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Detroit Dirt lays the groundwork for green-minded living

Posted by Mike Jordan on February 21, 2019
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Photo Courtesy of crainsdetroit.com

Photo Courtesy of crainsdetroit.com

There’s no doubt that the city of Detroit has been a city in transition during the last 10 years and there’s no better example of this than the city’s commitment to green-minded living.

In 2019, more companies are committed to transitioning Detroit from a city that’s dependent upon fossil fuels to a city that’s environmentally self-sufficient and one company that’s leading the way is Detroit Dirt.

Founded by Pashon Murray, Detroit Dirt takes pride in the saying “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” because they actively show local residents how to thrive on a daily basis with zero waste living.

 

About Detroit Dirt

Since it’s founding in 2010, the Detroit based non-profit has successfully diverted close to 100 million pounds of waste from local landfills and converted it into compost that’s nutrient-rich and excellent for the local environment.

Their compost has been so successful that’s it’s sought out by gardeners and urban farmers in the city who are looking for the best compost to add to their flower or vegetable beds and it can also be purchased online via detroitdirt.org.

Detroit Dirt isn’t a big operation by any means but like most small businesses in the area, they have a heart for their customers. Right not they have three people who work for the company full time and a trio of part-time employees who step up and help from time to time when needed.

What’s great about their operation is that they collect food waste that would be discarded anyway and turn it into compost that’s going to be put to good use in the local community.

For example, the company recently made a trip downtown to the GM Renaissance Center where they picked up food waste from General Motors and they also collected from an additional 26 restaurants that operate in the area as well.

Once they collected the food waste, Detroit Dirt will then truck it to their leased Southwest Detroit property where they spread it out into piles and begin the 10-12-month process of converting that trash into compost.

To create compost, the piles will naturally heat up to about 170 degrees once they are spread out and over the coming year Detroit dirt employees will occasionally turn the piles and add worms to speed up the process.

What’s great about Detroit Dirt is that Pashon Murray and her company have taken something that everyone makes (trash) and turned it literally into a “hot commodity” that’s in demand across the Detroit area and used by everyone from backyard farmers to institutional growers of organic food.

 

Photo Courtesy of "The Journal"

Photo Courtesy of “The Journal”

Serving the entire Detroit community

Besides collecting organic waste from businesses and local restaurants, Detroit Dirt also collects organic waste from the Detroit Zoo as well but what they collect from the zoo isn’t just typical waste, it’s a “product” that’s comprised of food and manure and is already broken down through a biodigester and ready to go once it’s collected by Pashon and her team.

To ensure the safety of Detroit residents, the product that’s collected from the zoo is taken to the Detroit Dirt property where it’s broken down for another 30 days or more before it’s ready to be sold and used on someone’s local property.

If you decide to purchase dirt from the company online you can have confidence that it’s going to be delivered in a biodegradable package since the company has contracted with a local company who packages their dirt in eco-friendly boxes before shipping it off locally to homeowners or businesses in the area.

Since the company started in 2010 word quickly spread about Detroit Dirt and now their services are in demand across Detroit from local companies who want to participate in sustainable business practices.

It’s not uncommon for companies like Little Caesars to Shinola/Detroit LLC to utilize Detroit Dirt’s services because they want the best way to process their food waste without it wasting away in local landfills.

Thanks to the success of their operation, Detroit Dirt has been growing through “growing pains” so the company recently started negotiations with the city of Detroit to purchase many more acres in Southwest Detroit that they can use for creating their dirt that’s no sought out in the local community.

Another great thing about the success of Detroit Dirt is that more “big box” stores like Home Depot and Meijer are catching on to what the company has been doing and they have been expressing an interest in selling Detroit dirt’s product in their stores sometime this year.

Right now, the company has annual revenue of over $200,000 per year but that could soon change if they are to sign retail contracts with local stores. When those contracts come in though, the company knows that it’s going to have to expand to meet demand because they are going to need capital to take on those new contracts so we should be hearing more about the company in the news during the next 10 months.

 

Zero waste mindset

There’s no doubt that more companies like Detroit Dirt are needed to convert our cities into areas where the waste of any kind is not tolerated. Thankfully, with the help of her company and also her activism, Pashon Murray has been able to spread her zero waste message and encourage more people to be focused on building a low carbon community.

The Detroit of 2019 stands in stark contrast to the city of the 20th Century that was known for its pollution because most of the automotive manufacturing in the United States was focused here and that progress also led to heavy pollution and damaging effects to the local community.

Even though progress is being made with the help of companies like Detroit Dirt to reduce the pollution in our environment, more work is needed because as late as 2015 the area had 161 “dirty air days” (source: Michiganradio.org) but the good news is that with more companies focusing on saving the environment there is hope that the years of pollution can ultimately be reversed.

 

A product that everyone needs

Good dirt is essentially everyone needs because it doesn’t matter if you own or rent a home in the Detroit area, as long as you want to grow something, you’re going to need high-quality compost or good dirt to grow it!

Pashon Murray is a unique entrepreneur because she’s taken something that everyone needs and has built a thriving business model around it.

She’s literally leading the way in reshaping how the city thinks about environmental consciousness and there’s hope that her efforts will continue to be the driving force that reshapes Detroit into a “green city” that people will turn to as an example of progress in the years to come.

The art of composting is literally one of the oldest practices that humans have been participating in for centuries. The earliest known example of composting can be traced back to the ancient Akkadian Empire who recorded on stone tablets their use of manure or “rotted manure straw” in agriculture.

Composting didn’t really start taking off until the middle of the 19th century when German scientists began to pioneer modern organic or “scientific” farming as they called it but most farmers back then preferred to use chemicals to create their compost.

Sadly, by the 20th century, most gardeners around the world were using chemicals in their gardens on a regular basis but composting was still a practice that flourished behind the scenes especially thanks to the work of Sir. Albert Howard, an agronomist who living in India for close to 30 years pioneering organic farming.

Upon returning to Britain, Howard would eventually write a book called “An Agriculture Testament”, which would become one of the most well-known books on agriculture in the world and earn him the recognition as the father of organic farming.

 

More than just dirt

Even though her business is thriving, Pashon Murray’s focus hasn’t always been on selling dirt, she wants to educate people in Detroit and around the world about waste reduction with her recently launched Detroit Dirt Foundation.

The foundation provides educational programs to the local community which teaches people about soil contamination and erosion. She started the foundation with the help of a $50,000 grant that she received from Bosch’s community fund.

To help her establish her educational programs, Pashon Murray assembled a small team from the University of Wisconsin and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help her develop the focus of her foundation and the direction of her educational programs.

Besides the work of her Detroit Dirt foundation, Murray has also turned to the internet to help her spread her waste reduction message and she’s seemingly appeared everywhere from a 2015 TEDx talk to a wide variety of podcasts, talk shows and YouTube videos where she’s educated people about the importance of waste reduction and composting.

For most people over the age of 40, recycling has been something that we’ve grown up with for a generation, and for good reason, because our world continues to produce more waste than ever before and recycling is one of the most productive things that anyone can do with their waste.

Here are some statistics about recycling that show why It’s important for the world to maintain its commitment to recycling:

  • Nine-tenths of all solid waste in the United States does not get recycled.
  • Landfills are among the biggest contributors to soil pollution – roughly 80% of the items buried in landfills could be recycled.
  • Although 75% of America’s waste is recyclable, we only recycle around 30% of it. Turns out, there are a few easy steps you can take to start recycling better.
  • A single recycled plastic bottle saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 4 hours. It also creates 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution that would be created when making a new bottle.
  • Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy as it takes to burn it.
  • It only takes 5 recycled plastic bottles to make enough fiberfill to stuff a ski jacket.
  • Motor oil never wears out, it just gets dirty – and it can be recycled.
  • The U.S. recycling rate is around 34.5%. If we’re able to get the rate to 75%, the effect will be like removing 50 million passenger cars from U.S. roads.
  • Over 11 million tons of recyclable clothing, shoes, and textiles make their way into landfills each year.
  • The leading cities for recycling in the US are (#1) San Francisco, CA (#2) Boston, MA (#3) Chicago, IL (#4) Denver, CO and (#5) Portland, OR.
  • The leading countries for recycling rates are: (#1) Switzerland [52%] (#2) Australia [49.7%] (#3) Germany [48%] (#4) Netherlands [46%] and (#5) Norway [40%]. The United States comes in around 31.5%.
  • 9 out of 10 people said they would recycle if it were “easier”.
  • Studies indicate that women on average typically express more concern for the environment and are more likely to recycle than men.
  • The United States throws away $11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging every year.

Source – Rubiconglobal.com

 

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