Interview with John Shaski of Soilutions, from Local IQ, June 2011
Local iQ: Tell us about your business.
John Shaski: Soilutions, Inc. is primarily a compost processing facility. It began as a necessary offshoot of Jim and Karen Brooks’ permaculture/landscape-design business begun in 1987. Permaculture landscapes seek to establish sustainable relationships between plants, animals and people. In so doing, the long-term needs of social, biological and economic systems are met simultaneously. Compost is an essential component of such a system, naturally abundant in many parts of the world but uniquely rare in the North American Southwest.
iQ: There’s often real expense involved for businesses that put environmental principles into practice. Why did you invest in a green approach?
JS: We understand that short-term cost is the wrong perspective. Long-range viability and abundance is the true measure of success. Not to mention the murky political regulatory climate that often skews the real cost of current practice.
iQ: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in being a green business?
JS: Survival. Balancing the books in a marketplace that does not recognize the real value of your product is always a challenge.
Perception. The average citizen rarely considers how much value (energy, nutrient, human) is embedded in the things they throw away. It is more convenient and cheaper to throw out material that is readily compostable than it is to save it and bring it to us.
Competition. Because waste management has traditionally been the responsibility of the local government, we often find ourselves involved in a private economic endeavor in direct competition with municipally funded institutions. It is not a level playing field.
iQ: What are some of the green practices of your business that you are most proud of?
JS: Our business is fundamentally “green” from conception. Probably the single most gratifying characteristic of our business is that all of the raw material used to make the compost is sourced locally. In this way we are recycling the essential organic material that is in otherwise short supply here in New Mexico.
Additionally, Jim and Karen have made it a point to apply permacultural values in their approach to human resources management. The workplace environment is transparent, supportive and challenging.
iQ: Do you think green practices will play a growing role in the business world of the future?
JS: Yes. Green business is a win-win. Who can argue with a new economic model that utilizes the traditional capitalistic rules in search of profit while simultaneously making life better for everyone? The vision is in recognizing the aforementioned value embedded into everything that passes through our hands. As resources become increasingly scarce, the number of dollars going to the landfill will eventually become too large to ignore.