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Since 2009 we have been creating a small-scale food waste compost system for urban gardens and farms in Pittsburgh.
Thanks so much for your support.  We will continue to post updates on our progress.
Thanks so much for your support.  We will continue to post updates on our progress.
127 backers pledged $11,135 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Steel City Soils Compost Co-operative

$11,135

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In 2008, while volunteering at Grow Pittsburgh's Braddock Farm, we asked the question: "If we expect urban farming to produce about half our city's diet, how much compost are we going to need?"

We quickly learned that it will probably never be enough and that most of our food scraps are thrown away never to be seen again. This was the inspiration for an 8-year journey to start a compost business that could directly support a thriving, sustainable, local-food economy here in Pittsburgh.

In 2014 we asked for help from many of the people we've met along the way, and SCS turned into a cooperative model in which people could learn, work, and join in on the compost fun. Since then we've developed about 10 worker-owners who have pledged their time in exchange for ownership in the compost co-op.

This cooperative model was one of the reasons we have made it this far. Now with this campaign, we are trying to get equipment needed to save labor hours and create a viable product.

Risks and challenges

We have been making compost for many years now. Currently we process waste from 4 restaurants and cafes. Over the years our challenge was to make the best compost possible. We achieved this goal by free labor. All of us have put in unpaid hours, and now we are making lots of excellent compost.

Now that we have achieved that goal we realized the fact: Each cubic yard of compost takes about 20 hours of labor to produce and deliver. At this rate, we would need to charge over $600 per cubic yard to break even.

Any system that runs on unpaid labor has the risk of failing when the workers are burned out or busy. We are also at our physical limit, so we can't increase the amount we are making without adding more people.

Now that we know how to make the best compost, our challenge is to create a small system which can reduce the number of hours it takes to make our compost. If we can make more with less, the system will be economically sustainable through sales and we will be able to collect from more restaurants.

With this kickstarter, we plan on getting equipment to quadruple our production (12 restaurants) with the same number of labor hours. This will get us closer to our goal of becoming financially sustainable.

After a proof-of-concept project is completed, our challenge will be to scale up effectively to a size that makes business sense.

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Warm and Fuzzy Feeling

    Our compost is warm and fuzzy, you can be too by supporting our project.

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    6 backers
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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Guided Tour of our Compost Site

    Join us for a tour of the site in Braddock

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    6 backers
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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    Too Big to Fail T-Shirt

    This is a limited edition design by us. A T-Shirt professionally printed on organic cotton.

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    18 backers
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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    "Eat Your Backyard" T-Shirt

    "Support Local Food: Eat Your Backyard" T-Shirt. This is a limited edition design by us. Professionally printed on organic cotton.

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    35 backers
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    Pledge $99 or more About $99

    Pickup 1 Cubic Yard of Compost

    We'll load your truck with 1 Cubic Yard of 1/2" Sifted Finished Compost

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    11 backers
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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Garden Design Class

    Includes admission to a 1 day garden design class which will cover: Permaculture basics, gardening and soil improvements

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    9 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    Soil Biology & Microscope Class

    This includes admission to a hands-on soil biology class including theory and practical experience making different composts, aerated-compost teas (ACT), and evaluating using a light microscope.

    Also includes a limited edition "too big to fail" T-Shirt

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    2 backers
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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    1 Cubic Yard of Compost Delivered

    We will deliver a 1 Cubic Yard truckload of 1/2" sifted compost to your city garden in Spring 2017. Offer to Pittsburgh Area Only

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    8 backers
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    Pledge $350 or more About $350

    Soil Tests & Garden Consultation

    This includes 1 set of comprehensive soil tests which check macro and micro minerals. You mail us the soil sample. We will provide soil test results, a site visit (for local customers), soil recommendations and permaculture evaluation.

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    Ships to Only United States
    0 backers
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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Sponsor our Farm Market Stand

    We'll display your company logo at our 3 weekly farm stands for the 2017 season.

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    1 backer
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    Pledge $650 or more About $650

    Raised Bed Garden Installed

    We will install a 4'x4' raised bed garden, which includes the bed made from rot-resistant hardwood and the growing medium of Steel City Soils compost and our rock mineral blend. Offered to Pittsburgh and Surrounding Area Only.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    2 Raised Bed Gardens Installed

    We will install either two 4'x4' raised bed gardens or one 8'x4' garden,
    This includes includes the bed made from rot-resistant hardwood and the growing medium of Steel City Soils compost and our rock mineral blend. Offered to Pittsburgh and Surrounding Area Only.

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Funding period

- (33 days)