March 12, 2017

Conductor finds harmony in music and composting

Peruvian conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya visited a composting facility wearing a T-shirt with the words “Life is better with music.”

The dichotomy of music and composting is a familiar one to Harth-Bedoya, the director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra (FWSO).

His new year’s resolution for 2016 was “zero waste”– to contribute as little garbage to Fort Worth’s landfill as possible.

Harth-Bedoya shared his new year's resolution of reducing his output of waste in this Facebook post from January 2016.

Screenshot of Facebook post

Harth-Bedoya shared his new year’s resolution of reducing his output of waste in this Facebook post from Jan. 2016.

“So that means, I see a trash can, I stay away from it,” Harth-Bedoya said.

He recycled water bottles, reused shopping bags and donated goods.

But there was no option for him to compost food waste in the city–not until he created the option for himself.  

In July 2016, he teamed up with small-business owner Johanna Calderón to create Cowboy Compost.

Cowboy Compost provides residents and businesses with buckets they can fill with food scraps, everything from rotting fruit to leftover pizza.

The company transports the food waste to facilities where it can be sorted out and composted–creating what Harth-Bedoya calls a “rich soil.”

“So we are actually producing our own soil out of our own garbage,” he said.

His business partner Calderón said she was surprised by Harth-Bedoya’s proposal.

“So when he showed up in my house with a green bucket, I was like, ‘What are you doing?'” Calderón said.

She laughed as she remembered the scene and Harth-Bedoya’s response.

“Well since you cook, put all the organics here, and I’m gonna show you what is going to happen later,” he told her.

Harth-Bedoya conducted a trial run of the company with the members of his own orchestra.

He handed them green buckets that came with instructions on what could be composted.

Compostable products range from meats and sweets to plates and coffee filters, according to cowboycompost.com.

Kayley Ryan

Compostable products range from meats and sweets to plates and coffee filters, according to cowboycompost.com.

The results were impressive, said Michael Shih, the concertmaster of the FWSO and a longtime friend of Harth-Bedoya.

“We are a household of two, me and my wife,” said Shih. “We were shocked as to how much stuff was in the bucket after just a few days.”

Musicians from the FWSO have continued to compost.

While they turn in their organics to give back to the soil, Cowboy Compost turns its profits to give back to the symphony in its various programs, Harth-Bedoya said.

“So now we have a dichotomy, we have an extreme of art and garbage connecting and creating something useful on both ends,” he said.

Since its inception, Cowboy Compost has added three new grocery stores and nearly doubled its residential pickups to 47 households, Calderón said.

The company has diverted 44,000 pounds of food waste from the city’s landfill, she said.

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