Students spread a ‘Responsible Green Initiative’

By Lexie Beach

A Butler University student carries on a student-run business that could help the university take another step towards going green.

Back to Earth Compost began in the spring of 2009 when senior Conner Burt created the company with partners Chris Clark and David Dolins as a part of the College of Business’ yearlong Real Business Experience class.

In this sophomore-level class, students form teams, create a business idea, apply for funding from a panel of business executives and if they receive funding, start and run their real business.

The company’s mission is to provide customers with the means to make environmentally- conscience decisions with ease and to promote sustainability within the greater Butler area through composting.

To do this, the company provides clients with a bucket, lid and biodegradable bags to separate their organic waste throughout the week. At the end of week, Back to Earth employees collect the waste and take it to Butler where it is composted near Bulldog Park, the Butler baseball field. The resulting compost is returned to the customers in the spring as garden fertilizer.

The cost is $50 a month for residential homes and $200 a month for larger organizations. The company recently turned things over to a new group of owners, led by CEO Thorn Murphy.

Murphy, a junior economics and finance major, bought the business from Burt and has been busy expanding the operation and adding new customers.

As the CEO, Murphy sets up appointments, tells employees what routes to go on and handles customer relations.

Other students involved in the business include juniors Jordan Harris, Nick Horstman, Robert Koteff and Craig McBarnes.

Burt still works for the company as a supervisor.

The company currently picks up waste from 20 residential homes and one Butler sorority
house, Delta Delta Delta.

They are also working on a new alliance with Union Jack’s Pub in Broad Ripple and Scotty’s Brewhouse on 96th Street.

Murphy said he would love to see Greek involvement on campus increase because it would benefit both the company and the university.

“If our fraternities and sororities were supplying fertilizer for campus, it would make the university look significantly greener,” Murphy said. “How many schools can say their fertilizer comes from the food they used?”

Butler is continually making efforts to “go green” and Murphy said he is confident that getting involved with Back to Earth Compost would help the university achieve that goal. “Our slogan is ‘the responsible green initiative,’” Murphy said. “If we could get Butler involved with a student-run business, it’d be a win-win situation for everyone.”

In October, Murphy gave a presentation on behalf of Back to Earth Compost to 400 middle and high school students at the National FFA Leadership Convention in downtown Indianapolis. The presentation focused on how small daily acts can make a difference and why composting is a good alternative to wasting food.

He then put his words into action by collecting the leftovers from a peanut butter and jelly sandwich activity to add to Butler’s compost pile.

Murphy says he is optimistic about the company’s future and has high hopes for an expansion.

“I don’t want it to stop when I’m done,” he said. “I want someone else to take over and make it a city-wide initiative, instead of just a Butler initiative.”

Murphy also thinks the company’s potential for profit is very high, if put in the right hands.

“It’d be awesome if a bigger company that can put all their time into doing what I’m doing here could buy us out,” he said. “Sometimes it gets hard because I have football, schoolwork and a business to run.

“The business could expand and be very profitable if that’s all the owners did.”