Closing the Loop of Your Household Organic Waste

Kambieco

4. Quality Education 12. Responsible Consumption and Production 15. Life on Land

Overview

This innovation supports Sustainable Development Goal number 12 “Responsible Consumption and Production” by reducing waste generation, and enabling people to be informed and make their lifestyles more harmonious with nature. It also supports SDG 15 “Life on Land” since manure, the main output of the innovation, helps restore degraded land and soil. Finally, the education component of this innovation supports SDG 4 “Quality Education” by promoting knowledge and skills for sustainable development, especially for sustainable lifestyles.

Author

Luis Alfredo Miranda Vergara

Luis Alfredo Miranda Vergara

School

IESDE School of Management

IESDE School of Management

Professor

Gabriela Sánchez Bazán

Gabriela Sánchez Bazán

Innovation

Household organic waste, if properly treated, can be composted and turned into natural fertilizer to nurture the garden or plants in your household. But this requires space, time and specific know-how about the way organic waste needs to be managed. This innovation makes it easy for households to gain the benefits of turning your own organic waste into fertilizer for your own use. By paying a monthly fee per bucket, the customer’s organic waste is collected once per week at home, and in return, organic fertilizer produced by composting theses wastes is given back to the customer. As Luisa Osorio, founder of this innovation explains: “Today’s households have less space, people have less time, but nevertheless people want to do something for the environment. This innovation leverages the emerging “green” consciousness and facilitates households to contribute to a better environment".

Closing the Loop of Your Household Organic Waste

Inspiration

The innovation emerged as a final project of Luisa’s graduate education in Industrial Design. The task consisted of designing a product or a service, and she was strongly focused on doing something related to the environment, since she had always been very passionate about nature. “I could have designed a piece of furniture, but I did not want to cut trees, I actually wanted to plant trees, so I had to come up with something that was truly a benefit for the environment”. After analyzing different possibilities, she and a friend, Susana Cortés, decided to do something related to household waste, and specifically to organic household waste. They started collecting organic waste from 6 households, which quickly turned into 30, and then 40, and kept growing. After two years, the company is servicing around 200 households, which represents a key milestone to reorganize the business and plan for the future on a larger scale.

Luisa describes herself as a “sensitive and artistic person, truly passionate about nature, which is something truly beautiful”. A key moment in her childhood was once when she visited her uncle next door and realized he had a container on his roof where all organic waste was composted and turned into earth. Although she originally wanted to become a teacher, Luisa graduated as an industrial designer: “The thing I liked most about industrial design, was the focus on understanding the needs of the customer by actually being on the spot where something is needed”. Connecting this love for nature and her abilities to understand customers' needs, she and her friend decided to launch this project. Nevertheless, after some months, Susana decided to leave the project, and Luisa started looking for additional partners to bring know-how to the project and ensure the future growth. Through this, she connected with Enriqueta Diego who strengthened the team from a technical and management perspective, and together, they are currently running the business.

Enriqueta Diego, contributes mainly with technical know-how about composting. “I am a true fan of ecology. For 25 years I have been producing compost at home; I feel really connected to earth, to nature, and after some difficult times in my life, this connection with nature helped me get through it”. Before joining this project, Enriqueta developed another similar business called “Ecoterra” focused on collecting waste from farms (mainly animal feces) and processing it with worms, to be sold back to farmers and used as fertilizer for their plants. “This is a true passion for me, and will be a passion for life”, she states. The company is really leveraging Enriqueta’s experience with composting and waste management, for example, to understand and control factors like temperature, pH, humidity, and ensure that the composting process is done properly to obtain the fertilizer that is sent back to the households.

Overall impact

For Luisa, education has always been a central element in her life, strongly influenced by her father, who runs a school, and other family members. This project is a means for her to connect with children through education, and connect them with nature through the understanding of how composting works, and how organic waste can turn back to earth where it came from, closing the loop.

This innovation has a huge potential to become a large-scale profitable project once it enables “closing the loop of each individual in the most local possible way within your living environment, making it easier for each person to become a regenerating being”.

For Enriqueta, this project also provides education and creates consciousness about responsible consumption, mainly for younger generations. As she states: “You can easily say my house is clean once the waste has been collected, but almost no one has an idea of where our waste ends up, since waste is still out there somewhere impacting the environment.” This is also an opportunity for households to assess the health of their consumption, specifically how many fruits and vegetables they are consuming every week, judged by the amount of organic waste that is collected.

Business benefit

This project has clearly shown, that innovation is not just a matter of developing a breakthrough technology. Composting has existed for centuries and mankind has been aware of the benefits of it for decades. The innovation is making it easier for people in an urban setting to contribute to the environment through local action, and via a project that is traditionally seen as a task of a local government. This project is a source of well-being for households within the city of Puebla, creating value for several parties.

Another key learning element for the team that leads this project has been to focus it as a true business that generates a profit. The accelerated growth in these first two years has shown a huge potential but also huge challenges on adapting the strategy and organizing the logistics around it. Besides being something that was born more as an environmental project with great success so far, the future success will depend on applying focused business strategies and tactics. “This should not be only a matter of putting some money in, taking some profit out and realizing that there is actually an attractive cash flow, we really need to deep dive into the numbers, gain a better understanding of our break-even point and the critical mass required to make it more attractive, and this is precisely the work we are doing right now,” stated the partners. At the end, this confirms the need of a business and financial perspective to create value for the different stakeholders involved in a project like this, and thus support the growth of initiatives that are innovating for the global good.

Social and environmental benefit

"Composting is just an excuse", stated Luisa. The company's actual mission is facilitating a regeneration of the community and the environment, and this truly reflects what this project is about. This project has evidenced how people that usually have nothing to do with each other start building a community around something in common, in this case, separating organic waste through this project and obtaining the organic fertilizer for their households. A clear example of the development of a community around this topic was the first reforestation campaign sponsored by this and other organizations. “I really dream of a reforestation campaign where 80% of our customer households participate to plant trees as a community,” states Luisa.

This project is also reducing deforestation, since typically, “the soil that is sold to households for their gardens is actually stolen from forestall areas, and unconsciously, practically everyone is contributing to deforestation,” explains Enriqueta. This way, this project provides an alternative for households purchasing soil (and which is usually taken from forestall areas), and instead use the organic fertilizer produced from their own organic waste for their gardens and plants at home.

Interviews

Luisa Osorio, Partner

Enriqueta Diego, Partner

Photo of interviewee

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Kambieco

Kambieco

Puebla, Puebla, MX

Business Website: https://www.kambieco.com/

Year Founded: 2016

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

This innovation makes it easy for households to gain the benefits of turning your own organic waste into fertilizer for your own use. By paying a monthly fee per bucket, the customer’s organic waste is collected once per week at home, and in return, organic fertilizer produced by composting theses wastes is given back to the customer.