If there are requirements to be Indianapolis’ ‘rain barrel guy,’ Andy Cochran meets them. He has the beard, carpentry experience and sense of humor to help conserve water. After graduating from IU he was roofing across the country. Eventually he realized that Indianapolis needed him. He apprenticed under Laura and Tyler Henderson of the SlowFoodGardens. Cochran started creating rain barrels for the community, which the Hendersons had done as a service. In the two years he’s run Circle City Rain Barrels it’s developed into a sustainable business.I spoke with Cochran at the Indiana Living Green office.
Indiana Living Green: Tell me a little bit about how you started doing rain barrels.
Andy Cochran: So I had an opportunity with Laura and Tyler Henderson to help them out at the White RiverStateGarden, the SlowFoodGarden downtown, just to basically apprentice underneath them. I jumped at it. I quit my job literally the next day. It was paying like a third of what I was making, like $800 a month, but I didn’t care. In that process Laura and Tyler used to make rain barrels – which I didn’t really know anything about until then. It wasn’t necessarily like a business model or a way to make money, it was on an as-needed basis.
ILG: Has it paid off at this point? How many barrels have you done?
Cochran: Up to 400 barrels. I’ve done a few 50 gallon totes too. I’m really trying to build towards, I want to get like a gallon number. Each barrel is a 55 gallon food-grade drum. Upcycling something that was trash into something that’s of use. So you figure that if everybody used their barrel just once and we’re up around, let’s say 400, so 55 gallons times the 400 is like whatever amount of gallons (22,000 gallons). And that’s if everybody used it just once. There’s the money that it cost to go down the drainage system and get processed and sent back out to you. It’s that whole connection to the water system and waterways. I mean we’re raised in a world of faucets. Wherever you’re at, turn it on and there’s water.
ILG: How do we bring masculinity and sexuality into environmentalism?
Cochran: You get really dirty and really sweaty. [laughs] I mean, the beard. The beard gets a lot of attention. It’s funny. Obviously beards are in or whatever right now, which cracks me up because I’ve had one for a while.
ILG: That’s where this interview is headed. I think you could be that role model for more guys to get involved in gardening, recycling.
Cochran: [laughs] Yeah, well we were talking about that. It’s really dominated by women. They’re everywhere in it. So yeah, I don’t know. The guys are definitely the rare breed in it.
ILG: So how do we get more guys involved in urban gardening?
Cochran: Well you could tell them that there’s a ton of females out there that are already in it. If they want to pick-up on a hot hipster chick. [laughs]
ILG: Why don’t you walk me through one of the workshops you do? How do those go?
Cochran: Yeah. So they’re usually set up by someone else. Everybody pre-signs up, pre-pays. It’s my job to get all the materials to get the barrels, all the supplies there, which is pretty tough. It’s a walk-through of what it would take, beginning to end, if you were to do it by yourself. It’s just funny watching people do it their own ways because I’ve done so many of them and I try to teach those like little techniques to use. Inevitably, everybody still fumbles through it their own way and at the end everybody has a rain barrel that’s their own so, you know, whatever. And they get to take that and everybody names them at the end. It’s kind of a joke. I’m always like, ‘And one last step…’ Which people actually get a kick out of, the names. I’ve heard like Bertha. Bertha the rain barrel.
ILG: So what are your personal rain barrels’ names?
Cochran: I have too many.
ILG: None of them are named?
Cochran: George Foreman I, George Foreman II, [laughs].
ILG: And you sell the DIY kits too?
Cochran: Yeah. That one’s pretty straight to it. Honestly, the hardest part is getting the barrels. There’s this whole scary, sketchy underworld. It’s like a Mad Max barter-town scenario. I’m serious.
ILG: Who knew that your rain barrel stuff was weirdly supported by a drug cartel’s need for barrels?
Cochran: [laughs] Yeah, that or someone trying build something to go down Niagara Falls or something.
Find out more on the Circle City Rain Barrels Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.