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April 20, 2011

BTV Ups Its Enviro Cred With Bicycle Compost Pick-up

Compost Thanks to a new bicycle compost collection business, Burlington is now one step closer to standing side-by-side with Portland, Ore., and other progressive bike-centric cities. Revolution Compost, a new service of One Revolution, a relatively new bicycle hauling operation in Burlington, picks up residential compost by bike and deposits it at the Chittenden Solid Waste District drop-off center on Pine Street. The service began mid-March, and so far has 18 customers. (We profiled One Revolution here.)

Mark Bromley, who runs the business with his two adult kids, Sam and Anna, explains the service like this:

For a one-time start-up fee of $25, Revolution Compost provides customers with a compost tote into which folks can dump their compost directly. (They can also provide compostable bags for an extra cost.) Every Tuesday (or every other Tuesday, depending on the customer's needs), Revolution will come pick up the compost and pedal it down to CSWD. Weekly pick-up costs $8; biweekly pick-up costs $10.

Composting by bike has its rewards beyond environmental sustainability. For every 30 gallons (or five totes) that Revolution hauls away from a customer, that customer earns a five-gallon bag of Intervale Compost, delivered to his/her door by bike. That's a pretty good deal, Bromley says -- "One would be hard-pressed to make that much compost with 30 gallons of scraps."

In the month they've been at it, Revolution has generated a fair bit of buzz. And since the Intervale operation closed down, the timing for their venture couldn't have been more perfect. People who don't want to drive to Pine Street or one of CSWD's six other drop-off sites because they're lazy are totally set. And people who are worried about expending fossil fuels to transport their compost can feel secure in the knowledge that no CO2 was emitted in the process. 

While Revolution Compost is certainly a novel business here in Chittenden County -- at present, they are the only bicycle compost pick-up -- the idea isn't all that new. In Northhampton, Mass., Pedal People has been hauling people's compost away for years. Then there's VeloVeggies in Minneapolis, Eureka Recycling in St. Paul, Minn., and Pedal Co-op in Philadelphia, all providing similar compost hauling services. Still, it's new to Burlington, and somewhat more challenging given the climate and the hills. 

The early positive response gives Bromley hope. "We're feeling pretty confident about it," he says. "We're feeling like it's a real viable thing." 


There's no future in a business plan that replaces machines with human labor.

I don't want to rain on this guys parade, hey more people working is all the better, but really....

People are already paying for recycling pick up... now they are paying again? I mean hey, if you have boatloads of money and a guilty conscience have at it. I just can't see a business that relies on people paying for a service already provided to really take off and make a go of it.

Not too mention even if all the customers had bi-weekly pickups you are talking $180/week for 3 people before taxes. One has to wonder what other sources of income these people have to be able to survive off of ~$40/week/person?

JCARTER, the argument, "why would people pay for something that's free" could be used against having your pizza delivered, or buying bottled water, or buying Starbucks coffee (when you could pay much less to make your own), or paying non-Bank ATM fees, or buying exercise equipment, or buying books or movies (when the library is just down the street), etc. It's that thing called convenience that some successful businesses tap into. This one is attempting to tap into the convenience of not having to worry about what do do with your compost, as well as the prevalent mindset in our Burlington community that green is generally better. I think they have a better chance they you give them.

Also, your $180/week figure assumes they won't grow. I'm pretty sure most successful businesses started small and most probably involved full-time jobs elsewhere that supplemented the initial income or lack thereof. I applaud this family for giving it a shot. The rain on this parade has officially turned into a rainbow.

The kid down the street from me started a paper route, details at 11

PS. If you check out the company's website or read Ken's profile (linked above), you'll realize this is more than just a composting business and a little more noteworthy than sarcasstic Jimmy's paperboy, unless, of course Jimmy's the paperboy in which case Seven Days should publish a profile on him. I would gladly pay for my free copy of Seven Days to read that profile.

"a little more noteworthy than sarcasstic Jimmy's paperboy"

Very little, and only in that an adult hauling garbage around on a bike is slightly more entertaining than a kid with newspapers.

"People who don't want to drive to Pine Street or one of CSWD's six other drop-off sites because they're lazy are totally set."

Because they are lazy? Who edited this article? My guess is NOBODY. So people who don't want to drive are considered LAZY? I am a workaholic. Let's say I get pizza delivered one night. Does that make me lazy? I do own a car and I do drive...

I LOVE this!!! More power to them. I'd totally pay for this service if I lived in Burlington (and didn't have my own compost system). This may be the same guy I saw deliver Intervale's CSA's last spring and I asked my daughter to post a photo, I think it's the coolest thing ever. And to Tim I just say, me thinks your values are skewed, it's about reducing our carbon footprint. And to Jeff, Pizza delivery by bicycle, hmmmmm.....


your argument doesn't hold water. Yes the things you describe are convience issues. This is not. See you already put your little blue bin out on the curb and someone comes and picks it up. How is this anymore convient then that? Does this guy come in your house and collect it?

As for the business growing, sure it can grow. Let's do a little math. Since we know that a livable wage is considered somewhere around $13/hr, and a 40hr work week would get you $520/week, then these 3 people need to bring in 1560/week to be at "making ends meet." Now, at $8/week, that means that they need 195 customers. That's a lot of growth, and while they may get there, it's not going to be for a while when you are competing with a free service. In the meantime they still have to live.

FYI, JCarter, recycling and composting are not the same thing. The city picks up the blue bins for recycling, but not residential compost. You either have to drop off compost at a CSWD drop-off site or have a private hauler (like Revolution Compost) pick it up.

My bad, Thanks for pointing that out Tyler, I totally read the article as recycling. Now you can see my pessimissim with makeing a go of this business.

I still think the business is a long shot, but it makes much more sense.

My apologies for misreading the article.

JCARTER, unless I'm reading the article wrong, I think One Revolution's "Compost Revolution" service has 18 compost customers thus far, but that this number doesn't account for however many customers One Revolution has for their other services, which are (taken from their website): wholesale distribution, retail delivery, publication distribution, same day package delivery, catering delivery, and CSA delivery. And this also doesn't account for any money earned through the advertising spots they offer on their bike trailers.

Lauren, could you please clarify the 18 customer number?

Certainly, Mr. Benchly. Revolution Compost, a sub-business of One Revolution, has, at present 18 customers. This is after just a month of operation and zero advertising. One Revolution itself has many regular clients, including the Intervale Food Hub, for whom Bromley's company hauls thousands of pounds of produce all over the city.

I'm not a regular blogger so am enthralled by the comments - all the comments! Our humble little venture is in fact a business but one small part of the whole. Livable wages are indeed hard to come by with many small businesses and ours is no different. Everyone of us has other ventures and interests. We hope simply that it is a valuable service for some and know its not for everyone. To our customers credit, they believe enough in the value of soil and waste reduction to pay for the service. We cannot live on this alone but bicycles and small ventures taken collectively have the capacity to change our communities for the better. Small ventures - hence the name of our parent business - One Revolution. Not a big revolution, - one small individual humble revolution on a bigger path. Thanks to Seven Days and all the great comments!

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