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Scraps to Soil Starts to Sprout in Lansing

man near sign
Kevin Lavery
Lansing Brewing Company executive chef Chris Carrington sends his restaurant's food waste to the Scraps to Soil program.

In 2016, Michigan landfills took in more than 49 million cubic yards of solid waste. Some of that total included food particles that were thrown out by restaurants and food processing facilities.  

The city of Lansing is trying to reduce that environmental impact with a pilot program known as “Scraps to Soil.”

Even before patrons walk inside Lansing Brewing Company just north of downtown, strategically placed outdoor speakers set the mood.

LBC opened in Lansing -- or rather, re-opened -- not quite 18 months ago.  Touting itself as the city’s only full-scale brewery, it’s a resurrection of the beer factory that first opened its doors in 1898.  It’s a smooth blend of 19th century pride and 21st century vibe.

Six months ago , officials with the city’s Live Green Lansing project sought out LBC to take part in its new eco-friendly pilot project.  

“They approached us, I think, because we were a new, up and coming place, and we gladly accepted,” says LBC executive chef Chris Carrington.  “It kind of just steamrolled from there.”

Instead of landing in a dumpster, leftover food at LBC is tossed into a compost bucket.  Three times a week, the excess is picked up by Dimondale-based Hammonds Farms, which converts everything from beans to broccoli into a high-quality soil called “closed loop” compost.

Since September, Live Green Lansing has collected nearly 130 cubic yards of food scraps...a vertical stack taller than Lansing's Boji Tower.

“Farmers and local gardeners love to use it,” says Live Green Lansing program manager Natalie Molnar. “Compost has to have a good amount of greens and browns.  The really desirable elements are fruits, vegetables and coffee grounds.”

Since September, Live Green Lansing has collected nearly 130 cubic yards of food scraps from participants like Lansing Brewing Company.  That’s a stack tall enough to surpass Lansing’s Boji Tower.

“It (the compost) is best used in any gardening application and landscaping,” says Molnar.  “So, anybody that has flower beds, this is a really great product to add to your soil.”

More than a dozen mid-Michigan businesses participate in Scraps to Soils.  But the program is not yet attracting the attention organizers hoped it would six months ago.  Molnar would love to see more.

LBC’s Chris Carrington is optimistic Scraps to Soil will continue to grow in Lansing, a city that in his mind has some catching up to do with its more environmentally conscious peers.

“I’ve been in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, and it’s huge through there,” Carrington says.  “I’ve said in the past that I think Lansing is a few years behind those two towns, but I think they are definitely catching up, and I think programs like this will do nothing but the best to help them.”

Kevin Lavery is a general assignment reporter and occasional local host for Morning Edition and All Things considered.
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