Looking to start composting? This is your month to try it out with free drop-off spots in Houston. Photo via Getty Images

The City of Houston Solid Waste Management Department is launching a free Food Waste Drop-Off pilot program through the end of February.

The program is in collaboration with Council Member Sallie Alcorn, Zero Waste Houston and the City of Houston Health Department, and allows residents to drop off food scraps at four different locations. The locations are:

  • Kashmere Multi-Service Center, Mondays from 2 to 5 pm
  • Acres Homes Multi-Service Center, Tuesdays from 2 to 5 pm
  • Alief Neighborhood Center, Wednesdays from 4 to 7 pm
  • Sunnyside Multi-Service Center, Thursdays from 3 to 6 pm

Houston residents, businesses, and institutions generate 6.2 million tons of municipal solid waste per year according to the Solid Waste Department program.

“You’ll find when you start composting your food scraps, there is a lot less trash generated in your home, at your curb, and taken to the landfill,” Alcorn says in a news release.

The Solid Waste Management Department provides solid waste services with the collection, disposal, and recycling of discarded material in an environmentally-friendly and cost effective way.

“The Solid Waste Department is eager to continue to provide innovative programs that divert waste from the landfill and actively engage Houston residents,” says Mark Wilfalk, Director of Solid Waste Management in the release.

Houston Methodist has several ongoing and future initiatives dedicated to reducing the hospital system's carbon footprint. Photo via HoustonMethodist.org

How this Houston hospital is leading sustainable health care

seeing green

The United States health care sector contributes around 8.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, and one Houston hospital is committed to doing its part in reducing the industry's carbon footprint.

Houston Methodist, which recently opened a new tech hub in the Ion in midtown, has put in place several initiatives that reflect a more sustainable future for health care. The organization, which has seven hospitals in the Houston area, revealed some of these ongoing and planned projects at a recent event.

"Houston Methodist is always looking ahead on ways — not only of how we are taking care of patients — but what are we doing to create this environment and making the right efforts for sustainability, which we should all be doing," Michelle Stansbury, vice president of innovation and IT applications at Houston Methodist, says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "We have to protect this environment that we have or it may not be the same for our children going forward."

The hospital system is currently in the design phase for installing solar panels on the Josie Roberts Administration Building in the Texas Medical Center. This project, in partnership with Houston Methodist's Energy and Facilities workgroup, will be the first step toward renewable energy consumption for the hospital.

Houston Methodist has already rolled out food composting initiatives at its locations in Sugar Land, The Woodlands, and Willowbrook locations — with plans for additional campuses to follow. According to a presentation from Jason Fischer, director of the Office of Sustainability at Methodist, the hospital system has already diverted nearly 100,000 lbs. of food waste from landfills.

Preventing waste recycling or reusing items is another focus of Houston Methodist, Stansbury says, from creating a workflow that enables reusing items that are able to be sanitized rather than thrown away to sustainably getting rid of expired materials. The U.S. has rules about the shelf lives of health care products, but other countries don't have as strict of mandates.

"We're sending (supplies) to other countries that can still use these products," Stansbury explains. "Knowing that we're helping to care for other individuals, to me I think it's very valuable. Other countries don't have the resources that the United States does."

Another notable initiative is incorporating greenspace for patients to enjoy. Houston Methodist is currently in construction on a 26-story hospital tower in the Texas Medical Center that will feature the Centennial Rooftop Garden on the 14th floor.

The Houston Methodist's sustainability team has several other initiatives both ongoing and in the works. More information is available on the hospital's website.

Centennial Tower’s 14th floor will feature an outdoor rooftop garden. Rendering courtesy of Houston Methodist

By opting into composting, Moonshot customers are avoiding contributing to landfill methane emissions. Photo via Moonshot Compost/Facebook

Houston sustainability startup increases Texas impact, diverts 3.5M lbs of landfill waste

the power of composting

Houston-based Moonshot Compost is marking its three-year anniversary this month, demonstrating a successful execution of a sustainable waste management model.

Chris Wood and Joe Villa started the company in July 2020, collecting and measuring food waste in their personal vehicles. Today, Moonshot operates with a team of drivers utilizing its data platform to quantify the environmental benefits of composting.

“People like to compost with us,” Wood said. “When we first started, I don't think we ever thought we would get to so much weight so quickly. We've diverted over 3.5 million pounds of food waste since we launched, and our rate of collection is about 250,000 pounds a month now.”

Moonshot ensures every collection is weighed to calculate its precise impact. Its proprietary system uses QR codes, allowing users to understand both their individual and collective contribution to the composting effort.

Despite starting in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the service has solidly grown. Currently, Moonshot serves 65 commercial and over 600 residential subscribers across Houston, Austin, Dallas, and Waco.

One of Moonshots significant achievements is its Diversion Dashboard, which presents the climate equivalencies of the diverted food waste, highlighting how composting contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gases.

"By composting, you're avoiding landfill methane emissions, which constitute 10 percent of global greenhouse emissions," Wood said.

Moonshot offers subscription programs for both residential and commercial clients. The residential subscription includes a drop-off option for $10 per month or an at-home pick-up service for $29 per month. Each pick-up includes a clean bin exchange. For commercial clients, the base fee is $110 per month, with weekly pick-ups and bin exchanges.

The company's next significant milestone, Wood said, is to divert 5 million pounds of food waste in Houston. As of now, Moonshot expects to reach its 5 million pound goal by mid-2024.

“We think that Houston is sending 5 million pounds of food waste to the landfill every day,” Wood said. “Once we've diverted 5 million pounds in Houston, that'll be the first time that we've diverted a day's worth of food waste in Houston.”

As part of Moonshots most recent compost result update, Moonshot subscribers based in Houston have diverted 3,444,704 pounds of waste from landfills and saved 2,328,366 pounds of carbon dioxide. Visit here for more information on its impact across Austin, Dallas and Houston.

Wood emphasized the importance of changing perceptions on composting: "It’s not disgusting. You already generate food waste at home and work. Composting makes your trash cleaner."

With this mission, Moonshot Compost continues to transform perceptions and practices around waste management and sustainability.

Chris Wood and Joe Villa started the company in July 2020. Photo via Moonshot Compost/Facebook

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Houston initiative selected for DOE program developing hubs for clean energy innovation

community focus

Houston has been selected as one of the hubs backed by a new program from the United States Department of Energy that's developing communities for clean energy innovation.

The DOE's Office of Technology Transitions announced the the first phase of winners of the Energy Program for Innovation Clusters, or EPIC, Round 3. The local initiative is one of 23 incubators and accelerators that was awarded $150,000 to support programming for energy startups and entrepreneurs.

The Houston-based participant is called "Texas Innovates: Carbon and Hydrogen Innovation and Learning Incubator," or CHILI, and it's a program meant to feed startups into the DOE recognized HyVelocity program and other regional decarbonization efforts.

EPIC was launched to drive innovation at a local level and to inspire commercial success of energy startups. It's the third year of the competition that wraps up with a winning participant negotiating a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT worth up to $1 million.

“Incubators and Accelerators are uniquely positioned to provide startups things they can't get anywhere else -- mentorship, technology validation, and other critical business development support," DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of OTT Vanessa Z. Chan says in a news release. “The EPIC program allows us to provide consistent funding to organizations who are developing robust programming, resources, and support for innovative energy startups and entrepreneurs.”

CHILI, the only participant in Texas, now moves on to the second phase of the competition, where they will design a project continuation plan and programming for the next seven months to be submitted in September.

where they’ll implement their programming and design a project continuation plan over the next 7 months. In September they will submit their plans with the hope of being selected to negotiate a three-year cooperative agreement with OTT, worth up to $1 million each.

Phase 2 also includes two national pitch competitions with a total of $165,000 in cash prizes up for grabs for startups. The first EPIC pitch event for 2024 will be in June at the 2024 Small Business Forum & Expo in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Last fall, the DOE selected the Gulf Coast's project, HyVelocity Hydrogen Hub, as one of the seven regions to receive a part of the $7 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The hub was announced to receive up to $1.2 billion — the most any hub will get.


The DOE's OTT selections are nationwide. Photo via energy.gov

Law firm's Houston office expands energy expertise

new hire

Leading adviser to energy companies, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, has announced a new energy transactions partner in the firm’s Houston office.

Ian Goldberg will advise clients on various energy transactions, which will include project development, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, and financial transactions that will involve oil and gas assets, energy transition investments and rare earth mineral deposits.

He previously led the energy transactions practice at Hunton Andrews Kurth.

“Akin has a top-tier integrated platform across the entire energy value chain,” Goldberg says in a news release.” I’m excited to be joining a growing and dynamic team.”

He will be joining recent additions to Akin’s energy practice that include projects & energy transition partners Ike Emehelu (New York), Alex Harrison, Matt Hardwick and Dan Giemajner (London), energy regulatory partners Emily Mallen and Stephen Hug (Washington, D.C.), tax equity partner Sam Guthrie (Washington, D.C.) and projects & energy transition partner Vanessa Richelle Wilson (Washington, D.C.)..

“Ian adds depth to our energy team with extensive experience in the onshore and offshore upstream and midstream sectors, and his current representation of clients in the carbon capture, utilization & storage and hydrogen spaces further strengthens our growing projects & energy transition practice,” corporate practice co-head Zachary Wittenberg adds in the release.