Lauren Clarke is the founder of Turn Compost, a wildly successful social enterprise focused on reducing food waste and improving how we utilize our urban environment. She shares alarming and exciting statistics about food waste and the blooming food waste industry. She also gives essential advice to anyone with the vision of starting a social enterprise.
My passion for gardening may strike some as selfish, or merely an act of resignation in the face of overwhelming problems that beset the world. It is neither. I have found that each garden is just what Voltaire proposed in Candide: a microcosm of a just and beautiful society. ”
On Earth Day 2018 Lauren Clarke launched Turn Compost, Dallas’ first subscription composting service. Turn has experienced phenomenal growth, proving that it’s possible to run a profitable company that truly and clearly does good.
In 18 months, Turn’s subscription service has grown to 17 zip codes in Dallas and 8 drop-off locations in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Revenues are up 648% comparing Q3 2018 to Q32019. Any start-up would love these numbers!
A Social Enterprise Model
[10:43] Turn Compost is a Social Enterprise, or Social Impact business. In short, it’s a business that does good by addressing a social or environmental problem AND it does well by being financially self-sustaining. Social Enterprises and Social Impact businesses may be non- or for-profit. Turn is a for profit business.
The Business of Food Waste
Food Waste is a big problem in the U.S. It makes up about 40% of our landfills and if it were a country, would be the third-largest emitter of methane gas behind the U.S. and China. [02:38]
Tackling food wastage can be a 2.5 trillion market opportunity for business according to an article by CNBC .
[05:35] Turn is a private, organic waste pickup subscription service with both doorstep and drop off services. It’s a very innovate model!
Organic waste is processed three different ways: it’s donated to local farms and gardens, turned into small amounts of compost and delivered back to members, and finally they partner with commercial composting facilities for other post-consumer waste. [07:51]
Bonton Farms and Farmers Assisting Returning Military (F.A.R.M.) are examples of two local farms that receive Turn donations.
The City of Dallas does not currently compost (yet!); you can learn more about Dallas’ Comprehensive Environmental Climate Action Plan and give input at their website. [11.56]
The Vision: Getting Reconnected With Food
There’s a cost for us with all the innovations in food delivery: it’s getting us further disconnected from the source. We aren’t experiencing the growth cycles, the work that goes into food production and the satisfaction of providing for ourselves. [15:05]
Horticultural Therapy is a term being used for the therapeutic effects of gardening. [18:25] Bonton Farms, mentioned above, sees farming as a way to “redefine a community”.
Lauren gives some advice on starting a social impact business: [20:33]
make sure it’s financially sustainable now and has future growth potential
assemble an advisory council of experts from various industries who will “get in your face” and tell you the truth
be open to listening to the advice
A Deeper Purpose
Lauren’s big WHY – the ultimate reason she started Turn:
[25:08] You know I care about my children, but I care about other children and children in all sorts of communities, wealthy and poor, and their connection with food and their understanding of it…it’s very concerning that there are children and families who are struggling to put food on their tables.