After serving a 15-month tour in Iraq, Columbia native Justen Garrity returned home in 2008 to a tough job market and few prospects. In 2010, he decided to take matters into his own hands, leasing a farm in Aberdeen and founding Veteran Compost, which collects organic material (mostly food scraps) from businesses and residential properties and then uses that material to produce compost, the rich soil additive prized by gardeners.
“Two-thirds of all the waste in America is compostable,” Garrity, now 33, notes. “Since no one was doing [anything with] it, it seemed like either a good opportunity or a terrible idea.”
After a slow start, Garrity now serves clients ranging from the Ravens to McCormick & Company, plus residential customers. To meet demand, a second compost site in Fairfax, VA, was added in 2015, and a third site is coming soon to either Anne Arundel County or Baltimore County.
Garrity is proud of Veteran Compost’s ecological bona fides—he estimates that every ton of material collected prevents the release of a ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. He is equally proud of his role as an employer of veterans, who often contend with higher unemployment rates than the general populace.
“Democrat or Republican, whether you believe in global warming or not, I’m over here creating a ton more jobs than landfilling,” he says.