Shifting global consciousness with a handful of soil
I met Josh in January of 2018. He is hard to make out. He is slender and well taken care of, with a fresh haircut pushed to the side. It’s hard to tell his age as his white hair does not allow you to tell if he is a well kept 40 something or a wise-looking 30 something.
I have a strong association with Josh that comes from my time in San Francisco. He is one of those big thinkers that speaks about changing the world.
I’m skeptical at first. I’m just about to turn 50 and I’ve met my share of dreamers. Yet, there is something that feels a bit different about him and his capacity.
He is one of the few entrepreneurs that I’ve met in my life that may just be able to do it. It’s not all that hard to imagine as he has had other successes in his past.
At some point 10 years ago he spotted a gap in transportation. Public transport was being underutilized because it was seen as unreliable, inconvenient and boring. In a world of immediate gratification, who wants to wait for a bus? Josh took the idea and, not unlike Uber, decided to bring public transit into the 21st century. And, not unlike the transport giant, he created an easy to use app, with the combination of GPS tracking, to give passengers the opportunity to take control over their travel experience.
Instead of waiting for the bus, they would track it and time their arrival. In the meantime, this is commonplace, but at the time, Josh’s forward-thinking changed transport on college campuses around the US. His company, TransLoc, sold to Ford Motors and not long after he was scratching his head as to what to do next.
When I ask Josh about his plans, “His mind is working like a supercomputer. His eyes move side to side as he computes his answer and puts his next big idea on hold to speak.”
As he says, “There are no shortage of ideas. I’m looking for the places where I can put my energy to make the greatest impact. Both in terms of awaking consciousness and shifting the degradation of the planet.”
I ask him, “And where do you see that?”
He goes on to share a personal story. “I was living in a city and I completely lost contact with nature. I was consuming, just like everyone else, with little thought to waste, outside of sorting paper and plastic. Then I had my first experience with composting. Something magical occurred. Not only was I decreasing my footprint on the garbage dump, I was reacquainting myself with the planet.”
He continues, “Once you see your food scraps turn into soil, it completely changes your perspective. You quite literally get grounded back into nature. And the beauty is that you don’t even need to leave the city.” He goes on to share how this moment flipped a switch in his head.
It was not long after that he decided to apply his entrepreneurial background with his deep desire to save the planet. He founded the company MakeSoil in 2018, with the primary focus of creating an entirely new segment of recycling on a global level. And, if there is one thing that Josh does not do, its think small.
If you go to the MakeSoil site, you are quickly guided to participate as either a soil maker or a soil supporter. The beauty of this site is that it is easy. Unlike other platforms that try to make do with the pieces of content management systems, the MakeSoil site is clearly made with no hurdles to jump through.
A peak at the MakeSoil interface
For Soil makers, it’s easy to designate your location and invite soil supporters to drop off only the food scraps that are desired. For instance, some sites may only want vegetable scraps, while others may welcome paper and other compostable materials.
On the other side, environmentally conscious neighbors can quickly go to the website and become soil supporters, finding people in their area that are receiving compostable materials. It all sounds so obvious, but like many things in life, it’s often about the implementation.
When I ask Josh about his philosophy he often mentions Elon Musk. “When Elon is building Tesla’s, he is not asking people how can we get this done fast. He is asking how do we do it in such a way that people will never want it any other way.”
After I met Josh, he asked me on several occasions if I was already composting? As he said, “You need to experience it to understand it. Do it and then let’s talk about it.”
We had that talk 4 months ago and it was not long after that I went to the local garden center and purchased a 100-liter black plastic box for about 40 dollars. Added to that was a box of bacteria accelerator, which basically does what nature would do in time on its own, but faster.”
When I tell Josh about my purchase, he is clearly happy. I see that he sees his success in terms of shifting people’s behavior one at a time. He knows that shifting consciousness takes time and he will need a few champions if he is going to have the impact that he is looking for.
He loves to talk nature and he shares, “Andy, it’s incredible. Everything that you put in your compost has a specific bacteria whose only purpose is breaking it down so that it can be turned back into soil. Think about that for a moment. You are creating an ecosystem, that will in turn, create soil.”
If you hear him without having the experience firsthand, you may think that he is exaggerating, but as I have now seen for myself, all the scraps that I threw in 4 months ago have been broken down into the soil. All of the food scraps have disappeared and all that is left is the black soil from which they came.
The phases of composting as it breaks down over time
I’m curious and I continue to ask Josh questions, “I live in the center of a city, do I need to be concerned about rodents?”
He replies, “if you create the site correctly, you need not worry. It’s all about mixing water, air, and waste. I could explain to you what proportions, but I’ve found that intuition works in most cases. You can see when there is too much water or there is too much dry material.”
I ask, “I’ve seen some flies forming.”
He smiles and says,”That’s easy enough to solve, just throw leaves on top and you see that the flies disappear quite quickly.”
I do so and I see that he is right.
Although he is happy with my progress, it’s clear to me that his vision is to create what he calls “Soil Sites,” locations where people that have nominated themselves as receiving food scraps are bringing communities together.
He shares a story, “I went back to visit my family and while I was there helped my parents set up a compost bin. It was not long thereafter that a neighbor came by and asked what we were doing. It was not long after that that one by one, neighbors were bringing food scraps to my parents’ bin.”
He continues with a smile on his face, ”Before I visited my parents they had no association with composting and less than a week later, they brought the neighborhood together to compost. Imagine in a week, the entire street was turning their waste into the basis of food production, soil.”
I’m curious where this is all going and what business he sees developing out of this. He then shares something that blows my mind.
“Andy, I believe that we are defining an entirely new job category, artisanal soil.”
He continues,” Think to yourself, once soil making become standard in communities, a new profession will emerge. There will be professional soil makers around the world. High-quality soil produced locally. It will not be long before the soil is sold at each site. It’s already happening today. Mark my words, in the future there will be professional soil makers in each community.”
I see his eyes beam as he speaks about a future he already sees before his eyes. I’m just beginning to feel it as I squint my eyes and bend my current reality. I see a true entrepreneur.
Four months ago I saw food scraps as just another thing to throw in the trash. Today it’s an opportunity to come closer to nature. With the help of Josh, I’ve learned that touching my own soil is a step back into nature. And if there is one thing that our society currently needs, it’s getting back to the roots. Or in this case, the soil that supports the roots.
I’m grateful that people like Josh exist in the world. It’s his combination of entrepreneurial thinking and conscious action that gives me hope in the future. He opened my eyes, and I hope that through this article, you too see a future in composting ahead of you.
And, thankfully much of the hard work has been done for you. MakeSoil.org has answers to just about any question you might have.
Andy Chaleff is one of our heroes in the profound work of healing our world’s heart.
He is an acclaimed author, motivational speaker, talk show host of “A Wonderful Chaos”, conscious business advisor, and a beloved mentor to many, including the Buzzworthy team.
He dropped everything and devotionally toured across America for three months holding “Last Letter” healing circles for a wide array of communities to safely explore the depths of their grief, giving people permission to release suffering and move forward with an opened and unburdened heart.
His most recent body of work, “The Wounded Healer”, showcases personal stories of breakthroughs where most people deprive themselves of self-love. We are honored to showcase excerpts from this transformational series starting July 20th. A voice of clarity and wholeness in our transitional time.