A crash course in changing the world.
For this mission, I used my journalistic talents to interview Chris Cano of Gainesville Compost earlier in the semester. I've been trying to get the article published in The Alligator or The Gainesville Sun and will continue to do so, but for now, here's the draft:
Chris Cano doesn’t see leftover food as trash, but instead, an opportunity for growth.
The 24-year-old UF graduate has spent the last seven months collecting food leftovers from local restaurants and turning it into nutrient-rich topsoil through composting, a process which occurs when organic scraps are recycled and decomposed in a controlled way.
His business initiative is called Gainesville Compost. Cano’s work began as a composting program that worked exclusively with traditional restaurant leftovers. But last month, his company teamed up with music-streaming website Grooveshark.
Cano said this partnership is significant because it effectively lowered the composting opportunity barriers, showing everyone that you don’t have to be a restaurant to act sustainably with your food.
“Both Gainesville Compost and Grooveshark are local startup companies, so I thought this would be a great place to start our non-traditional restaurant efforts,” Cano said. “Grooveshark wanted to do something about its food waste, and we are more than happy to help take it off their hands.”
Cano said the partnership consists of Gainesville Compost members sorting through the Grooveshark cafeteria leftovers and picking out suitable composting foods. Suitable foods are limited to fresh food waste, such as uncooked vegetables, fruits, coffee grounds and egg shells.
The leftovers are then taken to one of Gainesville Compost's five composting locations by team members on bicycles. The company’s composting locations are at the Alachua County Farmers Market, The Church of Holy Colors, Tempo Bistro, the Krishna House and The Midnight. After the food is composted, team members use the soil to grow food in gardens at the composting locations. The results are then donated to local food banks.
“We have the ability to tie this community together over our local food waste problem,” Cano said. “By building this urban agriculture network, we can demonstrate how waste can become food, showing everyone how powerful sustainability can be.”
Grooveshark iPhone engineer Chris Nielubowicz said he initiated the partnership when he approached Cano at the weekly farmers-market. Nielubowicz, 27, said he has been working there for almost two years and tried to start a small-scale composting initiative, but couldn’t manage to run the program by himself. Now with the help of Gainesville Compost, Grooveshark is successfully running a composting program that he is proud of.
“The wh*** process has been fantastically hands-off,” Nielubowicz said. “Because it doesn’t take much effort on our chef’s part, everyone seems amenable to making the positive effort.”
Grooveshark cafeteria’s chef feeds roughly 50 people daily. Nielubowicz said employees who’ve heard about the composting have been excited about it, but that most of the staff members haven’t even noticed the composting because of how well organized Gainesville Compost has been.
“Everything has played out smoothly so far,” Nielubowicz said. “There’s no smell, no hassle, and Gainesville Compost does constant pickups.”
He explained that composting fits in perfectly with Grooveshark’s already “green” work environment, comprised of mostly young people who want to make small changes. He said many employees bike to work, use public transportation and recycle when possible.
“Businesses are given the opportunity to make the community better,” Nielubowicz said. “Gainesville is our community, and whether it’s composting or buying local produce, we’re trying to work toward a greener work environment.”
The University of Florida is also working with Gainesville Compost to develop an on-campus composting solution, according to UF Office of Sustainability Outreach Coordinator Ashley Pennington. She explained that as it stands, there isn’t a place on campus with the capacity for processing the large amounts of food waste that comes from the dining halls.
Pennington said she was happy to hear that a recent UF graduate has remained in Gainesville to start his organization. “Chris’s work is serving as a great transitional composting solution until Gainesville has a larger industrial-scale composting option. It’s all about taking these small steps.”