On “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg, Pashon Murray, co-founder of Detroit Dirt, talks about rallying individuals and corporations around waste and dirt. “We must be on to something great,” says Murray. “At some point, more people around the world—individuals and corporations—are going to start jumping on this bandwagon because it’s not just the right thing to do: it’s helping the economy and impacting the climate.”
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Detroit Dirt collects food waste from partners like Blue Cross Blue Shield and GM and collects manure from the Detroit Zoo to create nutrient-rich compost. “I grew up going to the landfill, and my dad would find these treasures in different houses and buildings, so I knew that waste was not really waste,” says Murray. Co-founding Detroit Dirt in 2010 offered Murray a chance to meld her values for recycling and waste management with her environmental activism. “If we start managing our food waste and refuse to send it to landfills, we won’t cause harm around the world like we do now,” says Murray.
Although Detroit did not seem like the most opportune location for the food movement to many, Murray saw great potential in the city. “Knocking on doors for years and trying to convince people to do this—they probably thought I was crazy,” says Murray. “This is an industrial city, we were facing bankruptcy and other issues. Why would people talk about food waste? Because I brought the economics to the fold.” According to Murray, food waste is a US$218 billion epidemic that, if alleviated, can generate the financial foundation for a brighter economy in Detroit.
Through the Detroit Dirt Foundation, Murray also hopes to reshape climate and food education across Detroit. “The education and awareness is so imperative that we keep having conversations and get as many people involved as possible,” says Murray. Through a partnership with Kiss the Ground, Detroit Dirt’s educational videos, “The Soil Story,” aim to create a zero-waste and low-carbon mindset for youth. In Fall 2019, Detroit Dirt will also unveil a curriculum for grades kindergarten through eight that includes topics like The Culture of Carbon. “This is the exciting part of all of this: giving children resources for a better future,” says Murray.