and having started during the pandemic, are happy to report that we have been able to operate safely for our customers, employees, and all our families. In these times, that alone feels like a huge win. Our monthly average collection volumes have increased approximately 160% per month since June 2020, when we collected for a handful of families for free. In October 2020, we collected over 2 tons.
Please give us one fun fact about your business.
Moonshot Compost: We are a family affair. Chris and Joe are brothers-in-law, married to sisters. And their wives’ other sister is our “ambassador of quan,” making sure that our social media campaigns reflect Moonshot’s personality.
We noticed that we spent quite a bit of time explaining to people what we do, what food waste diversion programs are, and what compost is good for. To help people conceptualize all of this faster, we worked with our marketing firm to produce a short cartoon. It was finished recently, and we are very proud of it. The cartoon can be viewed above or on YouTube.
If you would like to be featured in a future edition of Community Heroes, please email us at email@example.com.