Many college students—and young people in general—often find themselves wringing their hands over climate change, sustainability, and the effects environmental damage can have on our world. As an interior design student at SCAD, David Paull ruminated on the subject over and over again, and his thoughts led him full circle.
“I was really interested in how communities developed in a sustainable way,” says Paull. “Where’s the breakdown of the dynamics of injustice in our world?”
Mentors and professors guided Paull toward agriculture, which he already had in his roots due to his childhood in a rural agrarian community in Wisconsin. After several stints in community gardens and agricultural organizations around Atlanta, he realized that soil and the current cultural practices that govern its use play a crucial role in the global climate crisis.
“The way we grow our food, the freshwater we use in agriculture, deforestation happening at crazy rapid rates all over the world, all of these things that are going on to produce more food are leading to the challenges that we’re seeing climate-wise,” says Paull. “I thought that we need to focus on the root of the problem, and that’s the soil. If you build healthy soil, you can build healthy communities and you can really impact the environment in a wonderful way.”
Paull channeled that passion into Atlanta-based company Compostwheels, which merged with North Carolina-based startup CompostNow in 2018. Clients receive compost receptacles that the company picks up on a schedule dependent on the client’s chosen pricing plan.
CompostNow uses proprietary software to facilitate customer interactions as well as internal operations. Those clients can log into a dashboard that tracks waste reduction and compost creation down to the pound, then get the soil created from their food scraps delivered back to them for personal use or donated to local farms.
The overall goal is to “close the loop” on food waste by encouraging people to use the majority of their biodegradable trash as compost that could be returned to the soil. The compost makes the soil richer in nutrients, which ultimately makes the environment safer and more sustainable.
This process, known as “nutrient cycling,” focuses on creating meaningful and impactful composting experiences for their members and for the larger community.
The company has found some success in this regard: In 2019 alone, CompostNow members diverted more 10.9 million pounds of compostables from the landfill, which created more than 2.5 million pounds of nutrient-rich compost available for local use. Now, fresh off a $2M seed round in November that the now Raleigh-based company will use to continue investments that will allow the company to innovate and grow, CompostNow is looking forward.
“We are really excited about the future because of the tremendous scaling opportunities of the market that we’re in,” says Paull, who now serves as CompostNow’s chief impact officer. “There’s so much opportunity out there, but in order to capture that opportunity, we have to continue to build a really strong foundation, and that foundation is made up of really scalable core operating processes, really talented people and continuing to make sure we do a good job with what we have.”
The seed funding will further enable CompostNow to impact the communities they serve, which include Atlanta, Charleston, Asheville, and the Research Triangle. In addition to letting them keep up with the deluge of people wishing to become more eco-friendly and live more sustainable lifestyles, the capital will also allow the company to continue growing its own teams and working towards scalability.
As Paull told Hypepotamus in 2018, “Over the past couple of years, we have gained more clarity on where we hope to take this and a critical piece to that puzzle was building the best possible team. CompostNow has built a really solid operation and we are thrilled to combine our expertise to take it to the next level.”