Thursday, April 25, 2013

A New Addition to Indianapolis' Green Initiatives - Interview with Greg Watson

by Laure Campbell Kong

Greg Watson is the owner and developer of Green With Indy, Indianapolis’ first curbside composting program. Greg is a small business owner and is now branching out; he began Green With Indy in 2009 and added the composting component just 6 months ago.

Green With Indy (GWI) is a limited liability company designed to offer Indiana residents and restaurants alike the ability to compost their food waste. Greg wanted to provide a way for people to compose with ease, cleanly and affordably. His efforts began with MyMamaCanCook!, a web and television series aimed to address the obesity problem through teaching the younger generation basic cooking skills. It was during this process, Greg realized that he would also tackle the rising issue of food waste.

“$165 billion dollars of food is thrown away every year, into landfills. 40 percent of it comes from restaurants, with the remainder coming from our households.”

There is a great opportunity for Indianapolis residents to divert that money from our landfills and reinvest it into our community. Composting food waste, whether for your individual garden or for a community garden, completes the “Circle of Food,” says Greg.

In January, Greg also started a new service to provide customers with GWI staff who help starting a garden based on what a customer needs. MyVeggieGardener will help construct, plant, maintain, and harvest a vegetable garden, teaching you the basics along the way.

“The goal is to educate people on how to grow and maintain a garden, in addition to helping them learn how to cook the food; eventually, not needing my garden service because they will then know how to do it themselves.”

Greg wants to educate the public; his approach offers residents and enthusiasts the ability to learn how interconnected sustainability issues really are. But this kind of holistic approach is extremely difficult to get off the ground.

“We are a getting high amount of searches on google; there are people who are interested and looking up information via the internet, 58,000 interested Indianapolis citizens to be exact. But, where those 58,000 people are, I don’t know. I’ve reached out to neighborhood associations and their mailing lists, gardening organizations and urban gardeners, but I have not had much luck. I am trying to take a paperless approach, utilizing social media and emailing whenever possible.

I know it is going to have to be a grassroot effort. Knocking on doors, taking orders, showing people the compost bins, the bags, discussing the services available with them and educating them on how they can benefit from a garden, and organic vegetables; then letting people decide if they want to continue with it.”

Luckily, there are very little regulatory issues to confront Greg’s work.

“Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) are not putting any legislation out there to hamper this. They want to see it grow; they too can benefit from this and they see that.”

When asked what Greg thought would be the impact he is trying to make here in Indianapolis, he said,

“ I have a small goal of having every rooftop, every green space, that can grow food, grow food. It’s that simple, but that complex-in terms that it’s a big job; I want to begin changing behavior and connecting with churches, the neighborhood associations, etc.”

Green With Indy appears to be taking the right steps to make this happen. Greg has reached out to many local restaurants sparking interests. He even reached out to organizations like the Girl Scouts, joining forces for the upcoming girl scout camp in the fall and helping erect frames for compost beds, showing the girls how to have a garden, and teaching the girls in the process.

The work of educating the public will open doors for Greg and his company to bring Indianapolis to the forefront of the sustainable food initiative. For more information, visit Green With Indy’s website.

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