Where there is food, they can compost!
Sustainability is an issue facing all businesses today, no matter their size or place in the marketplace. Increasingly, businesses are finding that embracing sustainable practices leads to better corporate culture, more reliable products, and greater long term profitability. Seeing the need, Juneau Composts! owner Lisa Daugherty started her compost processing business as a part-time endeavor with bootstrap financing, committing her own money from another job.
Juneau Composts! is a curbside-collection service for food scraps and yard debris. Providing Juneau with the opportunity to recycle locally by diverting organics from the landfill, they help create soil amendments used for growing local food. To utilize Juneau Composts!, individuals, businesses, and organizations sign up for the weekly collection service, then sort their organics into provided containers, which are set at the curb on collection day.
Materials collected include pre- and post-consumer food scraps, spent grain, shredded paper, yard debris, paper towels, and certified compostable food service ware. The material is taken to a centralized compost facility where hot composting methods are used to create a finished compost product that is pathogen-free and full of microbial life; it is then direct-marketed by the bag. Members of the service receive shares of the finished compost as it becomes available and additional compost is sold to non-members by the bag – they always go quickly!
On her business journey, Lisa shared, “When I built my first hot compost pile in 2009 I was fascinated and instantly hooked. Eventually, I found that I enjoyed making compost just as much as I enjoyed gardening. I started off just wanting to share the science and magic of composting with others, and along the way, I found it could be a viable business. I saw that small-scale curbside composting was happening all across the country and thought that Juneau should be a part of the movement.”
The biggest impact of Juneau Composts! is the environmental component. The service decreases landfill usage, minimizes carbon and methane emissions, and creates a wonderful soil amendment necessary for the sustainable growth of local fruits and vegetables. This locally-produced compost will offset both bagged compost and foods currently barged in from the Lower 48, so it will greatly reduce the carbon footprint of Juneau’s food.
Jennifer Adams, Alaska Small Business Development Center’s (Alaska SBDC) Juneau Center Director and Business Advisor, met Lisa at the Spruce Root Path to Prosperity Contest. They began working together on growing Juneau Composts! and as of November 1st, 2018, Lisa had hired her first employee.
On the importance and timeliness of the business, Jennifer shared, “Environmentally sustainable businesses practices can have a number of significant benefits. For instance, sustainable “green” businesses are often the most innovative because they are constantly reviewing processes to find new solutions. In contrast, other organizations are more likely to simply stick with processes that worked in the past, without considering better and greener alternatives. Eco-conscious businesses also generally have employees who are more invested in their business culture, which provides more fulfilling jobs. The focus on ensuring sustainability also builds a culture of accountability through the organization.”
Currently in the process of leasing a new site for Juneau Composts! compost facility, Lisa is looking forward to having a larger and more centrally located space that will allow them to accept more materials and implement customer drop-off hours.
On her businesses’ impact, Lisa explained, “Tracking the community’s landfill diversion through composting is an exciting numbers game each month. We hit the 100,000-pound mark after a year and a half in service! I am also proud to have an employee. It feels good to know that the business is growing and it can be an employer in the community!”
Her words of advice to fellow budding entrepreneurs? “The schedule is demanding but flexible. You get what you put in. The more efficiently and diligently you work, the better off you’ll be.”
The Alaska Small Business Development Center is excited to see where 2019 will take this emerging eco-friendly business! Keep up with Juneau Composts! on their Facebook page and www.juneaucomposts.com