Compost Club: the new subscriber scheme that turns food waste into gardening gold
Compost Club, a social enterprise founded and run by Michael Kennard, collects members’ food waste every three weeks, and returns nutrient-rich compost containing living micro-organisms for their gardens in spring.
Michael Kennard used to think that the best we could do for the planet was to “be the least bad”. That was until he dived into the world of permaculture, regenerative growing and soil health. Now, he sees sustainability as a minimum requirement for any business. “We can actually make things better if we live well,” he says. Michael is on a mission to change the way people see waste and introduce them to a natural nutrient cycle whereby their food waste becomes compost, which helps them grow more food, which becomes more food waste. And so the cycle continues. “Waste is a human idea,” he says, “and it’s a terrible idea."
Waste is a human idea, and it’s a terrible idea.
His concept for a community composting scheme came about when Michael found that he was unable to produce enough compost for his market garden, in Lewes, East Sussex, on his own. After trying out all of the commercially available organic composts to make up the deficit, he was at a loss. Intuitively, he felt that the product he was buying wasn’t what he needed. He started learning about the soil food web and bought himself a microscope. “I found that although commercial compost is made of organic matter, it’s basically sterile – there’s nothing living in there. That’s the case across the board.”
He realised that to get the quality he was after, he would have to start making his own compost – although, as he points out, “I don’t actually make it. I just create the conditions that allow the micro-organisms to do their work.” Friends and neighbours were keen to donate their waste – the local council in Brighton & Hove doesn’t offer a food-waste collection service, so there were a lot of people who were eager to find a sustainable way of disposing of their waste. Before he knew it, Michael was being offered more food waste than he needed. Not wanting to turn it down, the idea for Compost Club was born.
I don’t actually make compost. I just create the conditions that allow the micro-organisms to do their work.
Club members pay a monthly subscription to have their food waste collected every three weeks in Michael’s electric van. They can opt to have either one or three buckets of compost returned to them in the spring (£12 or £16 a month, respectively) or they can choose to donate their share to community growing projects, which works well for those without a garden or any houseplants. A little goes a long way too – two and-a-half litres is enough to treat six square metres of growing space.
Currently, Michael collects food waste from 180 homes. Excess compost is up for sale to members of the public and can be delivered with plastic-free shipping across the UK.
He also hopes to expand – his work energises him and has fostered a sense of what he calls “joyful service”. He’s particularly keen to spend more time running workshops to spread the Compost Club ethos of healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy people. “By empowering individuals and communities to make compost for themselves, I can have a bigger reach,” he says.
To find out more about Compost Club or to purchase its compost, visit compostclub.online, or follow on Instagram @compost.club
Molly is the Gardens Illustrated's editorial and digital assistant. She has a roof garden and has her RHS level 2.
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