Do you have a lot of leftover food and feel bad about throwing it away? A new company outside of Saegertown may have just the right solution.

Conservation Compost opened its retail store on April 8, but has been operational since August 2020. The company, owned and operated by friends Ryan Nageotte and David Washousky, collects discarded food from both commercial businesses and local residents who sign up for their service and converts that food into organic food supplements that can be grown on Plants can be used. It is also the first commercial composting facility in the region to be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Naegeotte said the two wanted to expand their food collection side before opening the retail side that sells the compost, mulch and eventually topsoil created by the composting process.

“Certainly we waited a few months to look at a retail store, number one, because good compost takes time,” he said.

Conservation Compost already has several large customers in Crawford and Erie Counties, including Mercyhurst and Gannon Universities of Erie and Saint Vincent Hospital.

“We are in the process of diverting our first £ 100,000 on both fronts, and we are skimming just the smallest amount of that potential that we can do to really make a difference in northwest Pennsylvania,” said Washousky.

The two business owners go way back and met during freshman orientation while attending Allegheny College. The two were environmental majors and became quick friends, even joining a folk trio called Gypsy Dave and the Stumpjumpers.

Naegeotte later worked for the US Department of Agriculture’s conservation service and worked on various environmental initiatives such as mitigating wetlands and reducing nutrient runoff.

Washousky meanwhile worked as a program director at French Creek Valley Conservancy while growing his own business, Recovery Solutions.

It wasn’t until 2017 that Washousky approached Nageotte with the idea of ​​founding a composting company. From this meeting the idea for Conservation Compost arose.

Both men described themselves as avid gardeners, so they knew the benefits of composting food for anyone with a green thumb. Nageotte also said there was a commercial food waste processing hole in the area that they were ready to fill.

The lack of awareness of composting has been one of the challenges in opening the store. Nageotte said the two act as “part-time educators”, educating local residents and business owners about the value of composting.

For one, the process is environmentally friendly. Food that ends up in a landfill will rot, which over time can release methane, which is a greenhouse gas.

“It is estimated that up to 40 percent of household waste is actually compostable organics,” said Washousky. “So there is an enormous amount of waste that goes to the landfill that is not needed.”

The couple have had to wear many hats since the start of the business, some of which they were unfamiliar with.

“You have to be a little bit of a marketer, a little bit of a handyman, a little bit of a salesman, a little bit of everything,” said Nageotte.

With a ventilated stacking system and thousands of worm “employees”, the two can break down the food into valuable compost. While composting can be done at home, the system used at Conservation Compost is more complex, according to Washousky, and can be used for a larger amount of leftover food, such as meat or spoiled food.

Other examples of things Conservation Compost accepts are fruits, vegetables, eggshells, bread, coffee / tea grounds, napkins, and paper towels.

For residents who want to sign up for services, it costs $ 10 per month or $ 30 per quarter, plus a $ 5 application fee to cover the cost of a bucket they receive. Residents also receive compostable bags.

Once their bucket is full, residents can take it to one of three current drop-off points: Voodoo Brewery Compound, 834 Bessemer St., Meadville; Conservation Compost, 16732 State Highway 198, Hayfield Township; and Whole Foods Co-op, 1341 W. 26th St., Erie.

Conservation Compost’s private customers are considered “active compost partners” and receive a 10 percent discount on all products sold by the company.

Registration can be done online at Conservationcompost.com.

Corporations or other commercial entities can call (814) 273-7044 or email info@conservationcompost.com. Companies receive 64-gallon dead bodies to put their food waste in, with the number of dead bodies and pick-up times varying as needed. Prices also vary depending on the pick-up frequency and needs. However, Washousky said the average cost is around $ 50 per month.

While they’re just getting started, the two are hoping Conservation Compost will continue to expand. Washousky said the couple would be interested in expanding services to Venango County if they could attract a large corporate client as an anchor point there.

The retail trade is open on Thursdays from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Conservation Compost. Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sean P. Ray can be reached at 724-6370 or via email at sray@meadvilletribune.com.