August 27, 2019 News & Features » Cover Story


Bruno Welsh 

Founder of Compost RVA, which focuses on environmental education

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Scott Elmquist

Whirling his weathered hands in a bucket of mixed compost, Bruno Welsh grins.

“It’s like when you’re walking into a forest that hasn’t been messed with,” he says of the smell, unfazed by worms and pill bugs wiggling through the porous substance.

The founder of Compost RVA says that even though the nonprofit is known for picking up compostable waste from local residences and businesses, such as Perch and Sugar and Twine, with customized schedules, the focus has always been on education.

Starting in 2013, Compost RVA’s goal was to get kids excited about science in schools and demonstrate that composting is more than just breaking down garbage. Students learn the nitty-gritty details, like how meat scraps and carcasses from the local butcher’s shop can work together with bacteria and worms to create plant growth.

“When you engage kids and you get them on point with stuff, that makes a world of difference,” he says. “I really think that when you show up for the community and you do all these different things, it pays off.”

When he’s not teaching composting, the weekly to-do list includes providing mixed compost to community gardens, pickups and maintaining the massive composting piles Welsh lovingly refers to as “earth burritos.”

In the past six months, Compost RVA’s two-person operation has composted more than 40,000 pounds of waste. Businesses working with Welsh to reduce the levels of methane gas released in landfills see it as a mutually beneficial step toward helping the environment — one bucket of manure at a time.

“We’ve been really happy to both solve our conundrum of having a lot of food waste … and also support him at the same time,” says Beth Oristian, owner of Sugar and Twine, noting that the shop no longer throws away coffee grounds.

“We honestly look forward to seeing those two days a week that he pops in and picks up our trash.” — by Sabrina Moreno

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