A group of Missoula volunteers gathered pumpkins at Southgate Mall and Imagination Brewing Co. over the past week and delivered them to a local farm to “re-harvest” the gourds by feeding them to livestock.

In an effort to reduce waste of rotting Jack-O-Lanterns, UM alum Caitlyn Lewis, the founder of Soil Cycle, a food scrap and organic waste collection service, created the pumpkin re-harvest three years ago.

“Pumpkins being put into a landfill is detrimental for a couple of reasons,” Lewis said. “It still has value to animals or to soil, and if it goes into a landfill, it doesn’t receive air and gets covered so then it slowly releases methane gas which goes into our atmosphere.”

In the first two years, Soil Cycle picked pumpkins up from around town, but they decided to hold drop-off locations this year at South Gate Mall and at Imagine Nation Brewing. Lewis hauls the pumpkins to Turner Farms, a family-run organic farm, where they feed the pumpkins to livestock, beginning the re-harvesting cycle. 

This is beneficial not only to the planet by reducing waste, but also for the Turner family. The Turners sell pumpkins in the fall, and because of this event, they get them back as a resource when they are no longer useful on front steps.

“With pumpkins, there’s two types of waste. It’s food waste, which is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases in general, but then it’s also holiday waste,” Lewis said. “People in the United States create 75 percent more waste during the holiday season. So between November and around January 1st, the amount of waste they create is 75 percent more than their annual average.”

Lewis received her masters in Environmental Communications at the University of Montana, where she realized she wanted to start an organization that reduced waste rather than creating more. “That was my premise,” Lewis said. “It had to reduce waste.”

Soil Cycle also offers a membership based service, where customers pay for employees to come collect food scraps. The scraps are composted year round and the compost is delivered back to members by bicycle in the spring and fall.

Lewis tries to make it easy for the members. All they have to do is leave their scraps on the porch.

“Our ultimate goal is to promote a continual cycle of, ‘You give us food, you grow food and give it back to us.’”