I would start by composting everything organic that you use in your kitchen, coffie, eggs, lettis, veggie trimmings ect... Put them to earth in a small pile in a out of the way place in your yard. The worms will turn it into black gold. When you are ready to start your next adventure mix it 50/50 with soil. I'm starting this and doing away with nutes completely. Its not about the cost but the hassles of feeding. Just water and they grow very well.
As for your co-worker. Be very cautious! Remember you cant help anyone if you end up in jail. JOB is just a 4 letter word.