Failure Parts VI & VII

Failure is the engine that drives our entrepreneurial venture forward. Every day we make mistakes and hope that they are minimal and that we can learn something valuable from them. That’s not always the case, so at least we hope that we can laugh at them, which is usually the case.

Event Composting

If you’ve read this blog, you may have seen that we’ve been attempting event composting for almost a year now (event composting is collecting food waste from events). We have made a concerted effort to create signage, containers and subliminal cues that will all increase the success rate for event composting. You’d think after a year we’d have it dialed-not so.

We were asked to help compost at a recent company picnic. We were excited for the opportunity and so went out printed extra signs, obtained extra collection bins and set them all up at our site for dry run. We thought the stage was set for success and we even roped Tyler into attending the event to ensure everything was composted properly. This event was larger than most and required the use of a dumpster for the composting bin.

During the event food waste was placed into green translucent bags clearly labeled for food waste. Using the signs Cob had designed people were correctly placing all of their food waste and trash into the right bins. After the event, we moved the translucent bags to the “food waste dumpster” for collection by the garbage company. A few days following the event we called Hood River Garbage to see if the food waste had been collected. They regretfully informed us that the dumpster had been confused with a normal dumpster and topped off with trash. Unfortunately the entire dumpster was sent to the landfill. In the past year, we had learned how to compost a small event, but failed to make the leap to a large event. Lesson learned: better stickers on dumpsters. 

The Pond
This goes down as possibly our largest and most egregious error of the Dirt Hugger start-up experience. If you are thinking of composting, or starting a compost facility please read this carefully. To save on costs (and because we thought we could) we did all of the engineering design and drawings for the DEQ required stormwater catchment system. We poured over every detail and every spec. It was designed specifically to handle a 100 year, 24-hour storm cycle, have an overflow discharge into a natural swale and recycle all water from the compost system. It was all perfect, except one fatal flaw- we designed it with a flat bottom. Meaning, it is really, really hard to drain.

As many readers know The Dalles experiences a very dry summer period. Heading into this period we decided to drain the pond. Little did we know it would involve strapping on waders, grabbing squeegees and pushing all of the water to one end. It was painful. A simple slope designed into the bottom of the pond would have negated hours of hard, wet and filthy work. Lesson learned: slope your ponds.

We’ve learned a lot, we’ve laughed a lot and hopefully we’ll continue to improve from our mistakes as we continue to grow.

About dirthuggercompost

Co-founder of Dirt Hugger
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