The New Sexy: System Impact

04/08/2013 05:01 pm ET | Updated Oct 24, 2013

This post is part of our Millennial Impact spring series "Getting Fresh." These blogs highlight our young, innovative contributors who have new ideas to solve old challenges. Check out more here.

One would think that a technology used to rapidly accelerate composting would be an ultimate competitor to the traditional composter. These advanced clean energy technologies create the right conditions for the biological process of bacteria to grow in the absence of oxygen and to break down organic carbon compounds of organic waste (green and food waste) into two high value by-products, biogas and electricity. Simply, it is just 'sexier' than the time-tested practice of windrow composting, a manually intensive production of compost by piling organic matter or biodegradable waste into long rows (windrows). Both systems have the same goal, vary in results, but which one do you think tends to be more economically viable?

Given the ability to process large volumes of organic waste while requiring massively less footprints, anaerobic digestion typically receives the preferential treatment and though it is slow to adopt in the U.S., curiosity around it is rapidly increasing.

However, these circumstances allude to the idea that windrow composting will always compete with anaerobic digestion for organic waste, available land, and investment. However, we are proving this to be a fallacy as we focus on creating 'system impact'. At Re-Nuble, we try to collaborate with local non-profits, NGO's, and social enterprises that all are invested and committed to our same core goals: increasing healthy food production with sustainable agriculture, creating cleaner and prosperous communities, and creating economic development. We evaluate what the past, current, and future needs are for all stakeholders impacted by food excess in the communities that we service. There are food recovery groups in the D.C. metropolitan area such as the Food Recovery Network that has proven a successful model of recovering food from university campus facilities and distributing it to local food banks and shelters for consumption before it is considered truly salvageable. There is also Growing Soul, which has several composting facilities throughout southern Maryland and is helping to provide the missing link that develops a sustainable, closed-loop food system. Their impact has many fruitful extensions as they not only create a high value compost but also leverage its nutritious compost to support their aquaponic systems for additional food production, offer food preparation and packaging workshops and skills training to both preserve and prepare food, and provide jobs for the underserved.

Could Re-Nuble have mimicked the impact of the Food Recovery Network and Growing Soul? Yes, but that's not our focus nor do we want to be a company that is a deck of all cards. By leveraging our value in being system integrators, we instead are collaborating with these organizations to amplify our impact through a grassroots driven model that assesses how we can give back in a way that will support other grassroots organizations.

Community driven solutions that are inclusive of everyone's needs and able to competitively achieve impact is our innovation, value, and leadership.