Food waste is a huge problem in Canada. In a recent survey, the National Zero Waste Council found the average Canadian household creates 140 kilograms of food waste per year. Many of this food goes directly to landfills generating methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Unfortunately, many Canadians don’t have access to composting services. Composting is hugely important because it reduces the need for chemical fertilizer use in food production, while also creating better conditions for plants to thrive.
Claire McLoughlin and Katie Forsyth are on a mission to address this problem. Their Friendly Composting business offers weekly composting pickup for clients in the Kamloops area of BC, with plans to expand their reach into further communities.
Following their recent success at the Small Business BC Awards, we chatted with this dynamic duo to learn about their awesome small business, and how each of us has a role to play in reducing waste.
A lot of people who live in big cities take composting for granted. It’s available to them and it isn’t something they have to worry about. Unfortunately, it isn’t like that everywhere in BC.
The idea for Friendly Composting came to us back in March of 2020 when Katie and I were living together in an apartment. We wanted to start living more sustainably but apartment living doesn’t exactly lend itself to composting.
I remember we started to collect our food scraps then we drove to the city’s composting site. To our surprise, we learned they only accepted yard waste and not food waste. What were people supposed to do with their food waste? There wasn’t anywhere in town you could drop it off. There weren’t any programs in existence to have it picked up.
That got the ball rolling for both of us to find a solution to the problem. We figured there were others in our community dealing with the same issues and we took it upon ourselves to try and solve it. We wanted to ensure anyone who wanted to compost could have access to it, and then the business grew organically from there.
Unequal access to composting is a huge issue across Canada, especially in rural areas and smaller towns. Less than 50% of Canadians have access to a curbside pickup program for food waste.
Unequal access to composting is a huge issue across Canada, especially in rural areas and smaller towns. People living in the Lower Mainland, and big centres like Calgary and Edmonton have convenient services available to them, but less than 50% of Canadians have access to a curbside pickup program for food waste.
When we started out, we didn’t know this – not many people do. We assumed this was an isolated, local problem. Over time, we’ve connected with people back east and it soon became apparent to us this is a huge problem we need to solve.
Something that’s been awesome for us to see is how much we grew organically just from posting on social media accounts. We got off the ground through word of mouth and people came to us randomly in the beginning. As we’ve grown, we’ve gotten more organized in how people can sign up.
If people are interested in joining us, we take signups through our Friendly Composting website. Once people join, we send them out a composting bin that we take away each week and exchange it for a new one. We’ve worked hard to eliminate as many barriers as we can from the process and include as many people as we can. One barrier we identified early was the need to clean the bin, so we took that responsibility off composters and we now clean the bins for people as part of our subscription service.
Our registered composters also get access to our local produce and food shop. We’re making locally sourced food more accessible for folks, so when we come to their door each week to exchange their bin, we also drop off local food for them to enjoy.
Right now, we operate in Kamloops and the surrounding areas, and we do bin pickups on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
Whenever you’re thinking about where to shop in your community, think of all your friends and neighbours that are working hard behind the scenes to keep those small businesses going.
There’s tons of really exciting stuff happening around the business right now. We’re now offering Grade A Compost Soil that we’re distributing back into our communities as part of our delivery program. We’re also selling it wholesale to local farmers and avid gardeners.
Longer term, we just received grant funding to join a program called PURPPL based out of Kelowna, and we’re working with them to build out our expansion plan. Future planning is top of mind for us right now, and we’ve recently expanded into the Sun Peaks community near Kamloops.
We’re actively trying to take on more golf resort communities and other places that have private waste management services but don’t currently offer composting.
In our time running Friendly Composting it’s become patently clear to us just how much blood, sweat and tears goes into keeping a small business afloat. We’ve also learned how much we need the continuing support of our community to keep doing what we do.
Entrepreneurs have all these wonderful ideas and passions but it’s a lot of work to turn those ideas into a business. When you have a community behind you supporting you it just means so much. It validates the long days, and it validates the hard work. Ultimately, it gives it a purpose.
We get to live our dream of a life filled with purpose, doing something we love, and without people coming out to support out business it just wouldn’t be possible. Whenever you’re thinking about where to shop in your community, think of all your friends and neighbours that are working hard behind the scenes to keep those businesses going.
We were reflecting on our Awards experience recently, just the whole process and how rewarding it was for us. We were finalists in the Business Impact Award category, and the impact aspect of it is something that’s so important for us. We use the word impact daily – it’s just something that our business is built around. It’s in our mission statement, it’s in our slogan, and going for an award so focused on impact was a really neat feeling for us.
There’s something special about seeing your work get this kind of recognition. It’s given us confidence and pride that we’re on the right track. I think we took a humble approach to it and we almost sold ourselves short on our actual true impact. To give an example of this, we quickly did calculations and made assumptions in our application for the Awards. Our true impact ended up being nearly double what we reported.
The entire process was eye opening for us. It gave us a chance to slow down and reflect on just how much we’ve achieved so far. There’s so much gratitude that’s come out of it. We would do it all again in a heartbeat. It was above and beyond what we expected – in terms of resources, networking, access to education, and the prize obviously goes a long way too!
We respectfully acknowledge our place of work is within the ancestral, traditional and unceded territories of the Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaʔɬ/sel̓ílwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) and that we serve the Peoples of the many Nations throughout British Columbia.