CERO: Final Stretch

In the last stretch of the class, we wrap up our media outreach for CERO and attempted to test a few other hypothesis, namely if restaurants will respond to the Massachusetts Waste Ban. The way we went about it to try not to force restaurants and be like “DO THIS OR ELSE”, the approach was more along the lines of “Look, here are the laws regarding composting, check if you are following them!”. We created a website: http://www.compostcompliance.com/ that would in theory allow owners to check if they are complying with the ban. When they sign up, we are able to know that the owners clicked and cares. We gathered about 30 emails through CERO and sent out the first batch yesterday. So far the results are not promising, not many people seem to be opening their emails and or signing up for our listing. It might be that the email count is too low but so far the results are inconclusive.

Another thing we are trying to do is start a petition to pressure a business into composting. The petition can be found here: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/pressure-barcelona-brookline-to-compost. We have yet to mass send out this petition yet, but we will be sending it out this week, and hopefully see if the business respond in any sort of way.


The other important items we worked on was the presentation and the case study. The case study is almost done but requires some more revision which we will finish off this coming weekend.



Draft Case Study:


CERO -> Current Prototype and Disco Tech

The CERO team attended the disco tech this weekend hosted by Sasha, and we got some great pictures for our composting campaign for twitter. We had some great conversation with other people regarding composting and telling them about CERO as well. With the pictures we took from the Disco Tech, we will be posting them through out this week as part of our composting awareness week campaign.

You can follow some of the twitter posts here, and please use our hashtag #whycompost We also setup a page on the CERO website to see if anyone would be interested in learning more about composting.



Here is a collage of some of the pictures we took at the Disco Tech.

Our goal this week is to see if any of these tweets and emails out to CERO’s network will gain any traction.

Draft Case Study:


CERO: More Data and Refining Our Problem 4/20

This week, the Cero team continued to collect data using our composting  surveys and have been making progress towards developing a new MVP. Jason and Husayn went to Boston Commons and administered the survey to around 25 individuals, 5 of which had to be filtered out due to their bias in “put what you put” or “we have pretty similar views”. We once again had encouraging results:

 Heard of composting:

Y: 19

N: 1

Prefer local restaurant/grocery store composted?:

Y: 19

N: 0

Don’t care: 1

Willing to travel farther?:

Y: 12

N: 8

How much farther (out of 12 responses):

1: 0

5: 2

10: 7

15: 3

More: 1

Spend extra money?:

Y: 15

N: 5

How much extra (out of 15 responses):

1%: 2

5%: 6

10%: 7

15%: 0

>15%: 0

We’ve also been collaborating to think through an educational/promotional campaign on composting that CERO could lead. Currently we are thinking that a “minimum viable product” for this could be a page on CERO’s website titled “Why Compost?” While we hypothesize that people don’t necessarily pick CERO for its social and environmental justice values, and instead pick it if they see that it can save them money and provide an easy service, we think that CERO can play a role in educating the general public on why composting is critical for a better, more sustainable future. This page would include information along the following lines:


  • Massachusetts food businesses generate more than 1 million tons of food waste every year. That is enough to fill 20 Fenway Parks.

  • When food waste goes to landfill (which is where it ends up if you don’t compost), toxic methane gas is released into the air that is 40 times worse than carbon dioxide for global warming.

  • When you compost you not only eliminate the production of methane from organic waste, but you also allow the compost in the soil to act as a sponge for carbon in the air. This process of carbon sequestration literally pulls carbon out of the air into the earth, at the same time improving the nutrition, and moisture retention properties of the soil.

  • Composting closes the food loop, allowing spoiled food, food scraps, and food waste to return to the earth as soil to grow new food and enrich the soil with nutrients needed to grow robust fruits and vegetables.

We are considering publishing this page in tandem with a twitter campaign to educate folks on the values of composting. If we get considerable hits on this, we might use this content to develop a more fully fleshed out infographic. Currently there are many infographics on how to compost, but not very good/popular ones on why its important to compost. By making composting a household conversation (and decoding its environmental benefits), we could indirectly influence CERO’s future customers.

We’ve also started to look into mapping our results using D3 with some sort of narrative/story-telling theme. We will need to collect some more data, but once we have a decent amount, we can start using some inference algorithms to estimate composting interest in areas we haven’t surveyed (with a quantifiable degree of certainty). This can all be included in the infographic/web-page, which should be nice.

CERO: Customers Survey Infographic

Our team revisited our plans from last week and took a new direction with our project. In regards to our MVP, from before, we realized that the campaign for CERO is a very nebulous and fluffy. CERO founded that the original plan of creating the other materials such as a landing page or an interactive webpage regarding CERO’s user might not be the best approach for CERO. It is also detrimental to them to show how “little” customers they might have. As a team, we did not want to create something that CERO did not feel useful. Therefore, we needed to be more specific in regards to what we were going to produce. After meeting with the team, one thing we agreed on is that CERO is indeed having trouble to push restaurants, and that we need to somehow involve the average consumer and push the restaurants. The best way to do so is to conduct another round of research about how much people cared about composting, and use that data to generate statistics that we hope will convince restaurants or grocery stores to consider CERO. The end goal is an infographic or a landing page that illustrates this information so that it can be easily presented to the potential CERO customers to convince them to compost with CERO.

In terms of what we did this week, we went out and conducted a survey about composting specifically whether or not people cared if the restaurants or grocery composted. We went to areas near DeLuca’s market, which is one of the places that CERO is trying sell to. We surveyed 49 people, and the results were promising:

  • 49/49 knew about composting

  • 43/49 would prefer that a restaurant/local grocery store composted

  • 34/49 said they would travel a further to go to one of these places (varying 5-15 more minutes)

  • 34/49 They would be willing to spend more if a restaurant composted

These results are very promising. We don’t want to jump into any real conclusions yet before talking over it as a group. These people might say one thing but do a completely different thing when it comes down to it. It is interesting to note that for those that said they would travel further, the average response is about 5-10 minutes, so it is not that much further. Nevertheless, we hope to test these results by presenting a nice infographic to CERO’s customers and be like hey, look what we found. We look to conduct more surveys later on this week so that we have a more robust data set.


CERO: Zero Waste for the people by the people

CERO – Making it Viral


One of our main findings from the interviews is that there is not that much incentive to use CERO other than it is an environmentally friendly and that it is a local co-op. When we went to the foodies festival, we realized that the people knew a lot about composting, they did not know about resources other there. The ones that did, did not know CERO. The restaurants that we talked to simply did not understand composting and CERO had to be explained to them every time what CERO does and how composting can help. With regards to government institutions, there is not enough pressure from the outside and even from the inside to really make head way. From all these groups, the conclusion is that CERO does not have a big enough importance, and that there is too much blockage for CERO to push through to get the contract everytime.

Therefore, our group believes that a campaign to demystify CERO, and make CERO more accessible to not just business but the innovators, the environmentally focused people will help alleviate some of the pushing that CERO does every time CERO starts up a new contact. CERO should not just be a co-op and a company that does composting, it ought to be an idea behind composting and what people can do to make composting possible, such as hiring CERO or going to business that composes with CERO, or supporting this idea of CERO: Zero Waste for the people by the people.  The best way to do so is to create a campaign. Initially, we wanted to steered away from anything education and having to teach the community what composting and that point is still true. However, our goal is to get the community involved cause we believe that is what makes CERO unique. It is the fact that it is a co-op by the people for the people.

Part of doing that means that as a team, we need to create all the content that is needed for the campaign. Part of that requires us to distill down all this information regarding what exactly CERO is. Currently, we think that there is too much information and it doesn’t get straight to the point enough. Another part of the challenge is that we need to figure out ways to automate the process, and we need to figure out a way to keep the momentum going. From an MIT student perspective, if there a way to automated all this for CERO so they don’t have to spend so much energy on it that would be great. We’ve been looking at some email scripts and twitter bots that can help do this. Because, after the project, we hope the campaign is still maintained and give CERO the tools to do so. We are looking to build an interactive website of infographics, a set of DIY stickers showing your support for CERO, a web page that’ll tell people about the companies that partner with CERO and that they should go there.
Current Slides: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1SIO7b9oLzDpHKNcI5Z-V7hTgDpEp58qC9w6bIhbG85c/edit#slide=id.p

Interview Part 2: CERO

Part of Insiyah’s goals for this week involved investigating what it might take for CERO to break into an anchor institution like MIT. To this end, she reached out to some colleagues at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning who did a research project on the procurement office at MIT last term. From their report, we were able to glean that MIT has a Supplier Diversity Program that CERO could benefit from. This program connects MIT buyers with suppliers of diverse background, including small business that are minority owned, women owned, owned by people with disabilities, and others. This program also supports local purchasing. Insiyah reached out to Rositha Durham, a Procurement Manager at MIT to learn more about this program; we are still waiting for a response on this. Insiyah also called and left messages for folks at Rita’s Catering (one of MIT’s largest suppliers), to try and learn more about their composting practices.

Ben’s goal for this week was to follow up with some of the restaurants, grocery stores, and (via restaurants) building managers we visited and interviewed last week in order to reach the decision makers.  We have also entered our leads into CERO’s lead, contact, and deal tracker, Base.  This, as has been CERO’s experience, has proven much more difficult than talking with front-line staff and even managers, who, as we learned last week, don’t know where the waste goes after they put it in bins.  Waiting on calls or e-mails back (or sufficient time to pass to follow up again) from Thomas at Morton’s The Steakhouse, the head of procurement at Legal Seafoods corporate (locations will not divulge any information), Miguel at Harvest Coop, and most interestingly, the real estate and building management services behemoth JLL, which we know to compost at some locations at least and to talk up a good environmental sustainability game, http://www.us.jll.com/united-states/en-us/services/corporates

Part of Jason’s goal for this week was to investigate deeper into the food festivals and see if there is a way for CERO to market more to these people. The questions asked were centered around how connected the local food community is and if they practiced composting. But this time around, it was to the people that was attending as attendees and not just vendors. He e-mailed about 10 buyers and food suppliers from around Boston that attended the festivals as attendees. Only about two of them responded and the foundings were extremely similar to the results from last week, which was that people attended a lot of these festivals as way of networking and a way to get the word out there about their business. This is indication that potentially CERO can maybe do the same thing. One of the respondents is actually a Chef of a restaurant in JP, and has done a lot of work in promoting local foods and such. We will be having a phone call with her on thursday.


Part of Husayn’s goals for this week was to reach out to WhatsGood, a vendor at the trade show at Northeastern he went to last week. He e-mailed them requesting a list of the restaurants that the chefs that partnered with local farmers worked at. He also asked for more information regarding what institutions most often used their service. This will help us figure out if trade shows and the local farmer scene is a good area for CERO to target. If the institutions/restaurants that use WhatsGood to partner with local farmers/food producers actually compost, maybe it’d be good for CERO to attend these trade shows and people who are in these circles. We haven’t heard back from WhatsGood yet.

CERO, Interviews with Restaurants + Local food producers

This past week, we split in two teams of two, in order to interview a variety of different stakeholders. Ben and Insiyah went to interview restaurants and grocery stores around central, seaport district, and South Boston. Jason and Husayn went to Northeastern to attend a local food festival, featuring vendors, farmers, local food producers around the Boston Area. The underlying hypothesis for this work is that CERO could benefit from fine tuning their marketing strategies to be specific to different customer segments.

These interview settings were selected based on our canvas from last class. While doing the interviews, we acted as independent students doing a class project on local food and waste management systems, and only mentioned CERO if the conversation around composting became more specific.

Food Festival Interviews:

People Interviewed: Crunch Cookies, Fox Pickling, Just Janes, Farmer’s Cow, What’s Good

Main Findings:

  • Many places wanted to further expand from local stores into like Whole Foods/Star Market. Some people only sold their products at local farmers markets.

  • No one we talked to produced that much waste → but the waste they did produce was either composted or given to pig farmers (for the most part).

  • Definitely a good place for CERO to be so they can connect with other people who are in the co-op/local farmers/etc. scene

  • One of the groups had a lot of good information about institutional/large-scale composting and how things were contracted. They also mentioned a company that sounded really similar to what Cero was doing. Also mentioned that Brandeis (I think — maybe some other northeast college) made their own composting system. Pretty interesting — was significantly cheaper than the system a company called O2 offered.

Restaurant/grocery store interviews:

Locations scouted: Harvest Coop, Thelonious Monkfish, Veggie Galaxy, Whole Foods, Legal Harborside, Mortons Steakhouse, Salvatore’s, Rosa Mexicano Ristorante, Sportello

Main findings:

  • Willingness of managers to talk to us varied to a large degree. Managers at Thelonious Monkfish and Legal Harborside refused to talk to us (Legal said that we would have to go through their corporate department to get any information at all). Some places in the Seaport District that we expected would not engage at all us actually did, including Morton’s Steakhouse, Salvatore’s and Rosa Mexicano Ristorante.

  • The big/fancy restaurants near the Seaport didn’t really think that green cred is a big deal for them, suspecting that their customers might not care if they composted. We did however find that many of them do compost as required by their rental contracts. We would have to contact building managers to get more information about who they use for composting, but it is possible that the newer buildings on this stretch are under stricter city control/watch.

  • Veggie Galaxy’s manager was really forthcoming; though they don’t compost, they produce a huge amount of waste and would potentially be a great lead for CERO.

  • Whole Foods’ manager was also super helpful. All Whole Foods in this region use Save that Stuff, a competitor of CERO. Whole Foods only has regional contracts and she suspects that when the decision to compost was made, Save that Stuff was the only company large enough to take the contract.

We are hoping to discuss the interviews in more detail as a group soon. This was a fascinating exercise, and we hope it can lead to some tangible results for CERO.

Pictures of the food festival below.


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CERO: A First Look

We learned a ton about CERO and its founders today!From what we had heard during our previous classes, we imagined that the focus of our work might be on increasing sales. After the meeting today we realized just how complicated this is, and might continue to be in the near future. While Massachusetts has passed legislation that requires businesses that produce over 1 ton of organic waste a week to compost, there is no enforcement of this law. Cero’s pitch to customers focuses on two main ideas: lowering waste disposal costs and providing an easy service to help customers abide by the legislation. Yet since the legislation ‘has no teeth’, most of Cero’s customers sign up either to save money or to do the right thing by supporting a business with cooperative values that protects the environment.

A large proportion of CERO’s customers tend to already be sold on the value of composting. One of the big challenges to growth that Cero’s founders see is the lack of education around environmental justice issues, especially in low income communities of color. In order for businesses to see the value of what Cero offers, there needs to be much more community awareness especially in the local business. Business sometimes are skeptical of what is it that CERO stand for, but once they buy into the product they tend to understand. The challenge is is in getting those who do not understand or even care about these issues onboard. One key idea  that was brought up is that no matter how great our cooperatives values are, people on the outside is still going to see CERO as a business and will operate on business terms with them.

To combat this, Lor is interested in working with local schools to start education about composting from a young age, and the new sales team is working to produce a video and other communications tools to get the word out in order to gain some more traction. The team sees this as a long term ongoing challenge, possibly something we can help with. Moving forward, our team from the co-design workshop will be looking into ways to help CERO create more channels of marketing as well as sales.

You can learn more about CERO here: http://www.cero.coop/



Character Profile: Jason Ma


My name is Jason Ma, I am a junior studying course 2A, mechanical engineering with some Robotic, Controls, and Computer Science thrown in there. I was originally from the Southern part of China outside of Guangzhou, but I move to Washington D.C / Maryland Area when I was 9 years old.

I wouldn’t consider myself a true designer; I see myself as a technologists at heart, and an engineer by trade. My skills are very interdisciplinary; I know a bit about computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. I think design then connects all these skills together in utilizing them for a common purposes. One of my long term goal or careers is to place myself somewhere between technology and policy, bridging the two together. In order to achieve that, I realize I need to gain more of a perspective.I think this class will allow me to learn about the community and people aspect of the policy side of the problem, specifically how technology influences people or communities.

Much like Lucia, I am very involved in extracurricular. I am the director of a student group called TechX, a student group that empowers students through technology. We run HackMIT, MakeMIT, xFair, and ProjX etc. You can learn more here: http://techx.mit.edu/. Also, you can learn more about me at jsma.scripts.mit.edu.

Looking forward to a great semester!

Jason Ma