Alumnus bikes Philadelphia to deliver and pick up compost

A real estate and marketing alumnus picks up and delivers compost containers in the city.

Sam Holloschutz, chief sustainability officer of Circle Compost and a 2009 marketing and real estate alumnus, composts food at Corinthian Gardens in Fairmount. | LAURA D’AIELLO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Sam Holloschutz only became a block captain in Fairmount so he could get a trash can installed on his street.

“Before my trash can showed up, there was trash all over the place,” said Holloschutz, the block captain of the 800 block of N. 29th Street. He’s lived in Fairmount since 2008.

“I’m happy to say my trash can has solved that issue,” he added.

This is not Holloschutz’s first encounter with sustainability in Philadelphia. Holloschutz, a 2009 marketing and real estate alumnus, is the chief sustainability officer at Circle Compost, a composting business that visits Philadelphia’s residential gardens and commercial farms. The company was founded by David and Michele Bloovman in 2016.

Last summer, Holloschutz also won the first-ever Neighborhood Champion award, given by SustainPHL, the city’s annual sustainability awards celebration.

As chief sustainability officer, Holloschutz spends his days picking up and delivering containers of compost to gardens and farms all over the city, pedaling a bike with compost containers trailing behind him.

Composting is the process of recycling organic material, like dead leaves and food scraps, into rich soil that is optimal for fertilizer.

He has started weighing each container of compost and writing down each weight on his cell phone.

“People love stats,” he said. “And that way, urban gardens know how much they’re getting.”

Circle Compost is still experiencing rapid growth. They gain two to three clients a week, David Bloovman said.

After graduation, Holloschutz worked in real estate until 2016, when he switched fields and worked as a field energy specialist for SolarCity, a California-based solar energy company. Almost a year later, he found out about Circle Compost.

“I liked the idea of giving back, the whole cycle of composting,” he said. “It seemed like a good way to combat the way we deal with waste.”

Holloschutz found an article on the community-based sustainability website Green Philly Blog about Circle Compost and emailed David Bloovman about joining the company. They bonded over their desire to preserve the environment, he said.

He started work at Circle Compost only one week later, and he’s now pursuing an online master’s degree in renewable energy and sustainability from Penn State University.

“In my role, I kind of get to set policies and that’s been really great,” said Holloschutz, who is about to celebrate his one-year anniversary at Circle Compost.  “It’s been cool just learning how to do the job. My position is kind of a new job through any new company.”

Most recently, he added Corinthian Gardens — a large neighborhood garden next to Eastern State Penitentiary — to his route. The garden receives the most compost by far, Holloschutz said. According to his records, Circle Compost has delivered about 7,000 pounds of compost to Corinthian Gardens this summer.

“Seeing the numbers is so rewarding because it shows I’m making a real impact,” he said.

Compost is collected and delivered by bicycle to reduce fossil fuels, then taken to composting sites near the pickup spots, David Bloovman said. When the weather is poor, Circle Compost employees drive a pickup truck.

“We want to offer a local alternative to wasting organic products,” David Bloovman said. “Plus, from a logistical side, it’s more efficient, especially since we use bikes.”

“We just work really well together,” he said about Holloschutz. “He’s always so passionate about preserving our environment. It’s contagious.”

Holloschutz said another policy he implemented was that workers must charge their phones while they drive the truck so energy doesn’t go to waste.

When he’s not driving the compost-collecting bicycle, Holloschutz brings his environmental passions home to Fairmount. After obtaining his street trash can, Holloschutz used his role as block captain to organize small block cleanups.

Holloschutz is a member of both the Fairmount Civic Association and a local neighborhood improvement committee, which he now chairs. He also runs a Fairmount bocce ball league and gives discounts to members who agree to join in on his neighborhood cleanups.

Last January, he started working as a volunteer teacher with Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, an organization focused on educating Philadelphia citizens about civic engagement, waste prevention and recycling. He visits elementary and high schools, delivering lectures on environmental concepts.

“I’m the compost guy,” he said. “I do all the compost presentations, occasionally about recycling and littering. If I can turn a couple people into junior environmentalists, I’ll be happy.”

“It’s cool because I get to meet new people, make new connections,” he said. “I think it helps with all the work I do in Fairmount because they can tell I’m a good guy and doing the right thing.”

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