Cowboy Compost, LLC was created by two resident leaders in Fort Worth: Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, and small business owner and entrepreneur, Johanna Calderón. As global citizens who have seen the effects of waste management programs on every continent, they have dedicated their passion, talents and resources to raising awareness about waste issues and to developing convenient, high-quality post-consumer food waste disposal alternatives in their local community.

The mission of Cowboy Compost, LLC is to raise awareness in the Greater Fort Worth Area about current organic waste challenges, and to provide outstanding residential and commercial composting services to residents, companies, and organizations in Fort Worth.

Leadership (Nominee demonstrates leadership through example, knowledge, attitude)

The mission of Cowboy Compost, LLC is to raise awareness in the Greater Fort Worth Area about current organic waste challenges, and to provide outstanding residential and commercial composting services to residents, companies, and organizations in Fort Worth. 

Challenges addressed by Cowboy Compost:

Landfilling post-consumer food waste is unfortunately easy and cheap. Before the inception of Cowboy Compost, the disposal of food waste into the landfill was essentially (with the exception of backyard composting) the only option for Fort Worth residents and businesses. While society generally acknowledges the need to help the environment, awareness about how to take action as an individual is insubstantial at best. Also always present is the lack of knowledge about the environmental impact of waste in our landfills. In January 2016, Cowboy Compost Co-Founder, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, visited the Fort Worth Municipal Landfill, which is the size of 175 football fields and takes in an average of 3,500 tons of waste daily with an estimated life of approximately 22 years. City waste audits in 2016 showed that an appalling 25-30 percent of the residential waste stream is food waste/food contaminated compostable packaging. Cowboy Compost’s mission is to help reduce that number. 

Post-consumer food composting has proved very challenging for municipal composting and smaller scale composting alike, and contamination issues have led to the demise of more than one compost operation. In providing waste solutions, Cowboy Compost’s innovation is that we are dedicated to exceptional quality control. Because of our meticulous inspection process, we provide uncontaminated raw feedstock to composting partners from which can come good, clean, rich compost to return to the earth. A clean product of this kind had thus far been unavailable in the Forth Worth area, especially from residential and small-business participants. Our commitment to providing uncontaminated post-consumer food waste to composting facilities includes:

• Education and ease of use to customers. Household organics are picked up in 5- or 7-gallon airtight buckets. 15, 21, and 95 gallon are used for zero waste parties, restaurants, grocery stores and events. Buckets and carts are marked with clear instructions for items acceptable for composting via Cowboy Compost. Filled buckets are swapped for empty clean buckets upon scheduled biweekly collection. Any contamination is quickly identified and the appropriate customer education can be conveyed in a timely manner, leading to less future contamination issues;

• A manual sort to ensure zero/minimal contamination prior to delivery to composting facility.

• This commitment to quality control led to two local composters beginning to accept post-consumer food waste, whereas prior to Cowboy Compost no post-consumer food waste was accepted at those facilities.

The system of targeted growth that Cowboy Compost initiated in 2016 means that our service model can be taken even further, both in our own community and beyond. All of our methods are replicable in almost any urban area, thus making our program a model that is scalable on a state and even a national level. We are proud of the successful launch of our company in 2016, of its quick growth in that year, and of its future growth and impact, both locally and as a model for other cities.

Environmental Impact (Nominee demonstrates a positive impact on the local environment via policy change, product offering, significant volunteer contribution or other achievement):

All of our customers have received outreach in understanding the importance of saving landfill space and closing the organics loop through our website, Facebook and through our community and sales presentations. Importantly, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, already a well-known and beloved community leader in his role as Music Director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, gave keynote speeches at various events in 2016 such as the City of Fort Worth Zero Waste Luncheon and the North Texas Corporate Recycling Council, Green3 Awards Luncheon. 

Cowboy Compost also actively pursued memberships in associations and relationships with other industry professionals and in city government, to participate in the shaping of public awareness of organic waste issues. In 2016 we quickly built a large network of colleagues and potential partners in the recycling and composting business communities, as well as in local government. For example, strong connections were created with the Mayor of Fort Worth Betsy Price, City Councilmember Ann Zadeh, and the Solid Waste Services Division of the City of Fort Worth, as well as Keep Fort Worth Beautiful, North Texas Corporate Recycling Association, Earth Day Texas. Talks and planning began in 2016 with various important community events and projects, including with TCU, Bell Helicopter, Cowtown Marathon, and Earth Day Texas. Proposals were also developed and submitted for pilot programs with elementary schools, which included education and in-person training for staff and students on the composting process and how to successfully reduce waste at school and at home. In these proposals we suggested that to create an impact, we must begin a shift in thinking, and what better place to begin than with children and in schools. Our goal was to help children understand the importance of reducing the waste that gets dumped into our environment, thereby normalizing the process and encouraging the next generation to see sustainability as both necessary and attainable. 

Cowboy Compost maximized each of these events and programs as platforms for education, further networking, and customer creation.

Community Impact (Nominee demonstrates commitment to DFW green community through involvement with causes, business ventures or organizations)

Cowboy Compost’s activities began with a four-month pilot project, conducted from March-June 2016. The program, which included 40 households, one restaurant, and two non-profit organizations, diverted 6,000 pounds of post-consumer waste and 5,000 cans and bottles from the landfill. The company officially opened for business in June 2016, and by the end of the year, we successfully diverted 60,000 pounds from the Fort Worth Municipal Landfill, with the following clients: 30 individual households on a route, 27 musicians of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, and four local businesses. 

One of the pilot program participants and a continuing client, the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra is a perfect example of how Cowboy Compost is impacting the community in the concept of reduce, reuse, recycle. Until the pilot program the organization did not have an organized recycling or organics disposal program. Cowboy Compost co-founder Miguel Harth-Bedoya introduced a zero waste plan and educated the musicians and staff about utilizing reusable and recyclable containers rather than disposable. Musicians and staff were also given the opportunity to order a composting bin for use at home. Cowboy Compost created a program whereby participants brought their compost bins back to Bass Performance Hall on a bi-weekly basis for pick-up and clean bin exchange. The organization continues to use and encourage reduce, reuse, recycle concept and the composting program continues with 25 musicians becoming paying Cowboy Compost customers after the pilot program ended.

Another example of the success of the pilot and continuing program is Z’s Café, one of the restaurant customers involved in the pilot project. The owner of Z's Cafe went on to produce a feasibility study on his composting program, which showed that participating in our program is profitable for him in his business. The study was completed in 2017, but it was based upon data from 2016 as well.

Other reasons for your nomination

Since its inception in June 2016, Cowboy Compost has taken significant steps toward reducing food waste going to the landfill in Fort Worth, raising awareness about this issue, and educating members of the Fort Worth community on how to participate in solving the problem.

Cowboy Compost's unique residential program, which provides residents an organic recycling service, is a first-of-its-kind solution in Fort Worth. Our composting services for restaurants and grocers has given an opportunity for smaller organics producers who have never had access to composting services to divert food waste thereby prolonging the life of the landfill. In Fort Worth, two-thirds of the waste produced is in the commercial/business sector, with to 25-30% of our landfill space occupied by food waste. Through Cowboy Compost’s growing impact in organic waste recycling within residential, commercial business, institutional and food service sectors, we will also have a growing influence on prolonging the life of our landfill while producing nutrient rich soil, a chemical free solution!

Also by encouraging the use of reusable containers rather than disposable, the purchase of reusable or compostable plates, cups and serving-ware, and elimination of Styrofoam, Cowboy Compost has had an impact particularly in large corporate cafeterias and institutional systems such as schools (where we began to create strong relationships in 2016). The combined efforts of all of these initiatives move our community closer and closer to Zero Waste.