Bootstrap Compost is the brainchild of Andy Brooks. In January 2011, the longtime JP resident launched the service. Bootstrap Compost will pick up discarded food waste at your home, and turn your garbage into rich garden compost.
The idea occurred to Brooks while visiting Montpelier, Vermont, where he was inspired by a similar service called Earthgirl Composting. Brooks, who has worked as a writer, musician, and started a t-shirt company, explained that he was tired of looking for work for more than a year.
“I called it Bootstrap because it was a way of empowering myself and the community with everyone doing their part,” he said.
Prices for the service start at $8 for a pick-up every two weeks. (Customers who contract for extended 8 or 16 week pick-ups receive discounts.) Brooks supplies a five-gallon bucket. His clients fill the bucket with biodegradable refuse like kitchen scraps, paper, coffee grounds, and even meat.
(Dairy products are not accepted.) Brooks makes his rounds on foot, his bicycle, and on the T, replacing full buckets with empty ones. Despite the bitter cold and multiple blizzards of this past winter, Brooks said that the weather only stopped him on one day.
Brooks, who describes himself as a “casual gardener,” demonstrated how in 10-15 weeks time, the waste is transformed into compost. The brew must be stirred and occasionally turned to keep it from simply rotting. Nitrogen-rich alfalfa meal and the addition of carbon in the form of leaves or cardboard speeds the process.
As the flyer for Bootstrap explains, "Everyone wins!" with the residential compost service that "reduces wastefulness, saves landfill space, and nurtures the health of urban soil." Some of the compost is returned to his customers.
The material is also used in two community gardens near Egleston Square: the Granada Park Community Gardens and the newly christened Egleston Community Orchard on Boylston Street.
Until recently, the Boylston Street location, he said, was a vacant lot filled with “trash and televisions.” Though still rather desolate, now in early March, this spring and summer the site will be transformed into a verdant field, filled with activity and life.
In between calls on his ever-ringing cell phone, Brooks explained that the service has taken off quickly. “I have customers in the North End, Charlestown, Beacon, Hill, Somerville, and Cambridge,” he said. About half of Bootstrap’s customers live in Jamaica Plain. Due to the endeavor’s rapid growth, Brooks has had to wait-list clients who live outside of JP but he is still able to accept customers who live here. “I have one helper two days per week,” he remarked.
The affable eco-entrepreneur seemed a little surprised by the rather sudden success of his urban gardening business. “When I think of Boston,” he joked, “I think of law firms and academia. Who knew there would be so much interest?”