On Earth Day in 2018, Dallas-based environmental startup Turn launched hyper-locally in the neighborhood of its founder, Lauren Clarke. The vision, at the budding company’s core, was simple: help consumers rethink and reuse their urban environment.
Fast forward to today and Clarke and her team are on-track to achieving that goal.
Turn currently provides food waste recycling services and sustainable food cycle education to consumers, residents, and businesses in Denton. That includes drive-through stations at Whole Foods Market in Highland Village and Armadillo Ale Works in the area, where locals are able to drop off food waste.
But the young startup recently announced that it has made significant strides to broaden its footprint—an expansion pattern that Clarke thinks mirrors Turn and its mission.
“We have grown organically and carefully,” Clarke told Dallas Innovates. “I’m a passionate gardener, and I’m constantly amazed at the parallels and learning lessons that exist between business growth and plant growth.”
Turn is now actively seeking out more pickup stations and additional service offerings throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth. Clarke has been connecting with the local food system—growers, gardens, farmers, markets, environmental groups—and formed a partnership with Whole Foods Market HQ to allow for drive-through drop off stations across the region.
She and her team also, most recently, made a 5-year deal with DFW International Airport for composting.
Turn’s subscription-based model allows users to get rewarded while reducing environmental impact. The team collects organic waste from Turn members and transports it to nearby farmers and partners who are able to responsibly recycle it. Turn also produces lab-tested and approved compost for its members.
“Organic waste is a terrible problem for our environment when left to rot in a landfill,” Clarke says. “Turn solves that problem by beneficially diverting the waste to local farms, gardens and composters who turn it into a resource.”
But there’s a commercial aspect to Turn, too.
Turn offers business food waste recycling for clients like restaurants, small businesses, and global corporate offices. The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, however, hit that side of the business hard.
That’s when Turn began pivoting to new revenue streams, while also shoring up existing ones, Clarke told us.
“I’m troubled by our cavalier relationship to food. With the pandemic, we saw hunger and poverty skyrocketing both globally and locally. Yet, we continue to overbuy, underutilize and throw away food at alarming rates,” she says. “I’m a big believer in the circular economy and finding creative ways to connect the disparity of hunger and food waste.”
Her team pivoted to launch Turn as an employee HR perk, initially landing two major North Texas-based corporations. They then began bolstering their residential program.
Turn today offers residential pickup and drop off service in areas across the region. That service allows apartment dwellers, college students, homeowners, and more to subscribe to Turn, drop off a bucket of food scraps at a Turn truck, and receive a clean, sanitized bucket in return.
As part of the $20/a month subscription, there are also monthly perks and a quarterly household impact report on a user’s diverted organic waste.
From here, Clarke plans to start building a proprietary technology platform that would let Turn customers view their diversion data and access a portal of benefits. She continues to see the model scaling—but wants to “grow well.“
“I’m a native Dallasite, and though I love our city, we traditionally haven’t had the best reputation for environmentalism and sustainability. I believe that is about to change, and that there are many wonderful people and organizations about to rise up and help us do better,” Clarke says. “I hope that Turn has given other people the courage to try bold new ideas.”
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