Recycling Food Waste into All-Natural Organics with EcoScraps’ Dan Blake

December 23, 2013

JOHN SHEGERIAN: Welcome to another edition of Green is Good. We’re so honored to have Dan Blake on with us today. He’s the CEO and co-founder of EcoScraps. Welcome to Green is Good, Dan Blake. DAN BLAKE: Yeah, thanks for having me. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Hey, Dan, before we get into talking about your wonderful brand, can you share a little bit about the Dan Blake story? How did you come to become an ecopreneur? What led up to this? DAN BLAKE: Yeah, absolutely. I grew up in Utah. I didn’t grow up as an environmentalist. I always enjoyed being outside and growing up, my family is full of entrepreneurs so around the dinner table, we would talk about business models and business ideas and so I just always growing up, the idea of starting a business and the idea of how businesses worked was always something that’s always fascinated me so when I was in college, I was at an all-you-can-eat French toast buffet and I purchased a plate of French toast, went back for seconds, had one or two slices, and as I was throwing it away, the idea of garbage, for whatever reason I thought was really interesting. Thirty minutes prior I was purchasing this plate of French toast and now I was throwing it away and the restaurant was going to have to pay to have someone take it to the landfill and looking at that just from a business model perspective, typically we’re buying stuff but with garbage you’re literally paying for someone to take it away from you so if you put that in a business model, most businesses have to pay to get their raw materials but if you use garbage, you can get paid to receive your raw materials and really flip the typical business model on its head so the idea of EcoScraps really didn’t start with the environmental idea but more started with a business model that I thought was really fascinating. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is fascinating, and we all are guilty of the same thing as you say — ordering too much or just having too much on our plate or getting served too much of the big serving at restaurants and having it go to trash — so how big of a problem is the food waste problem? DAN BLAKE: Yeah, so I went back to my apartment and just started researching food waste for just no other reason than that it was that plate of food that sparked my curiosity and I was blown away by what I found out. JOHN SHEGERIAN: What year was this? Excuse me, Dan. I’m sorry. DAN BLAKE: This was 2010. This was over three years ago. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it. Okay. DAN BLAKE: We throw away over 30 million tons of food waste every single year, and when I read that, that just seemed like a really big number, but I couldn’t really visualize that, so I have no idea how much 30 million tons really is. But in this report that I was reading, a few lines down it said that’s enough food to fill the Rose Bowl stadium once every three days with nothing but food waste, and having been to the Rose Bowl Stadium and knowing how big that is, the idea of filling that up completely with food waste once every three days just blew me away. That is a ton of food. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. So, then talk a little bit about now you grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. You’re a young guy, It’s 2010. You had this epiphany — the aha moment for EcoScraps — but now that you’re surrounded by and you grew up with the vernacular and sort of the metal and the DNA of being an entrepreneur but what was then your first steps forward to actually launch this great disruptive brand? DAN BLAKE: Great question. I was researching all of this and honestly, I just did not believe that we could be wasting this much food so the next logical step for me at least, was to go dumpster diving and to see if we were actually producing this much food waste so I got with some of my friends and we waited until a bunch of restaurants had closed and we jumped into their dumpsters and started rummaging through all their garbage to see if there really was all of this food waste and again, I was shocked. These bins were full of all sorts of food waste and so it seemed like there really was a lot of food waste. We started researching the opportunity and from a financial side, we spend billions of dollars a year in just transporting food waste from grocery stores and restaurants to landfills so on a financial side, it seemed like there was absolutely an opportunity there and then I wanted to see what impact food waste had on the environment so food accounts for roughly 20% of everything that’s in the landfill. It’s the single largest segment of what’s in the landfill but as food rots, it emits methane gas that’s 20 times more damaging to the environment than CO2 and one thing again, that I had no idea about was just that environmental impacts of food waste and that it was creating all this pollution. All the cars on the road in the U.S. generate roughly 12% of the pollution that the country generates. The methane coming from landfills, coming from food waste generates between 8 and 9% of all the pollution that we generate as a country and so just think about that, that food waste in landfills is almost creating as much pollution as all of the cars on the road in the U.S. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Unbelievable. And, for our listeners out there, this is amazing, this story. I want them also to follow along. If you have your tablet or you’re in front of your laptop or any of your mobile devices while you’re listening to the interview, pull up Dan’s website. It is really very instructive. He’s got a great YouTube video on the landing page. It’s EcoScrap.com. So, now, you’ve realized not only is there the problem of getting rid of all this food waste, this 30 million tons of food waste every year, what a horrible waste, but there’s also all these greenhouse gas emissions coming from it so it’s like a double trouble, all this food waste. DAN BLAKE: Yeah, absolutely, and so we wanted to see if there was something that we could do to keep food out of the landfills but also cut down on all of these greenhouse gas emissions, like you mentioned, so one of these things that we came up with was just the idea of composting and composting, by no means, is a new idea and composting food waste is not a new idea but composting food waste on a really large scale did seem to be a new idea and so we started experimenting, composting all different types of food waste, and we wanted to make sure that we were composting something that a back home gardener would want to use in their garden and so we started looking at the lawn and garden industry and kind of a simplified view of the lawn and garden industry is you have chemical products, like Scott’s Miracle Grow is one that everyone seems to be familiar with, and most of the organic products were manure based and so when you talk to gardeners, gardeners are people that care about the environment. They’re already outside. They like to get their hands dirty but you talk to these gardeners and they’re still using chemical products and synthetic products, which I thought was really interesting, and when you talk to them about why, they were just getting better results out of chemical based products than they were out of manure based products and the chemical products were higher in nutrients. The manure, whether it’s coming from a cow or a chicken, the nutrients have already been digested by that animal so the nutrients are a lot lower, full of organic content and it helps build the soil’s ecosystem but it just takes a lot longer to build the results from a manure based soil so going back to food waste, we thought well, food’s really high in nutrients. That’s how we get our nutrients so we wanted to see if you composted straight food waste, if you couldn’t get the same nutrient levels as you do with a synthetic bag of Scott’s Miracle Grow so we started composting and we came up with a compost where the nutrients were just as high if not higher than any chemical competitor that we could find. JOHN SHEGERIAN: So, EcoScraps is as good as, if not better than, any of the other brands that we’ve known or grew up with? DAN BLAKE: It works just as well, and in many cases, will give you better results. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Got it, and how many stores are you carried in now? DAN BLAKE: We’re in Targets nationwide. We’re in Home Depots and Lowe’s just on the West Coast. We’re in tractor supplies nationwide, so all together, we’re in a few thousand stores. JOHN SHEGERIAN: By the way, for our listeners out there, on Dan’s website he has brilliantly put a find a store locator, so you can go on to Dan’s website, EcoScraps.com, type in your ZIP code, and find a store near you to find and support his great product, which is all natural. Now that you’ve got this going, unfortunately, it’s a 15-minute interview today, Dan, and I want to just get some critical information out there. We’re down to the last five. How do you source all the food waste to grow your brand and how has your brand grown over these three short years of you joining the family ranks of an entrepreneur and actually becoming an ecopreneur? DAN BLAKE: Yeah, great question. We’re getting food from all over the food supply chain, so everywhere from farmers, wholesale produce providers, grocery stores, and restaurants so we work with stores like Target in helping them recycle their food waste. We work with groups like Costco. We work with all of the local food banks around the country. You would actually be surprised at how much food a food bank is having to throw away and so we’re working with really any type of organization that’s going through large amounts of food waste, corporate, schools. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, how has your company grown? DAN BLAKE: It’s grown really quickly. I’ve been very surprised with the amount of traction that we’ve had. We started in March of 2010 so we’re just over three years old, and to date, we’ve recycled over 60 million pounds of food waste. JOHN SHEGERIAN: Wow. What’s the future hold though, Dan? We’re down to three minutes and I’m just so fascinated and so honored to have you on, a young ecopreneur like you, with a great epiphany and vision and now it’s working and now you’re in thousands of stores. How big can you grow EcoScraps in the next two or three years ahead and beyond? DAN BLAKE: In the next two or three years, I fully expect EcoScraps to be a national brand recognized in lawn and garden and in recycling so I would hope that you could walk into any lawn and garden store in the country, find EcoScraps right alongside any other brand, and that you could go into any grocery store in the country and say, ‘What is it that you’re doing with your food waste?’ and they can say, ‘We’re able to recycle it because of EcoScraps’. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, you’re going to get more retailers to carry your brand? DAN BLAKE: Yep. JOHN SHEGERIAN: And, again, for our listeners out there, it’s much healthier for their garden to put a natural product like EcoScraps in, and we won’t mention or besmirch any brands, but than the other iconic brands that are more chemical based? DAN BLAKE: Exactly, and in lawn and garden like you said, there are lots of really good brands and they work really well and so we don’t want to say anything bad about any of them and I don’t think you need to see the benefits of EcoScraps. EcoScraps give you the same results as anybody else. It doesn’t cost any more than any of our competitors and the thing that really sets us apart and the thing that we’re so proud about is it’s simply just more environmentally friendly than anything else. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love that it’s on your website as a stamp of approval, ‘100% safe for people, pets, and planet,’ and I love the tagline, ‘no chemicals, no poop, and it’s organic.’ DAN BLAKE: Yep. JOHN SHEGERIAN: That is great. Hey, we’re down to the last minute. Any pearls of wisdom for the young people that are listening to this show, both in the United States and around the world who want to be the next Dan Blake? DAN BLAKE: You just have to go out and do it. EcoScraps started with a simple idea in a restaurant as I was eating French toast and nothing would have happened if I had just thought about the idea and so if you want to be an entrepreneur and you want to accomplish something, you just have to get out there and do it. My first real thing that I did was to go dumpster diving, which was absolutely disgusting, but you just have to go do something. JOHN SHEGERIAN: I love it; and for our entrepreneurs out there, Dan is so correct. The first two letters of done is do and Dan Blake, you’re doing such a great job, both for the world in terms of recycling and both for our gardens and our families around the United States and eventually, around the world. We so love what your story represents and you’re the best of the new generation. For our listeners out there, support what Dan is doing. Buy his product. www.ecoscraps.com. Dan Blake, you’re an innovative entrepreneur and truly living proof that green is good.