Folks passing between Denver and Aurora on Montview Boulevard may have noticed something new in a normally vacant parking lot just south of Stanley Marketplace. It’s a bus. It’s a plant store. It’s also a secret opportunity to learn about the merits of composting.
For the last few weeks, Taylor Best-Anderson has been stationed behind the wheel of an old DIA shuttle that now offers nice plants in up-cycled pots. It’s called Seeds of Potential, a project sprouted from Aurora’s women-owned compost company, Wompost. Best-Anderson said it’s slowly starting to turn the heads of soil-minded passersby.
“People have been riding their bikes by or driving by enough that they’re like: ‘I’m going to stop in today,'” she said. “That works! That’s all I need!”
A pandemic is a decent time to offer plants and soil she said. Lots of people stuck at home have turned their attention to home improvements in the form of greenery.
The bus is filled with thriving saplings nestled in pots that Best-Anderson and her boss, Carolyn Pace, have found for free.
“There are a lot of things planted in teapots,” Pace said.
This is all a part of the mission that Pace began a few years ago after she quit her supply-chain job and set out to make Denver’s sister city a little greener.
Pace is a former beauty queen who used her position on pageant stages to talk sustainability. Aurora, unlike Denver, has no municipal composting service. She saw a need, so she began Wompost to fill it by picking up food scraps and returning healthy fertilizer to customers three seasons a year.
“What I like about composting is it’s actively combatting climate change,” she said. “I’m trying to make the planet better.”
Lots of trash that ends up in landfills can be composted, and it’s estimated that food waste contributes more than 3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to global emissions each year. Turning food waste into something that plants crave helps keep that carbon out of the air.
But she said many residents still don’t know a whole lot about the need to compost — or even that her service exists. The bus, she said, is a tricky way to inform more people.
“We wow them with shiny flowers and then they come in and learn about composting,” Pace said.
And Best-Anderson, an innate people person, is ready to field curious minds.
The bus fits into their mission, too.
For one, Best-Anderson said, her storefront runs on compressed natural gas. It’s a fuel source that spits fewer emissions into the air than diesel which, she said, “kind of fits in with our platform.”
It was also an accessible way to give Wompost some kind of physical presence. Pace had been thinking about a storefront for a while, but it can be tough to sign a lease in the metro in any year. A pandemic recession only makes raising that kind of money harder.
“We were talking about renting space, but rent is so expensive,” Best-Anderson said. The bus, on the other hand, was cheap enough to rouse excitement: “We were like heck yeah! lets go ahead and get it!”
Plus, Pace said, buying the bus meant saving it from the landfill, too.
“It’s giving new life to something that would have otherwise be wasted,” she said.
They’ve got a free place to park next to the dormant shopping center. The property is owned, in part, by one of the Stanley Marketplace’s founders. There’s a renovation in the works there, but Seeds of Potential has dominion over the corner while the project works slowly through its planning stages.
But Pace said the bus’s potential to move all over town will help them reach customers where they are. She’s looking forward to 2021, when farmers’ market season wakes from its seasonal hibernation and might offer new places to park the shop. When kids are allowed back in school, she imagines a “mobile field trip” that could bring an educational opportunity right to students’ classrooms. It would be like a book fair, just with rotting food scraps and soil rather than paperbacks.
For now, Pace and Best-Anderson are still “iterating” on what Seeds of Potential can offer. It will likely stay on Montview until they’re ready to take the show on the road.
You can catch Best-Anderson in the bus on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Correction: Carolyn Pace’s name was misspelled and corrected throughout.