POWER 9® PEOPLE
An ongoing series about people improving their well-being
Fort Worth is the largest certified Blue Zones Community® in the country. Each month we talk to a different member of our community and find out how they experience well-being in their neighborhood. This month’s featured guest is Melissa Pringle, founder of Compost Carpool. While you may not realize it, tons of produce and other compostable material goes into local landfills daily. Compost Carpool rescues unsold or blemished produce from grocers then transports it to local schools, food pantries or urban farms.
Q: How did you start Compost Carpool?
A: I was living in a townhouse, searching for ways to be more sustainably focused. One of the best things you can do is compost your food waste, but I didn’t have a garden or any yard. I thought – if somebody could pick this up and do something with it, I would pay for this!
Q: You’re part of this intricate web of rescuing food that could still be used and getting it to the places it needs to go. How did this “fruitful” partnership with Blue Zones Project come about?
A: Blue Zones Project brought everyone together and is creating new avenues for fresh fruits and vegetables to be distributed in the community. One of our business partners made the connection at an event. Blue Zones Project has developed these relationships with farmers. Food donations get picked up from Foodland Markets and Elrod’s Cost Plus – we do one day a week for compost and one day a week for donation. The grocery stores have five bins for compost – Blue Zones Project has done a great job of training the produce managers to separate the compost pile from the donation piles.
A: We take food and some food-soiled paper goods, like pizza boxes, which can’t be recycled. We’ll take fruits, veggies, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea bags, but no meat or dairy. We offer a smaller scale service so residential clients can drop off buckets at Clearfork Farmer’s Market.
Q: Making sure that children and families in need have access to fresh produce is a key element of Blue Zones Project. What types of produce might families receive?
A: Once a week we take wholesome produce to four local school food pantries, and they give it out immediately to their families. We see a variety of produce that changes with the seasons — cucumbers, peppers, potatoes with a few dings on them, sometimes bags of oranges, lettuce where the outside leaves are discolored, squash, and apples that bruise easily. But perfectly good to eat.
Q: How much usable food and compost have you kept out of landfills?
A: For this project so far, we diverted 150,503 pounds of produce or 75 tons from the landfill. We have donated 13,746 pounds – almost 7 tons – to schools and other organizations.
Q: It’s not just about delivering slightly imperfect apples to families, either. There’s a full circle of benefits keeping extra food waste out of landfills.
A: Thirty percent of Fort Worth’s garbage comes from commercial and residential food waste. When there’s less organic material in our landfills, we all have a healthier environment. And farmers are naturally improving their soil on a bigger scale without worrying about how to find compost materials.
Q: Many people don’t realize that landfills are not an unlimited resource. The City of Fort Worth estimates that we have about 20 years of space left.
A: What I love about Compost Carpool is that it’s really cyclical. You’re diverting compost from landfills, which reduces greenhouse gasses. You’re replenishing the soil which creates more nutrient-dense food. You’re not using chemical fertilizers which kill microbes that are essential to support healthy produce and prevent soil erosion.
Q: Two of the recipients of the compost, produce that can’t be reused, are Opal’s Farm and Mind Your Garden, urban farms taking a stab at eliminating food inequity in their communities. How does this help them?
A: The food we grow and eat pulls nutrients out of the soil. Composting helps put those nutrients back in. One of the farmers said that, thanks to access to this compost, he saw double the yield of his crops this year.
Q: Can you share with us about how people at home can successfully compost and reduce waste?
A: All you have to do is make a small decision about how to make things better. Pick food waste, pick limited use of plastic, or alternatives to using plastic that ends up in landfill. Buy only what you’re going to eat, or learn how to preserve foods. Look up recipes that use food that’s a little past its prime. Look at fermenting foods – there’s a lot of ways to use food before you throw it out. And then compost with us!
Learn more about Compost Carpool at compostcarpool.com.
For more information about Blue Zones Project, visit LiveLongFortWorth.com