New Brunswick

Maggots and rotting food: Single mom starts compost business to support kids

Carolyn Houseman spends her mornings touching other people's rotting food, and she's happy to do it. The single mother of two in Fredericton runs a subscription-based composting business in October.

Fredericton doesn't offer a composting service, so this woman stepped up

Carolyn Houseman is a single mom who lives outside Fredericton. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

Carolyn Houseman spends her mornings touching other people's rotting food, and she's happy to do it. 

The single mother of two in Fredericton started a subscription-based composting business in October. Since then, she's lifted more than 15 tonnes of compost into her dark red Toyota pickup truck.

"It's a compost-pooling system, like carpooling, but with food scraps," Houseman said.

Donned in a fluorescent yellow vest and gloves, Houseman jumps out of her truck, scoops up a Rubbermaid container full of compost resting on the curb and tosses it into the back of her truck.

Houseman's customers leave their compost at the curb in a bin or bucket on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

The smell of rotting strawberries at 7 a.m. doesn't bother her. Nor do the maggots crawling across the potatoes. 

Houseman said she started Greensteps Compost Collection because the City of Fredericton doesn't offer a composting service. 

Over the course of four week days, Houseman drives to 63 homes in Fredericton, Hanwell and Oromocto to collect compost. 

Although driving to pick up the compost burns fossil fuels, Houseman said she did the math and the environmental benefits of collecting people's compost outweighs the damage done to the environment by driving.

Houseman's customers pay $10 a month for the service. They leave their compost in a bin or a bucket at their curb on either Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday.

Ends up in farmer's field

Emelie Hubert is one of Houseman's customers. Hubert started putting her box of compost at her curbside in March. She said she's composts about eight litres worth of food each week. 

"I don't understand why the city isn't doing this," Hubert said.

After Houseman collects the compost, she brings it back to her house, sorts through it to take out any non-degradable material, and then meets with a local farmer, who uses it on his crops. 

Carolyn Houseman drives to 63 homes in Fredericton over the course of four week days collecting compost. 0:48

She founded the composting business after her four-year common-law relationship came to an end.

"I guess my motivation was to find a niche, to find some way to be self-sustaining." 

One day when she was scrolling through her Facebook newsfeed, she stumbled across a post from a composting company that operates out of Portland, Maine, called Garbage to Garden. She got in contact with the person who started the business in Maine, Tyler Frank. Soon afterward, she began her own composting business in Fredericton. 

Houseman works part time at the Superstore in Fredericton, a job she enjoys, but after her breakup the pay wasn't enough to keep her afloat. 

After picking up people's compost curbside, Houseman dumps the contents into Rubbermaid containers in the back of her truck. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

"It wasn't enough to pay the bills. It wasn't adequate to secure the mortgage, so I did what I needed to do."   

Houseman has a 13-year-old son and another child in university. She needed to find another way to support them. 

"I don't know if you've ever tried to feed a 13-year-old, but it costs a lot of money," she said.

Houseman has always been passionate about the environment.

All for kids

She has chickens and ducks in her backyard, and, in addition to running her composting business, she also plants trees in her spare time. 

Houseman enjoys spending her mornings sorting through other people's food waste. (Sarah Morin/CBC)

"We can't do everything, but we do what we can." 

The reason she does it all? Her kids. 

"It's worth it for them."

About the Author

Sarah Morin

Reporter

Sarah Morin is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick based in Fredericton. Story tip? sarah.morin@cbc.ca

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.