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Zero-Waste Drama: Return of the Worms

“We are a waste innovation company, not a recycling company!”

That was a mantra repeated by our founder in the early days of Thread. Some people might argue the difference is merely semantics. But we’ve learned over the years, innovative waste management extends far beyond recycling.

Thread’s mission is to transform waste into useful stuff people love and dignified jobs in developing countries like Haiti and Honduras. We’re quite good at this.

But when it comes to the waste we produce at Theadquarters, we still have room for improvement.

The Struggle is Real

We recycle, but there are a lot of materials we use in the course of normal business that our municipality doesn’t accept.

So, we invest in zero-waste boxes from Terracycle, save our fabric scraps for artists using it in their work, and I routinely mock anyone who comes through our door with a single-use coffee cup. (The only recyclable piece of that is the don’t-melt-your-fingers-off cardboard sleeve.)

Quick sidebar—invest in a good reusable coffee mug, OK? It saves money. It saves so much waste. It keeps coffee warmer longer. Win-Win-Win.

There’s also an educational component to achieving zero-waste. Everyone thinks they know what can be recycled. In actuality, each municipality is different and most folks mess it up. Add the complexity of properly separating waste and changing habits, and the quest for zero-waste becomes tantamount to finding and destroying seven horcruxes (Spoiler Alert: the last one is Harry).

Recycling is important and it is what our sustainable business revolves around. Recycle! Or else!The poster that hangs over our various waste receptacles. My subtle attempt at encouraging recycling habits in the office.

Then There’s Composting

Thread’s history with composting is… complicated. We tried it early on. Bought our own worms, and set up a bin in the office with high hopes.
Unfortunately, we also worked in a co-working space and failed to take into account that stressed-out entrepreneurs and freelancers subsist mainly on coffee. An overwhelming amount of coffee grounds ended up in our compost bucket without enough dry matter to balance the damp acidity of the grounds.

The worms tried to escape in a caffeine-fueled exodus, which didn’t do much for our popularity in the space.

Comment LRKBasecamp humor.

Then the fruit flies came.

They were fruitful and multiplied and soon dominated the workspace. We had to concede we weren’t making home-made traps fast enough to control the population and management politely told us it was time to wrap up our composting experiment.

Enter the Worm Guy

You can perhaps imagine the skepticism when I announced this month that we would begin composting again.

This time, there are no worms in the office and the compost is removed once a week by the team at Shadyside Worms. We simply put our compostable stuff into a bucket and leave it at the bottom of the stairs on Friday to be picked up. Easy, right?

Well, it would have been if the first week we did this, the cleaning crew that comes to clean our building every week hadn’t taken our compost bucket away with all of the other trash.

One week in and we were already those problematic customers who had lost their bucket.

But we carry on. A new compost bucket has been procured, the building management has been alerted, and we continue towards the goal of becoming a zero-waste office. It’s less of a linear race and more like taking a walk with a toddler—running in circles, falling over, becoming distracted by a weird bug.

At the end of the day though, we’re sending fewer and fewer pounds of waste to the landfill, which is the incremental improvement we can all hope to achieve.

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