Matt Rostetter was taken by surprise to learn that someone had nominated CompostNow, his Raleigh-based compost pickup and soil delivery service, for Green America's seasonal People and Planet Green Business Award.
"We got notified that we were in the Top 10, and it was like a monthlong free-for-all," Rostetter says. "You tell everybody to Facebook-like your business and vote for you to win. It felt a little selfish trying to figure out how to campaign for your own company to get people's votes, but that's how you're supposed to do it, I guess."
Selfish or not, whatever he did worked. CompostNow came in second place, and green-business advocacy group Green America awarded Rostetter's company a $5,000 prize. "That's going to enable us to bring in a driver in the next month," he says, "so I finally will be retired as a driver and can put all of my time into growing the business."
Rostetter founded CompostNow in 2010 to help people who wanted to dispose of their food waste sustainably, without having to worry about composting it themselves. Each week, Rostetter picks up cartons of food waste from customers across the Triangle and drops off clean cartons. Brooks Contractor gathers the collective waste from CompostNow headquarters and recycles it into rich soil at a high-efficiency facility in Goldston; Rostetter then delivers the soil back to his customers or donates it to community gardens.
"I see compost as a step in a cycle," Rostetter says. "There's a movement where everyone wants to buy good food that comes from their community. We're helping people be a part of a more circular food system where they buy local food, their waste gets recycled locally, and it gets turned into soil that is then used to grow the produce that they are getting locally."
CompostNow has grown from a crew of Rostetter and his Honda Element to a four-person team with a CEO, a web technician, a van, office space and opportunities to branch out into Asheville and other communities.
To food businesses, apartment dwellers and people who don't want to deal with the constant upkeep and threat of pests that home composting entails, CompostNow is invaluable.
"You don't have to tell someone why recycling is important," Rostetter says. "Everybody does bottles and cans. Composting is today's recycling. It's more waste that doesn't have to go to the landfill."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Creative recyclers turn going green into thriving business models."