Every year, Colby’s Center for the Arts and Humanities selects a theme to structure their events around. This year it is ‘Food for Thought’ — you may have seen the poster hanging somewhere around campus. There have been a number of lectures already, all examining how our intricate relationship to food speaks to broader cultural, social, political, and environmental realities.
Through my time with the Environmental Humanities Student Advisory Board (which you should totally apply for!), as well as a couple of my classes, I’ve talked a lot about the ways in which food represents more than just a meal we eat at the dining hall. That’s why it was perfect when I found an internship with ScrapDogs, a small composting organization in midcoast Maine, during Jan Plan. ScrapDogs functions similarly to your average curbside garbage pickup, but instead of trash, they take your food waste.
I sat down with the owners, Tessa Rosenberry and Davis Saltonstall, to talk about their journey to composting and why their work is important. Think of this as a bonus mini-lecture for the Food for Thought series.
Back in their college days, they were both part of various environmental groups and were intent on helping schools and institutions implement zero-waste strategies, similar to some of the clubs here at Colby. Rosenberry said they “narrowed in on waste studies as a subject [they] were passionate about and felt [they] could make change within.” After their first attempt at starting a non-profit didn’t pan out, they each found separate work: Saltonstall in the solar industry, Rosenberry in food justice education and urban planning, both eventually settling in Maine to start ScrapDogs.
I asked them why they wanted to start this organization, considering how the midcoast is a pretty small corner of the world. Rosenberry said that her work post-college deepened her passion for “community-level systems change and working on the ground to figure out solutions that can be scaled up over time.” Saltonstall added that they had “learned about some survey results from MCSW [Mid-Coast Solid Waste] that implied folks in the region were looking for other composting options besides their backyard.” The two were inspired to build ScrapDogs and used the face of their adorable dog, Roo, to champion it.
Saltonstall explained that they think of ScrapDogs as having two possible paths: going “wide” or going “deep.” Instead of opting to distribute to a wider geographical population, they chose to concentrate their efforts in a smaller area because they see it as “fundamentally more sustainable, fulfilling, and financially sound.”
It is in this “depth” that they’ve found real success, both in diverting food scraps from landfills, but also in creating connections within the area. During my internship, I rode along with Rosenberry on a pick-up day; at nearly every stop, she stopped to talk with the customers if they were around, and said hi to any curious pets! She told me in the interview that she sees community composting “as living at the intersection of so many good things: minimizing harmful impacts of our waste systems (emissions, air and water contamination, human health impacts), putting wasted resources to use and ‘closing the loop’ of consumption, rebuilding our soils and ecosystems, encouraging stewardship of our land and food by our community, strengthening the local food system and economy… and on and on!”
Small efforts can sometimes seem inconsequential, but by looking at the smaller things in life, such as food, we can see how widespread their impact really is. Composting is just one aspect of our relationship to food, specifically what happens once we consider it to be “waste,” but there are so many more routes to explore. There are some pretty cool lectures (think Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass) coming up, so keep an eye on the @colbycah Instagram.
~ Anya Babb-Brott `25