Sustainable Spotlight

Kitchen Harvest | Curbside Composting

Chris Pieretti · Founder + Owner

We reached out to one of Greater Philadelphia’s curbside compost collectors, Chris Pieretti, to talk about the fantastic ways he is reducing waste in our area through his company, Kitchen Harvest.

Why did you create Kitchen Harvest?
I wanted to share the joy of gardening, growing your own food, with others.
Where do you take our food scraps and what exactly happens to them?
We take them to Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA, where we have one of Pennsylvania’s few on-farm composting permits to compost food scraps. The food scraps and other compostables are added to copious amounts of local leaves. Everything is mixed according to our compost recipe. We turn the large piles (windrows) about once per month to help incorporate air. After about five months, the mix completely decomposes thanks to micro-organisms, air, water and sunlight, into finished compost. Finished compost is either spread directly at the farm to improve the soil, or tested, screened and sold wholesale or retail.
A clean and dry paper bag—Is it better to recycle it or put it in our compost bucket?
Compost. Composting returns the bag to the soil from whence it came with minimal energy spent. Recycling (like production) is a resource- and energy-laden process. Producing that paper bag in the first place is the real discussion. There are a wide variety of answers with varying degrees of sustainability. Finding the best solution for a given situation is the goal.
What is your stance on the rise in popularity of single-use, biodegrable, bio-plastic supplies that claim to be compostable?
Plastics in a landfill are the least sustainable product lifespan. Compostables should only be used as a last resort when more durable, reusable products are totally impractical. But, frankly, I do not really think there are many, if any, instances where a more durable system is not possible. Remember: Reduce! Reuse. Recycle—in that order of importance. Reducing consumption (and thus production) is most important.
Aside from rescuing future plant food from rotting in landfills, what other sustainable steps are you taking in your personal life?
Energy! Our home is powered by the sun, wind and water —renewable energy providers—just by choosing them via our electric service. We generally buy organic food and buy from the most local sources. Our next vehicle will be electric. We talk openly about these things with our friends and family, and our son has been telling his classmates and teachers about these things. Now his science class is incorporating composting into the plant lesson plan. Students of all ages frequently come to the farm for compost tours too.
What and/or who are your biggest motivators?
Our son. I may not think of it all the time, but I am often encouraged to carry on doing this work when reminded that it should help make his world a better place. And I’m showing him that it is important to work for things that you think are right. I am also motivated by others in the industry. They are hardworking, good people who encourage each other to “Compost on!” It is making a difference.
What are some of the challenges that you face on a regular basis?
Equipment. Just keeping everything running smoothly and efficiently so the business works. And it is a nagging truth that I am using fossil fuels, although minimally, to run the machines that get the composting done. We know what “perfect” could look like, but until we can afford it, we keep progressing towards it. Our tagline is “Better food, less waste,” not “Perfect food, zero waste.” That’s how I operate—always looking for good, honest ways to improve our sustainability, balanced with our reality. I’m always learning. Learning how to partner with others, ask for help, manage expectations and results… ya know… business stuff.
Which part of your job makes you happiest?
Watching a seed sprout. A close second is seeing the miracle of food scraps and other “garbage” turn into the sweet smelling, life-giving finished compost that I love to hold in my hand with wonder.
What does Kitchen Harvest look like in ten years? Any long-term goals?
I would like to replicate what we have done with Linvilla Orchards and Media, PA, in another community. Connect another farm to its people and their food in a sustainable cycle.
Would you ever consider going back to the clean and comfortable environment of working behind a desk?
Sure, if my family needed me to. A few semesters ago I sat in on “Compost and Climate Change,” an incredible class at Swarthmore College taught by a friend. She reminded me of how much I love to learn and be around enthusiastic minds. It was a really nice change of pace to be in a classroom and in a field spreading compost. So, if that desk was in a school, I’d be interested… part-time.
Kitchen Harvest Website