ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP THROUGH COMPOSTING
CERO has the privilege of working with many great businesses in the Boston area; one of those businesses being Mei Mei. Mei Mei is both a hip restaurant and food truck catering business serving Chinese- American cuisine made with locally and sustainably sourced produce. Mei Mei, which means little sister in Chinese, is inspired by the business’ sibling story: a big brother and two little sisters decided to start a business together that allowed them to share their love of food with the world! I had the honor of meeting and interviewing one of the sisters, Irene Li, to learn about Mei Mei’s composting experience with CERO.
When entering the restaurant on Park Drive, guests are greeted by the contemporary design, kind staff, and relaxed aura. This is definitely a place to enjoy lunch with some friends— the morning sunlight was shining through the windows and reflected beautifully on the yellow seats, high ceilings, wooden floors and tables, exposed brick wall, fun chalkboard drawings and cute succulent plants. All the small details really contributed to the space’s bright atmosphere.
Already an impressive environment, Irene, one of the owners, is delightful to meet. She is energetic and enthusiastic about Mei Mei’s composting experience. She truly had very thoughtful things to say about CERO’s service; here is what she had to share!
How much food waste do you estimate that your business produces each month?
We have one plastic tote that gets picked up once per week, it is 60 gallons, so 200-300 gallons each month!
What made you consider using a composting program?
Well, we definitely knew we wanted to compost. I have some background with living on a farm, and know that composting is really important for maintaining a healthy ecosystem. We wanted to make sure our food scraps were going towards a good cause. We started using Save that Stuff, but we weren't too fond of using their service. They are a little more corporate, and it seemed that a smaller local business would be more within our values. I met with Jon to see how we could make the pricing work for us, and they were willing to reduce the pick-up pricing in order to help us make the switch.
What were any hurdles that you faced while instituting a composting program and how did you overcome them?
We have composted since the beginning, so it wasn’t really an issue off implementing. I guess one hurdle would be affording and finding compostable products like utensils. When people get take out, they typically bring it home and the products end up in the trash. However, we think that it is the right thing to do no matter what. Biodegradable plastic is technically compostable and biodegradable, but it is not beneficial to the soil, so we switched from compostable cups to recyclable cups, because the biodegradable plastic cups were not helpful to the farmers that CERO works with.
What were you excited or surprised to learn was compostable?
I guess I already knew a lot about composting as a farm nerd, but hair and any kind of paper kind of struck me as interesting. However, we don’t compost all of the paper as the farmers CERO works with already have enough carbon based products.
How did you hear about CERO? What do you like about the CERO service?
I first heard about CERO when they were in the start up phase, we met at a business pitch event, so we met about five or six years ago. Someone at a local cafe also mentioned how much they enjoyed working with CERO. I really like the level of customer service and I think that has a lot to do with their being a cooperative. Also, they use a plastic biodegradable bag in their totes, and I think that its great that they keep the totes clean, as if they weren't kept clean they could get really gross!
What does CERO’s cooperative business format mean to you as a customer of CERO’s services?
To me, it means that I know that their staff care about the success and the quality of their work in a way that employees of other companies don’t. I think the format of the workers being able to profit and be a part of the local economy is really great. Our company has an open-book financial model, essentially we show all of our financial information to our staff and we try to include our staff in our decision making, so in this way our business is very similar to a cooperative and reflects a lot of the same values as CERO.
INTERVIEWER: AURORA GOODLAND
EDITED BY: SERGIO SANCHEZ AND KAREN URDANETA