The goal of the Adirondack Compost for Good project is to help Adirondack communities turn food and other organic “wastes” into high quality compost. This process keeps nutrients in the community, which builds local resilience, heals soils, and helps reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

Community-Scale Composting 

If global food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Currently, community-level composting options are limited in the Adirondack region, but a new project is changing that. The goal of the Adirondack Compost for Good project is to help Adirondack communities turn food and other organic “wastes” into high quality compost. This process keeps nutrients in the community, which builds local resilience, heals soils, and helps reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

At the heart of Adirondack Compost for Good is a team of individuals who are passionate about composting: John Culpepper, Katie Culpepper, and Jennifer Perry. We have partnered with AdkAction to make food waste composting more commonplace throughout the region.

For years, the Compost for Good team has been reimagining our waste stream. We wondered how we could divert more of the resources so often landfilled and use them to do good work within our communities. We recognized the need for an effective, adaptable, and affordable composting system that can process unsorted food waste—including meat and dairy—and other organic materials. We believe that the design for our community-scale composter fits that need. The design has been tested through time. One of these composters has been in continuous operation for over four years, and four others have been in operation for eight months or more.

We believe that community composting is an important part of building a more resilient world. By keeping food waste local, we keep resources local, which allows us to more directly support our land and our neighbors. We invite you to learn more and bring this innovative model for composting to your own community.

Our Impact

pounds of food waste and other organics composted
pounds of greenhouse gas emissions prevented
Number of our in-vessel composters in Upstate NY

Frequently Asked Questions

How big is the drum? Current design is 4-foot diameter, 20-foot long. The composters are designed to fit inside of a 40-foot shipping container, allowing them to be placed in a parking lot or otherwise close to where food waste is generated. The composter can also be housed in an existing structure.

What goes in? Unsorted food waste including meat and dairy, other organics, and a carbon bulking material (e.g.: wood chips, sawdust, wood shavings, etc.).

How much waste can one composter process? This  composter was sized to process about 35,000 pounds of unsorted food waste per year. This is roughly the amount of waste that a community of 250 generates through the course of a year. (Under certain conditions, the composter can accommodate up to 50,000 pounds of food waste per year.)

How long does it take to turn waste into a resource? Though it depends on the materials and other conditions, this process can happen in just a few weeks’ time.

How can I get the free design guide and operating manual? The design for this composter, operating manual and supporting documents are free and available to anyone who is interested. It is a relatively simple design and we hope through collaboration with other communities and organizations we can continue to adapt the design to meet a variety of needs all across the Adirondacks and beyond. 

How much does this composter cost? We have designed this composter to be simple, with material costs of $15,000, with hope of finding ways to reduce the cost even more. The labor cost will vary whether an individual does the construction or whether the labor is hired out.

What kind of support does this project offer? We want more communities to have access to what we have learned through years of experimentation, as well as the technical support, educational tools and essential information that is needed to make composting more effective and community efforts more successful. Whether through setting up site visits to observe a composter in action, a phone call to discuss viability of this design for a specific area, or assistance to find funding, we want to support Adirondack composting efforts. We can also put you in touch with others in our region who can build the composter and deliver it to you.

Why “Compost for Good”? It is our hope that this initiative will provide individuals with business opportunities, and organizations and communities with better waste management solutions leading towards a more regenerative Adirondack food system and more resilient communities. 

Together, we can compost for good!



Free, open-source community-scale composter design

This document outlines how the Compost for Good team designed and built a commercial-scale, rotating drum composter, capable of processing all of the unsorted food waste.  This composter was built for approximately $15,000 in material cost. Similar-sized composters purchased on the open market range anywhere from $40,000 to $150,000. Our hope is that this document provides enough detail so that others may build their own composter, save money, keep food waste out of landfills, and generate a valuable product for use or sale. We are quite sure that further modifications can be made to reduce the material and labor costs involved in construction.

Download the design guide here. 

Operating Manual

This operating manual includes general composting instruction and guidelines interspersed with specific details from experience operating our drum composter since early 2017. The manual is intended to be supplemented by in-person and phone consultation, educational videos and a site visit to an existing operational system. Contact the author if on-site training is desired. A design document, educational videos, and lesson plans are posted on our website and a list of additional resources can be found in section VIII; the user is encouraged to reference them. The design for the high flow in-vessel drum composter was born from a desire to find the most affordable and efficient way to compost mixed food waste, in a way that produces high quality soil amendments on an institutional scale.

Download the operating manual here.

NYS Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling Law

Effective January 1, 2022, NYS has taken a stand to make the most of our food by mandating large generators of food scraps to redirect wholesome edible food to those in need and food scraps to organics recycling facilities where they will be recycled into a product beneficial to our environment.

Who will be impacted by the law? Large generators of food scraps (more than 2 tons of wasted food and food scraps per week on average) Examples: Restaurants, grocery stores, hotels & motels, colleges & universities, malls, event centers, etc

Download the DEC factsheet here. 

Donate directly to this project 

Keep food waste out of landfills and rebuild healthy soils – support Adirondack Communities as they work towards a more sustainable future. 

Bring Compost for Good to Your Community

We are committed to working with communities across the Adirondacks to help make drum composting facilities available. Consulting and advice is available outside of the region as well. 

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