Brooklyn Composter-in-Chief, Charlie Bayrer

Nov 15, 2010
Charlie Bayrer at a community garden compost in Brooklyn. (Photo courtesy of Hollenbeck Community Garden).

If you ever go to the Clinton Hill or Fort Greene neighborhoods of Brooklyn, you might see the guy wearing suspenders and wire-rim glasses, sporting a ponytail, and riding an enormous tricycle with a basket of overstuffed (and slightly smelly) garbage bags.

This road warrior is Charlie Bayrer. If you are lucky enough to spot him, tip your hat—he's the driver behind a growing, grassroots composting program that diverts 1,500 pounds of food waste from landfills each and every week.

Bayrer, a longtime community gardener and composter, was instrumental in founding the Fort Greene Composting Project in 2005. (Read more of the history of the project here.) The project collects food scraps from shoppers at the Fort Greene Park Farmers Market and distributes them to local community gardens and to a larger community farm in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. Bayrer sets up the cans each Saturday, supplies the garbage bags, and rents a U-Haul to drive the scraps to Red Hook (when the suggested $1 donations don't cover the cost).

Bayrer cares about more than reducing waste and enriching soil—he wants people to see the big picture of how what we eat (and what we don't) affects the environment around us.

Compost bins may not look appetizing, but this food will turn into some great fertilizer for your plants, or even a veggie garden. (Photo: Watt_Dabney/Creative Commons)

"It would just be nice if [the people who dropped off their scraps] were more curious about what happened to it after the fact," Bayrer said in an interview by the Inter Press Service News Agency.

Follow-up awareness is part of what inspired Bayrer and Earth Matter NY, the composting nonprofit he helped found, to expand their composting efforts to Governors Island, a military base turned public park in New York Harbor just off the southern tip of Manhattan.

Earth Matter runs a Compost Learning Center on the island, complete with workshops on composting, cultivating mushrooms, and vermiculture.

Don't think Bayrer is only about the dirty jobs. He plays a prominent role in the come-one, come-all group of Christmas carolers who roam Fort Greene and Clinton Hill each December, bringing tidings of comfort and joy to their neighbors. "[It's] kind of guerrilla caroling where you just knock on people’s doors, ring their bells, make a lot of noise and see who comes to the window," Bayrer says.

He's just the kind of guerrilla the world needs more of.

Visit for information on starting your own compost pile.

Compost bin photo: Watt_Dabney/Creative Commons via flickr

Quick Study: Green Living

Related Stories: Want to Save the Planet? Eat What You Buy | Seattle Makes Clean Energy From Dirty Compost | Does 40% of Food in the U.S. Really Go to Waste?

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