For our latest guest in the Wichita By E.B. Q&A Series, we are joined by Jesse Marks, owner of Nudge Compost. A locally owned company in helping the city become a better place. Jesse not only is a great defender in pickup basketball games but also a great defender in the health of our city.
So with that said, I’d like to welcome Jesse as the latest interviewee!
Eddy: Thanks for joining us sir! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jesse Marks: My name is Jesse Marks. I’m a stay at home dad, primarily, but I recently started Nudge Compost so technically I’m also an entrepreneur.
Eddy: At first glance, most people may be unfamiliar with Nudge Compost. Could you give the readers a little insight on exactly what it is?
Jesse: Nudge Compost is a food scrap pickup and composting service. We provide customers, whether they are residential, restaurants, food trucks, offices, or nonprofits, a clean container with a compostable liner and lid. Customers fill the container with their food scraps, paper products, coffee filters, and other compostable materials each week. At the end of the week, I swap the full bucket out for a clean one and begin the process of composting the material. Each quarter we return finished compost (essentially extra powerful soil amendment) to our customers or donate it to local community gardens.
Eddy: That’s awesome. How much does something like this cost for the end user?
Jesse: Our service for residential customers is just $5 per week and business rates vary. Residential users can easily get signed up at NudgeCompost.com via our form.
Eddy: So it’s certainly low cost and affordable. Now before we continue, there are probably people out there like me that still don’t understand what composting is. Enlighten this lost soul.
Jesse: Composting is essentially what ‘should’ happen to food scraps/waste. The process is really simple and anyone can do it, but it does take some time, labor, and a little bit of planning. That’s why I thought people might want to outsource the process and still do something good for the environment. In short – food scraps, leaves, paper, grass clippings, manure, water, and other inputs are collected and put into a pile. As the pile begins to ‘come alive’ with microorganisms and enzymes it heats up, breaks down, and condenses nutrients as it is turned and managed. Eventually, over the course of a few months, the pile gets much smaller, darker, and in time looks like rich soil. It is remaking soil in a lot of ways, or at least rebuilding soil that has lost it’s nutrients for a variety of reasons. A lot of people I talk with have a compost pile, but the trick is in working it and most people don’t consistently manage their pile.
Eddy: Yep. That’s certainly something beyond my skill set and patience level. Where did you even get the idea to start something like this?
Jesse: I got the idea while I was working on a thesis about food waste for a Masters of Public Administration degree at WSU. The scale of food waste that goes into landfills really stuck with me and I started to look at ways to minimize the problem. Food waste is the single largest contributor to landfills and greenhouse gas production. It’s crazy! Food that goes into trash bags does not have the oxygen needed to break down as it does when it’s being managed in a compost pile, and this anaerobic breakdown produces methane which is a really powerful greenhouse gas. Anyway, I found that there are a lot of efforts out there to minimize food waste going to landfills, but this option seemed like something that people could be ‘nudged’ to do without a lot of change to lifestyle. It feels really good and everyone who participates with me talks about how much trash they produce as a result. Hopefully it will lead to another step, then another, and another. Before long we’ll be really conscious about where our waste goes or in an ideal world we’ll waste less.
Eddy: I swear I learn something new everyday and today I think learned a ton more. Wichita is a huge foodie community with plenty of restaurants. How do they get signed up?
Jesse: For businesses it is most effective to reach out to me directly so we can chat. I mostly need to know how much material they produce and get a feel for what it would look like to work together. Most restaurants as of now give me scraps from the prep side of the process. Eventually I’d like to get to the point where I’m taking plate scrapings and taking massive amounts to be composted. The only step they really need to take is to get the container I provide, do a small amount of communicating with their teams to put compostables in the new bin, and just promote it to their employees. I have several businesses working with me right now – Public at the Brickyard, Nora’s Kitchen, Wheat Street Dogs, Perfect Plate, Sunflower Expresso, Labor Party, and a few others that we’re getting set up as we speak.
Eddy: Love the lineup so far, many of those places offer some delicious food. I could really go for a Banh Mi Dog from Wheat Street Dogs right now. Speaking of food, where are the last three places you have eaten at?
Jesse: Well, this is a funny question in some ways because part of the reason I did my research on food waste is because I consider myself, for lack of a better term, a foodie. I like to garden, cook at home, eat interesting food, etc. I’ve found a lot of places I didn’t know existed through your blog and I have a list of places I still need to try. That being said, I recently made trips to:
Paleteria la Reyna because of one of your reviews and because I’ve been looking for a good fried taco since moving here from Topeka (Tacos el Sol) about 5 years ago. I was really happy with their tacos, tostadas, and customer service.
Wheat Street Dogs. They participate with Nudge Compost and I’ve been meaning to try their food. To be honest, I’m historically a big meat eater and I wasn’t sure how their dog would stack up. I was really impressed with the Banh Mi dog and I expect most people wouldn’t even realize it was vegan. They are really great people as well.
Eddy: All this talk is making me hungry. It might be time to eat now. I want to thank you for taking time out from your day to participate in our Q&A Series. Do you have anything else for our readers?
Jesse: I’m really looking at this as a long-term project. I want to start community gardens, do education in our local schools, grow (more) composting worms ideally not in my basement, and provide the rad local farms around Wichita with the best medium for them to grow their amazing crops. I also think this effort is a part of what I see as a larger movement in Wichita to become a more forward-thinking and exciting place to live. Collaboration is going to be key, and that’s how you build stronger communities. THAT is what Wichita needs and I’m open to any and all collaboration. Hit me up!
If you know of anybody that would be great as a guest of the Wichita By E.B. Q&A Series, feel free to email me at [email protected]. I’m looking for anybody who impacts Wichita in any sort of way whether they be business owners, restaurateurs, volunteers, whomever. Thank you!