A Stone Soup Café volunteer and his passion for composting

  • Philip Coolbeth, 47, has been volunteering at the Stone Soup Cafe for more than a year to teach people about composting and recycling. Recorder Staff/David McLellan

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/21/2018 6:22:15 PM

GREENFIELD — “We only have one earth.”

That’s what keeps Philip Coolbeth coming back to the Stone Soup Cafe every weekend, sorting paper goods and organic material into the proper receptacles.

Most of the other volunteers at the cafe — which serves a “pay what you can” community meal held each Saturday from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the All Souls Church on Main Street — are cooking, scooping fresh food onto plates and cleaning up.

Coolbeth’s job, however, is composting.

Each Saturday, Coolbeth comes in, stands by the trash and recycling bins, and tells people where their waste should go. He “mans the station,” as he calls it.

“It’s something you tell people a few times and then they’ll remember to do it,” Coolbeth, 47, said. “Even our plates are compostable.”

At the end of the meal, Coolbeth takes as much as he can and puts it in one trash bag — sometimes the waste from up to 250 finished meals goes into the bag, the contents of which will be decomposed into a usable soil conditioner.

Coolbeth has long cared about the environment; it’s a tradition of his to go on walks through Greenfield with his mother, picking up trash.

“It certainly makes the walks look better,” Coolbeth said.

Coolbeth also works at the Brattleboro Time Trade potlucks, similarly sorting items so they can be composted and recycled. However, what he does is not simply to encourage cleanliness. Coolbeth says he wants people to think about being economical and less wasteful.

“There’s only so much room at the landfills,” Coolbeth said.

So, when he works his weekly shift at the Stone Soup Cafe, Coolbeth is not just a worker, but an educator.

“He does a fantastic job,” said Peter Pavone, who goes to the meal every week as a volunteer, and to enjoy the sense of community.

According to Pavone, that’s the great thing about the Stone Soup Cafe: the sense of community. People go to eat, share company and stories, as well as learn from people like Coolbeth, who has simple advice that can decrease wastefulness.

“It’s important he does it to protect the environment,” Pavone said. “That’s what we want to be at Stone Soup. Everything we do, we want to do right.”

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 268


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