When you think of businesses that would incorporate composting into their operations, what types of businesses come to mind? Restaurants? Of course. Grocery stores? Sounds right. Architecture firm? Huh?
But according to John Guzik, Director of Sustainability for Bialosky Cleveland, composting actually makes a lot of sense for their firm. “As architects, we're always looking to improve things, but sometimes some of our practices and processes are harmful for the environment,” he says. “We've looked at sustainability as a firm for a long time, specifically about the construction of buildings and making things as efficient as possible and yet we still recognize that there's waste. And any way that we can cut down on that is good.”
Their composting journey, or at least the idea of it, actually began several years ago when their offices were in Shaker Square. They conducted an office-wide waste audit in an effort to reduce the amount of energy they used, and were surprised to find out that food accounted for a considerable percentage of their total waste.
That realization sparked a discussion about incorporating composting into their waste reduction strategy. But after much deliberation, it proved to be far more complicated than anyone expected. “Who's going to be responsible for it, who's going to collect the stuff, how is it going to get done in the winter when the weather is not conducive to it,” John says. “There were so many hurdles to it, that while it was good intentioned, it never really took off because of all the complications.”
At that time, Rust Belt Riders was a mere idea in the minds of founders Dan Brown and Michael Robinson. But Bialosky’s issues are the perfect example of why a reliable composting service was needed in Cleveland. Let’s fast forward a few years….
John was approached one day by a younger staff member named Emma Kurfis, who knew of Rust Belt Riders. “She had come to me as the Director of Sustainability and said, is this something that we would consider? I said, absolutely! Not only is it a great idea it was actually one that we had a long time ago,” John recalls. “We're very receptive to ideas of the younger people in our office because we recognize that they’ve got the boots on the street and they’re more in tune to what's up and coming.”
Bialosky had since moved their offices from Shaker Square to their current MidTown location. The renovation of their new office space presented them with the perfect opportunity to incorporate composting as part of their trash disposal, and the rollout turned out to be a great team building exercise.
“We integrated the compost bin into our counter tops when we renovated this space,” he said. “One of our staff members is a wood worker, and we fabricated a wooden cover and then used our laser cutter to etch into to. We got a couple people involved to make it fun and cool. We're designers so we like doing that kind of stuff. But it was also a way to engage more people, to get that sense of ownership.”
But their composting initiative goes beyond just engaging their own staff members. As an architecture firm with a diverse portfolio of clients, it’s critical for Bialosky to have expertise on a broad range of subjects so they can educate their clients around designing spaces with a positive environmental impact.
“To a great extent our mission is not just to do good, but to encourage other people to do good as well, and you can't do that without education. We spend a lot of time as a firm, as professionals, trying to educate our clients. But in order to do that we needed to educate ourselves first,” he says. “With us doing more with the composting, it's something we've been able to speak to clients about as well. So it’s met our mission from a sustainability stand point, but also it was an opportunity to learn more about it ourselves.”