Vann Fussell started composting at age 16, when his high school environmental class learned how to make their own compost bins. “That was the first time I was really inspired by composting,” he says. But it wouldn’t be the last.
Years later, you’ll find him piloting a bright orange pickup truck as the proud founder and chief operations officer of Compost Colorado.
Surprisingly, Colorado has some of the lowest recycling and composting rates in the country. Composting requires more of a dedicated effort than recycling, as well as a bit of know-how and patience. There’s the initial investment in equipment and bins, the smell, the potential for attracting critters, as well as the work and monitoring required to keep the process going.
But Fussell knew there was an urgent need to get more consumers involved in keeping organic materials out of the landfill while enriching local soils and the environment. He saw a market for supporting consumers who wanted to be part of the solution but just needed a little help, so he decided to launch Compost Colorado (also known as CoCo), to try to combat this waste crisis and protect our environment.
How CoCo Works
CoCo provides buckets and curbside waste pickup for residential members, as well as neighborhood drop-off programs, commercial services, zero-waste events, and soil-building and compost spreading. Thus far, Fussell’s efforts have removed a million pounds of C02 from the atmosphere and are responsible for keeping 3000 pounds of organic matter out of landfills each week.
Consumers enroll in a plan, receive special collection buckets, and place their organic waste curbside for collection. Fussell and the CoCo team collect the material and compost it, turning stinky scraps and food waste into nutrient-rich soil.
CoCo also runs a zero-waste shop. There, members can order sustainable items like hand soap refills, reusable food wraps, zero-waste lip balm, and more. Members can order their items to be delivered with their compost pickup trips. CoCo’s goal is to create a circular economy, where as much material as possible is diverted from landfills.
Growth and Challenges
“I started Coco 3 years ago and it’s been a wild ride,” he admits. “We grew over 300 percent in 2020 and 2021. We recently got a Colorado Department of Health and Environment grant to build Denver’s first compost facility.”
The $250,000 will go to planning, permitting and infrastructure. This facility will be the first of its kind in Denver. The goal is to create a modern, cutting edge organics processing hub. Eventually, it will regenerate the local environment and support waste diversion efforts across the region.
But creating a business with such sudden growth comes with plenty of challenges. One of his biggest has been maintaining a fleet of vehicles for pickups and delivery.
“When I started CoCo I was driving around in my 2004 Tacoma truck scooping up buckets from coffee shops; now, we have a fleet of seven vehicles,” he explains. “As we’ve grown, we’ve really had to lean on Fluid Truck. As we scale up, or whenever a vehicle is out of commission, that’s our go-to—they’ve been a great partner.”
A Partner and a Solution
Fussell uses Fluid Truck whenever Coco has a vehicle in the shop, or takes on new accounts that create a surge of growth. “Before we buy another vehicle, we’ll do a lease or short-term rental with Fluid so we can grow without having to take on that immediate capital expenditure,” he says.
For Fussell, Fluid Truck provides a valuable service that’s easy and accessible. “It doesn’t take a long time to set up, and once you have an account it’s all a la carte; it makes it easy so you’re not worried about not using an asset you’d be spending a lot of money on on a monthly basis,” he says.
The CoCo team also finds a relatable partner that’s on-brand in Fluid Truck, which is leveraging the shared economy. “We believe sharing vehicles is a great way of cutting down on resource waste and a great way to build a more resilient economy,” Fussell says. “One thing we’re trying to do with Fluid is figure out strategies so that when our vehicles are not being used they can be shared with other organizations and businesses.”
“I’ve had to learn a lot,” Fussell admits. “Every business is unique. One of the things all businesses experienced in 2020 was the overwhelming sense of the idea that no matter how well you had your business running, something outside could disrupt that.”
His advice to other small-business owners? “Stay as zen as possible, and take everything with a grain (or bucket) of salt; you can never anticipate everything, and you’ll just have to take challenges as they come.”
To learn more about Compost Colorado, visit their website. Are you a small business owner who needs access to vehicles, but doesn’t want to purchase a new one? Try Fluid Truck as a sustainable way to augment your fleet!