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Making New Orleans Greener, One Compost Pile at A Time

By: Kevin Fitzwilliam

Entrepreneurship in the New Orleans local-food scene has had a fluid quality in post-Katrina years. Even the most beloved local-food startups like Hollygrove Market can lose staying power. However, some embers still burn bright in the wake of Hollygrove’s closure, specifically from the compost pile!

"Tourists come here for a food experience, and unfortunately in the restaurant industry there is a lot of waste."

Nicola Krebil, urban-agriculture entrepreneur, has been working with 30 local businesses to reduce their landfill waste by composting biodegradable food waste and other products. Krebil’s business is Schmelly’s Dirt Farm, offering compost pick-up and delivery. Krebil’s list of clients includes coffee shops, hotels, offices, and restaurants. “This is a city jam-packed with restaurants,” says Krebil. “Tourists come here for a food experience, and unfortunately in the restaurant industry there is a lot of waste.” Whereas restaurants would typically have to throw out that waste, Krebil offers them an eco-friendly alternative.

One of Krebil’s participating restaurants is Lillete. Executive Sous Chef Ed Charles helps to run the restaurant’s composting efforts. “We’re trying to cut down on our waste and be more environmentally-friendly,” said Charles. The effect has been beneficial both at the restaurant and in the home lives of the restaurant’s employees. “Restaurants have a lot of waste, and now we recycle everything we can as well as composting. We’re more conscious of throwing things away at home, too.” As for Schmelly’s Dirt Farm, Nicola Krebil looks forward to adding clients, working with students, and continuing to turn waste into compost that benefits urban farmers throughout the city of New Orleans.  

Kevin Fitzwilliam is a Fellow with Environmental Entrepreneurs and is the owner of Atlas Handmade Beads, a New Orleans company helping to move the Gulf South beyond plastic beads (atlasbeads.com). He can be reached at info@atlasbeads.com.