This is a story about giving. Meet Carol Lue the founder of CaribShare Biogas in Jamaica. Carol is on a mission to divert Jamaica’s organic waste away from landfills and instead convert into biogas for energy and high-quality organic fertilizers for local farmers.
CaribShare Biogas is a social enterprise that Lue started when she returned home to the Caribbean from working in Canada. Lue wanted to create a company that would help her island home of Jamaica, and she has done just that.
The Science of Converting Food Waste to Biogas
CaribShare Biogas has established a facility that uses anaerobic digestion to manage food waste. Anaerobic means “without oxygen.” The company processes food waste in a slurry with a system that restricts outside air. With limited oxygen, the technology generates biogas, sometimes known as renewable natural gas or methane (CH4), a clean-burning source of energy.
Currently, CaribShare Biogas is diverting food waste from eight hotels, and the company has begun to offset fossil fuel use on the island with its locally generated biogas. A leftover byproduct of the anaerobic digestion process is organic material that is then composted into a nutrient-rich fertilizer, which is sold to farmers on the island.
Addressing Jamaica’s Trash Challenge
Jamaica is a small island with limited open space to landfill the garbage from nearly three million tourists a year. Any yet, Jamaica’s laws on recycling and waste management are inadequate.
That is where Carol Lue comes in. The shortage of landfill space on her island home inspired her to find solutions, and thus CaribShare was born. Managing the waste stream from millions of tourists brought Lue to Jamaica’s hotels and resorts. She quickly identified food waste as a significant part of the waste stream that could still have economic value. So she teamed up with resorts in Montego Bay, an idyllic city on the north side of the island, to collect organic waste for CaribShare instead of sending it off to landfills.
Carol grew up in a house of entrepreneurs, and she always knew that one day she would start her own company. Her upbringing in a rural part of Jamaica fostered an appreciation of farming. Carol is pleased that her business not only addresses Jamaica’s growing waste problem, but her business allows her to give to local farmers, addressing Jamaica’s over-dependent on imports for most of its food.
The Wisdom of a Sustainable Entrepreneur
When asked what motivated her to start CaribShare, Lue answered ‘I believe that climate resilience is so important and one of the ways to help the climate especially on an island with limited space is to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill.’ Creating treasure out of trash is an ideal way to make Jamaica more sustainable.
Carol Lue’s commitment to giving has also taken her to the classroom. She has become a fountain of wisdom for budding entrepreneurs, as she teaches an entrepreneurship class at the local all-girls high school in Trelawny. Her main message to them is ‘to pursue entrepreneurship as Plan A but only when the time is right. It should be something you are really passionate about. You have to be resilient and truly believe in yourself and what you are doing, because in difficult times when support is low, you will need to find the means, energy, and conviction to keep going.’
Lue also believes that diverse professional and personal experiences help one to grown and gain good judgment. Such wisdom is a building block for strong relationships, problem solving, and dealing with the unpredictability needed to successfully run and grow a sustainable company.
Looking to the Future
CaribShare Biogas has taken critical steps on its mission of making the Caribbean island of Jamaica become more sustainable. But Lue knows that her journey is just beginning. She envisions partnering with cruise ship companies as a source of food waste that can improve her company’s cash flow by charging tipping fees for accepting waste. A little more capital could go a long way to expand the production of biogas.
Lue is also working toward the day when recycling and waste laws change in Jamaica mandating hotels and resorts to be more environmentally conscious of their waste management decisions. The sticks and carrots of thoughtful policy could prompt the tourism industry to partner with CaribShare Biogas, enabling the company to grow into an integral part of Jamaica’s economy.
Lue is playing a win-win-win game. The success of her company (1) allows hotels and cruise ships to be more environmentally responsible with their waste, (2) provides a locally produced biogas, and (3) supports local farmers with organic, nutrient-rich fertilizer. Lue is not only in the waste business, but she is also in the business of giving.
Thank you for reading this article, and make sure to check out the amazing work Carol Lue is doing with CaribShare at the company Facebook page and through other articles:
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/caribsharebio/
- Branson Center of Entrepreneurship: https://bransoncentre.co/project/carol-lue/
- Thriving earth exchange article: https://thrivingearthexchange.org/project/montegobay-jm/
- OpenIdea article: https://challenges.openideo.com/challenge/food-waste/ideas/caribshare-biogas-1st-caribbean-social-enterprise-recycling-organic-waste-into-clean-energy-and-fertilizer