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Watch out for compost coins? Charleston composters snuggle into to the coolest niche ever.

· community composting,southern composters,curbside collection,grassroots

I met Nathan and Sarah from Compost Rangers last week at the US Composting Council conference in Atlanta. At the composter mixer held at Post Office Co-Work Space, I asked Sarah if she could share her blue polyester chair with me, and she said yes! I found out on a delightful phone call with Nathan that he is mildly obsessed with using the word "post" to refer to compost - it's a shortened, better version of compost. Each of their titles uses this word - there is a 'Post Master General (Nathan,) 'Post Publisher (Sarah) and Chief 'Post Officer (Mark Rasmussen.) Not a single person at the compost mixer mentioned the insane perfection of 100 community composters from all over the country dancing around a borrowed warehouse for fancy folk that's basically called compost. Compost Now from Raleigh donated all the boxed wine and tacos, and it was the best! They even let me share a bunk room with the boys so that I wouldn't have to drop $200 bucks on a hotel room at the Westin - super nice. One of them actually put a blanket in the dryer for me, totally unnecessary and wonderful, maybe the way many people think about compost service?

Back to Compost Rangers. They are unique in the community composting industry because they are a non-profit - their revenue comes from grants, donations, compost collection memberships, custom service to build backyard compost systems, and mini-sanctuaries...little glass jars with compost and an herb to grow forever in your windowsill. They are located in Charleston, South Carolina which is leading the way for the composting industry in the South. A community of about 570,000 people has 3 compost haulers: SMART recycle (who just got a Kroger composting contract,) Food Waste Disposal and of course, Compost Rangers. Especially important to all of this is the world class Bees' Ferry Composting Facility! Open to both commercial haulers and the public, Bees' Ferry is a commercial composting facility mixes wood chips with food scraps to make delicious compost for everyone.

Compost Rangers took the non-profit route in lieu of buying private planes. Unlike other composting companies, Nathan had the foresight to see that the numbers weren't really there for a business, (many green folk are uncomfortable with green dollars and dive in anyway.) He says, "we have always been in the mindset to have a "change for good" mentality. There wasn't any advocacy and education around composting at the time, just commercial service for businesses. They are not a 501 C-3 but have a fiscal sponsor called LOVE, Inc.

"We would like to see every resident in Charleston compost in some way." - Nathan Burnell

They want to be a link and connection between other composting companies, rather than the entire solution in one. At Compost Rangers' inception, the Charleston market was flooded with larger scale haulers so there was room for a non-profit. He started composting by bicycle and found out that they were making too much compost within the state's regulations, (you have to be 200-1000 ft away from a city park, school, residents...) and instead they found a way to partner with various gardens and also outsource some of the hauling to SMART Recycle. On site is okay (backyard,) and hauled to Bees' Ferry is okay but composting in the garden gets...sticky.

Their model is also unique in that they don't do any hauling by bicycle or truck. All of the compost is dropped off to them (members pay $25/month to participate,) and the compost is taken to gardens or picked up in bulk by SMART. I asked Nathan when he envisioned that the organization was so successful that he could just sit on the beach with Sarah all day...

"Being a non-profit you might not ever be able to sit on a beach and reap the rewards, but you do have the ability to receive a salary one day...which would be nice. Also, you can write off all kinds of things as a contractor of a non-profit, like work socks. And other things."

There are SO many ways to compost in Charleston:

#1: Drop off at Bees Ferry ($25/ton)

#2: Backyard composting (scary, but exciting to some)

#3: Compost Rangers builds you a backyard bin with a matching raised bed ($75-200)

#4: Drop off at Sunday Brunch ($25/month)

#5: Burying your food (think time capsules of the early 90's)

Most helpful things that Compost Rangers NEEDS:

1. The county already picks up the browns so there is already the resource of trucks driving around town to just get a third bin that's a smaller can for the trash. They could advocate for the city to do that. The only other way is that they would give kick-backs to people who produce less waste. (Pay as you throw system.) With commercial it is pay as you throw. This one is crazy because it would put them out of business, but luckily Nathan has dreams of a grilled cheese food truck so it's fine.

2. ipad with google form.

3. Invitation to Pechakucha

Compost Rangers has a secret dream of becoming a food waste dictionary.

Compost Ranger = someone who helps you compost

Compost Quarters = a backyard compost bin that is amazing

Compost collection membership straightforward terminology but sounds way better than curbside composting or organics collection or source separated organic pick-up.

Sanctuaries"- upcycled glass jars with compost and various succulents and herbs and flowers that keep growing and don't need to be re-planted in the ground.

Endless bucket of opportunity = composting!!

Compost Coins = a strange barter market where you trade soil for food?

So hit up Compost Rangers if you live in Charleston and want help composting in your yard, the coolest custom bin ever, or an easy drop-off compost service. Also, they like to compost-advise on Instagram. So grateful to have met these fantastic folk in Atlanta! And for the gift of blue chairs.

Learn more at: http://compostrangers.com and follow them here and here.

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