Pashon Murray is passionate about reducing the carbon footprint of Detroit, by finding solutions to re-use or recycle everyday waste and reducing landfill use. Her company, Detroit Dirt, is a local composting and biomass collection company that is committed to revitalizing neighborhoods.
As a child, Pashon Murray was inspired by her father, who founded a waste hauling company. In 2011, Pashon founded Detroit Dirt, a business that collects food waste from companies such as General Motors, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Detroit Zoo, and transforms it into rich soil. Using advanced composting techniques, Detroit Dirt helps companies regenerate their waste into resources that will educate the community, create jobs and provide gardeners with rich, life-bearing soil.
Pashon is an award winning entrepreneur and currently serves as a fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, where she studies the science of composting and waste reduction.
Last year Detroit Dirt featured in this Ford commercial that went viral.
Did you always know you’d become an entrepreneur?
I wasn’t sure that I would become an entrepreneur, but having a father in the household that owned his own business inspired me. I knew in undergrad in the late 90s and in early 2000 that I would become an entrepreneur.
What was your career path prior to starting your first business?
I’ve consulted in sustainability, lobbied for climate action and owned a trucking company for a few years that focused on aggregate, recycling and waste hauling. I worked on sustainable projects for Oakland Community College and created a conference with the sustainable coordinator at Wayne State University.
What happens during a typical day at Detroit Dirt?
A typical day at Detroit Dirt involves picking up food containers from General Motors and Blue Cross Blue Shield. The Detroit Zoo drops off 20 yards of herbivore manure every week, we take the organic food waste and process that with the herbivore manure.
Often times we’re filming or supporting media stories, I’m constantly meeting with potential clients and also traveling around the country lecturing and speaking about the movement.
Detroit Dirt picks up containers with food waste, drops them off at a two acre plot of land, then tractors and heavy equipment turn and process the food waste with manure.
What are you currently working on?
Currently we’re working on packaging Detroit Dirt, raising funds for technology that will expedite the composting process and writing a book. We’re also joining forces with other organizations and companies to launch a compost campaign. I’m also doing a voice over for a soil movie.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
My biggest accomplishment has been the recognition for this movement, when the United Nations and the White House recognized the importance of this mission it brought joy to my heart.
My goal is to reach people around the world and help implement programs in impoverished communities. Waste reduction and waste to energy is imperative for the purpose of saving the planet and the next generation. Waste diversion will encourage people around the world to look closely at our lifestyles, I’ve been on a mission for the last 10 years to promote waste reduction and recycling.
What, or who, inspires and motivates you?
I’m inspired spiritually; my faith is the most important foundation. I believe that my purpose is to help people and communities, I’ve always been driven by bringing people together. All people.
I grew up with a diverse group of children in the 80s and 90s, it was understood that we represented love and unity. I attended one of the coolest private schools, children were adopted, mixed nationalities, biracial children, black, white… Our teachers taught us about black history, art history, and religion.
I’m comfortable as a black woman, I love my family and ancestors. Black people have contributed to civilization since the beginning and that drives me every day. When I’m down I turn to my faith and purpose. Climate change is real, destruction is real and I’m here to help develop solutions.
What has been your biggest lesson as an entrepreneur so far?
My biggest lesson has been the lack of support and my race; it never occurred to me that my skin color would get in the way. I was naïve thinking that support would be there in multitudes, my journey has been tough over the last 10 years.
People like to hear a great story but they don’t always write checks. Financial support is probably difficult for most but I know it’s hard as a black person, especially when white people have discussed these issues openly with me. Minority groups struggle with financial support. I’ve taken the time to push the mission through media and I’ll continue to fight for support with my book and filming.
What‘s next? What goals are you working towards?
We’re working on getting the product on the market. I’d like to sell Detroit Dirt, I’m not giving up on in-vessel technology or anaerobic digestion. We have to create a campaign that pushes new technology for change. I’d like to get our story published as a book in 2016.
My main goal is the Detroit Dirt story, securing technology for operations, creating a campaign and getting and developing products for the market. We need more land to help us scale the business.
What are your words to live by?
My words to live by are “compost is the root of the soul.” We are what we eat but most importantly we need to stop being wasteful. In the United States we bury waste which are resources that can help people and create products. Clean energy is the future, there’s no such thing as waste. The creator of the universe gave us everything we need but we have to be responsible for it.
If you could be mentored by anyone, who would it be and why?
I would be mentored by the experts of waste to energy and the best farmers in the world. It’s important that scientist, farmers and energy experts create a universal and comprehensive plan for clean energy.
I must say that it’s cool that Martha Stewart has offered to lend a helping hand, she’s iconic and I’m grateful to her. I would like to be the urban Martha Stewart but I’m Pashon, so being mentored by a great iconic woman such as her would be an honor. She’s writing the foreword to my book.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’m grateful for this opportunity to share our story. We’re all connected to the dirt, we have to think about the next generation regarding destruction and climate change. This isn’t about race or class, it’s about designing infrastructure and communities that will be able to survive change and crisis. We shouldn’t wait for a natural disaster to occur when we have the opportunity to start building for the future now.