Waste Not

What Tea Leaves Had in Store for the Fox

By / Photography By John Benford | January 05, 2016
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Rian Bedard

The Tale of a Local Composting Service

The first time Rian Bedard really saw a teabag, he sold his car and began bike commuting, which was no small commitment on the hills of San Francisco. A year later, he was back on the Seacoast beginning what would become Mr. Fox Composting. “It’s a business of pure patience and gray hair,” he says with a smile, “because you’re changing people’s behavior.” From the personal renaissance story Rian tells, he loves each one of those hairs and the people he’s won them with.

Mr. Fox picks up compostables from several hundred commercial and residential community customers, from restaurants to salons and from churches to a neighbor near you, all within a 20 mile radius of Portsmouth. In a two-route garbage and recycling system, the company meets a third need by turning these pick-ups into soil-ready and saleable compost at its facility in Eliot, ME. Then each spring, Mr. Fox donates back a portion of compost to its customers for their restaurant, school, and home gardens.

Rian Bedard shoveling
Owner Rian Bedard shoveling compost.
Quick to credit his six employees for making the business work, Rian calls Mr. Fox a full circle company, from scraps to soil to table. The closed loop makes so much sense that entire municipalities have joined in. The small town of Rye, for example, has no curbside pickups. It now makes space for residents to drop off compost along with their garbage and recycling at the town’s transfer station. Mr. Fox picks up the compostables, Rye’s garbage bill decreases, and landfills are a little emptier.

But Rian was not always an executive composter. After growing up in Kittery, ME, he took various college classes, one of them Social Behavior of Business at SNHU. The class helped him consider consumer impact, beginning with what buyers hardly ever see: product fabrication in low-income communities around the world where there is little to no oversight. Toss in eco-conscious coworkers he had at the time and his own eco-values as a surfer, and Rian found himself seeking positive training for how to address environmental issues.

Mr. Fox employees
Holding compost
Holding a tea bag

Sustainability drew him to San Francisco where he and a friend began a small company called I ♥ Organics. They sold t-shirts, interviewed local farmers on University of San Francisco radio, and tabled events until Rian took a class with the Permaculture Guild of San Francisco, “The course was really about design systems for survival, from food composting to general composting and permaculture in all aspects of life.” This is where Rian saw that tea bag. His instructors dissected this tiny, ubiquitous item’s carbon foot print, from material transportation to fabrication—herbs, mesh, staple, string, paper tab and envelope.

Once Rian saw the world through “perma-lenses,” there was no losing them. He wore them all the way back to New Hampshire where in 2009 he started EcoMovement Hauling and Consulting. Two years later, the company found its focus in compost and changed its name to match its customer reviews: friendly, passionate, convenient service. Mr. Fox is now the namesake of five-year-old Fox, the oldest of Rian and his wife’s two sons.

As Mr. Fox continues to serve its early adopters and seeks to attract more mainstream customers, Rian hopes people learn more about compositing and start asking, “Why isn’t this normal?” Above all, Rian wants to help people realize their ability to affect a healthy planet, “Whether it’s a student or a residential customer, if we can make that ‘Aha’ moment happen, we’ve made a change.”

I think we can all lift a glass of bag-free, loose-leaf tea to that.

Article from Edible New Hampshire at http://ediblenewhampshire.ediblecommunities.com/shop/what-tea-leaves-had-store-fox
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