Lifting up GCF service and alumni in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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icon-clock January 17, 2022

Dear Green City Force Community,

Every MLK Day is a day at GCF of reflection and recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and our pillar of service. Today, Cohort 22 Corps Members are meeting in community and reflecting on their final days of service and preparing for their upcoming graduation and job placement in sustainable career tracks. We’ve invited one of our phenomenal graduates, Domingo Morales, to share the story of Compost Power to spotlight the important work of young adult leaders driving sustainability and transformation through service in NYCHA communities.

I’m Domingo Morales, Founder of educational initiative Compost Power and alum of Green City Force. I created Compost Power in the fall of 2020 after being laid off from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden due to budget cuts. Instead of looking for a new organization to work for, I decided to put my compost skills to work helping NYCHA communities. It’s now been over a year since Compost Power and GCF joined forces, and I’d like to share what we’ve achieved.

In the first phase of our partnership, a new compost system was built at Bay View Houses Farm in Canarsie, Brooklyn. At the time, Green City Force had five farms with active compost systems, but I knew improvements could be made. After sharing my ideas and vision with GCF leadership, I was brought on to become GCF’s Compost Consultant. I immediately jumped into service with active corps members to build a new three-bin system at the Bay View Houses Farm. The project spanned two months, which included removing the old compost system and building a new one using cedar wood, steel screens, nails, screws, staples, teamwork and love.

Above: Domingo Morales, Cohort 10 Alum and GCF Compost Consultant, creating an updated compost system with the team at Bay View Houses.

After completing the Bay View Houses compost site retrofit, I became the support system for all five farms. Initially, GCF and Compost Power’s goal was to increase the amount of finished compost produced at each farm while also making the entire process more efficient and user friendly.

To help with maintaining the composting process, each site was provided with two tons of wood shavings and eight tons of wood chips, sourced from local woodworkers and arborists. As each site established its own composting system, more tools and supplies were needed to operate efficiently. Everything from shovels and pitchforks to sifting tables were needed to create the most impactful GCF composting sites.

Above: Domingo working in front of a three-bin compost system.

Above: The Compost Power team building a three-bin system.

In December of 2020 the renovations and fabrications for all GCF sites were completed, with Wagner Houses Farm as the final compost system built, giving all GCF Eco-Hub sites a three-bin system composting program.

In February of 2021, I realized that I didn’t have the ability to host multiple food scrap drop-offs on my own and would need a team to fully support each GCF farm. After months of planning, GCF and Compost Power applied for and won a Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice grant with funding from the NYC Clean Up Corps initiative, allowing us to expand our compost initiative by hiring GCF alumni. In August of 2021, we hired 11 young adults and the composting at NYCHA initiative took off, enabling us to fully staff our Saturday food scrap drop-offs. Together we were able to engage with and educate over 2,200 families, hosting workshops to residents, volunteers and out-of-state visitors. Currently, we’ve diverted more than 25 tons of food waste, 61 tons of green waste, and 50 tons of carbon-rich materials (wood shavings, straw, wood chips, etc.).

Above: One of GCF and Compost Power’s food scrap drop-off sites.

With the installations, renovations and updated systems, we have also officially removed the need for GCF to buy compost from an outside source. Our more than 20 cubic yards of curing compost will be able to supply all Eco-Hubs with enough compost to kick off the season with a high yield.

Above: The Compost Power team managing the compost process.

During the winter months, we are focusing on staffing our drop-offs and increasing our outreach throughout the city. Recently, we built a compost system at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and we are currently helping Green Feen, a women-led and worker-owned compost cooperative in the Bronx, with their site remodel. In the next two months, we will be assisting partners across the city with their compost systems and creating a video guide for our three-bin systems and our wind-row techniques.

Above: Domingo and the Compost Power team teaching a young neighbor about compost.

It’s the people who make this work possible. Thanks to our hired alumni, we have extended our outreach through flyering and each Eco-Hub site has a drop-off every Saturday, a consistent composting process, and is organized and inviting for our NYCHA residents.

We have proven that GCF and Compost Power have the ability to reduce waste one shovel at a time. We need more opportunities like this going forward and GCF is the perfect organization to help lead our communities toward a greener, more inclusive and sustainable city. We are capable of becoming the sustainability educators that NYCHA needs and we are eager to expand our reach. Let’s build this city together.

In service,