Stories from the corner of 37th and Nicollet

The Green Cart on the Green Path

While my café has been sorting and composting most of its waste since 2006, the city of Minneapolis is just beginning its process of providing organics composting service for all of its residents and businesses.  When I began my re-arrangement of space, education of staff and customers, and efforts to change a system of “toss and burn” to “sort and soil,” I was always hopeful that the day would come that organics composting would be just the way things happen.  This April, the city will require all businesses to make use of composting and recycling.  And starting this August, residents will have the ability to roll a green cart out with composting for collection. All I can say is, welcome aboard!


Early methods of waste disposal were based on tossing items that were, for the most part, going to break down and become part of the earth again.  As societies developed materials that wouldn’t break down easily, and weren’t even made of natural ingredients, disposal options got a bit trickier.  Burning stuff made with materials that are toxic creates quite hazard.  Burying stuff that leaches toxic chemicals into our water table doesn’t make sense either.  Trying to contain materials that are dangerous for thousands and thousands of years (radioactive waste) becomes an ongoing nightmare of potential health issues.  We’re now in a time with electronics and chemicals and synthetic materials that require multiple modes of disposal and increasingly expensive options for storage.   Recent efforts in recycling do make a difference, but recycling rates are still tiny.  In big cities with sophisticated pick up systems, many folks still are a bit lazy and don’t make an effort to sort, while many rural and outstate areas don’t have the capacity to even arrange for sorting and separating items for recycling.


Just when Minneapolis went to “single sort” recycling, we’re adding composting and now there’s another challenge to the sorting!  Will we be willing to take it on?  The early pilot program in Minneapolis seems to point that way.  The Lyndale and Kingfield have actually made great efforts at composting in our schools, neighborhood organizations and events, and in many businesses and churches.  But it is not surprising to me to still get “out of towners” who look surprised that I don’t really have a “trash” can in my shop.    At Butter Bakery Café, we’re down to about 5 gallons of waste each week that can’t be recycled or composted.  As a restaurant that produces two dumpsters worth of waste each week, to have just a 5-gallon pail to deal with as actual waste makes a statement.  


In my household, we compost during the summer with a backyard compost bin and we’re testing out organic composting sorting this winter. We now find that our tiny black garbage cart rarely gets full after two or three weeks. Our recycling bin is full after two weeks however, and without food scraps, there just isn’t much that needs to go into the trash anymore.


I’d like to encourage and challenge all of our café’s residential neighbors in Lyndale and Kingfield to sign up for a green organics cart this month.  The city is planning to start a few routes in August and then add the rest of the city next spring (2016).  If enough of us here request a cart, then we can begin the composting this summer and start making a difference in the amount of trash we’re producing here in our neighborhood.   You can sign up easily by contacting the solid waste department at or by calling 612-673-2917.


There are efforts in the works to help multiple family units participate in this also!  Landlords of small and large apartments can make a big impact too by providing this service and becoming a partner with our neighborhood residents and businesses.   I’m also quite willing to offer assistance from our café’s experiences over the past nine years to businesses now moving to organics composting and recyclable packaging this spring.  I celebrate the movement of my small green path as it is finding its way to greener streets and a green neighborhood!


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