Making It: Rust Belt Riders Return To Reducing Food Waste

Making It

Editor’s note: This is part of a series exploring how Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs and small businesses have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and their plans for moving forward.

Maker: Daniel Brown, co-founder

Business: Rust Belt Riders, an organization working to divert food waste from landfills into agricultural products like compost

Rust Belt Riders resume pickup services today after a break during to the pandemic.

What precautions have you taken to help protect your staff?

“We’ve been doing the obvious stuff like having lots of hand sanitizer on hand. We’ve got a steady supply of bleach and things that can kill off COVID. We’ve got face mask protection. We’ve implemented social-distancing. We’re making sure people are taking their temperatures before coming into work, that they’re showering before and after work. We’re sterilizing everything we touch as we’ve always done. And I think that’s kind of the really interesting thing. We realized that a lot of the best practices that were being recommended were just part of our normal operations to begin with. We want to be an organization that really puts the well-being of the team that we have first and foremost because our work is only possible with our team. You can provide all the PPE in the world and still be uncomfortable in this situation. We’re trying to keep an open dialogue with our staff about how we can go above and beyond to make sure that people feel comfortable.”

Talk about your perspective during the outbreak?

“It’s devastating, but I think it’s also for me been really pointing out the things that are important. Your ability to communicate with loved ones, your access to health care, to know where your food comes from. It’s a reminder that people that provide the essential services are often the ones first forgotten. We talk about how health care workers are heroes and grocery store clerks are heroes and the sanitation workers are heroes. We don’t often think about those people in those ways, and I’m really happy and thankful that that type of work is being appreciated in the way it is right now. I just hope we don’t forget this moment.”

How have you been staying creative?

“I think that for a lot of this it feels like, once you’re providing a service, you’re on this hamster wheel of sorts that you must keep going. And while we’ve continued to go, I feel like we’re on a different gear and it’s allowed us to dive very deeply into some of the work that we’ve always wanted to carve time out for. And in carving time out to do that, we’re going to emerge from this a far better and more effective organization. And to just share some of what we know. I think we’ve taken for granted some of the stuff we’ve learned along the way, and this has been a nice time to pause and literally write it down and share it with people.”

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