Emily Bachman, Manager of the GrowNYC Compost Program, will be speaking at the inaugural New York City Food Tank Summit, “Focusing on Food Loss and Food Waste,” which will be held in partnership with Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data (ReFED) and with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and The Fink Family Foundation on September 13, 2017.
GrowNYC Compost Program is a residential food scrap drop-off program funded by the NYC Department of Sanitation that has diverted more than 9 million pounds of food scraps from landfills since 2011. Bachman oversees the collection, transportation, and delivery of food scraps from 60 food scrap drop-off sites to community compost sites in all five boroughs of NYC, and she works closely with the NYC Department of Sanitation to ensure that composting is convenient and accessible to all New Yorkers. Bachman is an AmeriCorps alum and serves as a member of the Manhattan Solid Waste Advisory Board, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing recycling, reducing solid waste, and advancing solid waste policy in New York City.
Food Tank had the opportunity to talk to Bachman about what motivates her to reimagine food waste.
Food Tank (FT): What originally inspired you to get involved in your work?
Emily Bachman (EB): I like to think about waste by asking questions about what it means to throw something away: Where is ‘away’ and how does our waste get there? What does ‘away’ look, smell, and feel like, now and in the future? Who lives ‘away’ and who lives in-between, and how are they affected? The highest geographic point in my hometown is a landfill that receives trash from NYC, so I’ve seen and smelled ‘away,’ and I know how far away it is! I’ve also seen the overwhelmingly positive human, economic, and environmental benefits of creating compost out of food waste right here in New York City. When you compare a distant landfill to a place like Red Hook Farm or Earth Matter, it’s obvious where our organic waste does and does not belong.
FT: What makes you continue to want to be involved in this kind of work?
EB: GrowNYC’s food scrap drop-off sites are incredibly inspirational hubs of community energy and comradery. Every week, thousands of New Yorkers come out of their way to bring us their food scraps, and I love to ask what motivates them. Whether it’s climate change, environmental justice, waste reduction, urban agriculture, or rats, composting is a simple, productive, and positive act that brings people together.
FT: Who inspired you as a kid?
EB: My grandmother had a beautiful garden upstate, where she taught me how to make and use compost. Today, she’s 93 and continues to drop off her food scraps at the Columbia Greenmarket every week.
FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?
EB: Reimaging food waste as a resource is so exciting because it creates value out of something for which we’re used to paying. Valuing food and reducing food waste means creating opportunities to reduce costs for farmers, feed hungry people, feed animals, make compost, generate energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
FT: Can you share a story about a food hero who inspired you?
EB: Charlie Bayrer, Operations Manager of NYC Compost Project hosted by Earth Matter, has probably turned more food waste into compost than any other single New Yorker. He’s one of the hardest working and most humble people I’ve met. Spend a day building a windrow with him on Governors Island and you’ll be inspired, too.
FT: What’s the most pressing issue in food and agriculture that you’d like to see solved?
EB: Our food system is both contributing to and being challenged by climate change, and there is no choice but to adapt. This means adapting where, what, and how we farm, package, store, transport, distribute, prepare, eat, and dispose of our food. It’s not about solving one issue, but about reimagining the entire system through the lens of climate change mitigation, adaptation, resilience, and equity.
FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?
EB: Compost your food scraps! Whether you put them in a Curbside Organics bin, bring them to one of over 100 food scrap drop-off sites in NYC, or make compost at home or in a community garden, keeping food waste out of landfills is an easy way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and bring life back to depleted soils. Visit nyc.gov/organics to learn more!
The NYC Food Tank Summit is now Sold Out. Register HERE to watch the livestream on Facebook. A few tickets remain for the Summit Dinner at Blue Hill Restaurant with a special menu from Chef Dan Barber. Apply to attend HERE. If you live in New York City, join us on September 14 for our FREE outdoor dance workout led by Broadway performers called Garjana featuring many great speakers raising awareness about food waste issues. Register HERE.