Sol Chariots Launches a Citywide Compost Collection Program
The pedicab operation uses pedal power to transform residential food scraps into compost.
Sol Chariots' drivers, who typically cart tourists and hill-avoiders through Providence in their pedicabs, double as compost collection superheroes.
Photos courtesy of Natasha Martinez
Every other week, Sol Chariots’ pedicab drivers cruise the streets of Providence collecting 300 to 400 pounds of banana peels, coffee grounds and eggshells from city residents.
With support from the local business incubator, Social Enterprise Greenhouse, the pedicab collaborative piloted its compost collection project, Harvest Cycle Compost Pick-Up, in March. The operation expanded last month to include all of Providence.
“The biggest thing that we’re trying to do with this program is to reduce the waste going in the landfill,” says Sol Chariots’ co-founder, Natasha Martinez, adding that one-third of residential waste in Rhode Island is compostable. “What we love the most is engaging the community and trying to make Providence a greener place.”
The program works in collaboration with Sidewalk Ends Farm in Providence. Twice monthly, Sol Chariots’ pedicab drivers pick up compostable waste from thirteen program participants. Each household has its own five-gallon bucket, which pedicab drivers dump, rinse and fill with dry leaves during pickups. The drivers then cart the scraps to Sidewalk Ends, where the farm churns them into compost.
Subscriptions range from a one-time, $18 per month service to a six-month subscription for $12.50 per month. Sol Chariots is also running a holiday promotion, where new enrollees earn half-off a second subscription for a friend.
Co-founder Ally Trull says her team hopes to accrue up to eighty participants by the end of 2017, which would divert about 80,000 pounds of food scraps from the landfill every year.
“It’s a pretty significant number,” Trull says. “And it’ll definitely keep us in shape.”
But the team discovered they’d need a little more than brute physical force to cart hundreds of pounds of food waste across city limits. Trull says they’re working on installing pedal assist systems on the pedicabs, which are powered, in part, by solar panels and pedal strokes.
When you break and pedal, it adds power,” she says. “It’s a power boost and self-sustaining, in a way.”
And, to bring the project full-circle, Trull says Sol Chariots will launch a community supported agriculture (CSA) delivery program in the spring. Participants will receive fresh produce from Sidewalk Ends Farm and Red Planet Farm in Johnston, delivered by pedicab.
But, for now, Sol Chariots’ drivers will pedal around the city collecting compost “in rain, snow, sleet and hail,” Trull says. “But, bonus, it’s less smelly in the wintertime.”
To learn more about the Harvest Cycle Compost Pick-Up, visit solchariots.wixsite.com.