Friday, April 24, 2015

Thoughts on Composting

Most people talk about composting as a viable alternative to tossing things into a landfill, but I was curious about how many people actually make the effort.

I was also interested to learn about the reasons why folks don't compost.

That was the focus of April's survey.

Let's take a look at the results:

Survey Results - Do you compost?

  • COnstantly traveling.
  • Why NOT compost? It's great for the garden, it reduces our amount of garbage, and it's good for the earth to put food and yard waste literally back where it originated ! We had an old plastic "earth machine" one for years but it always filled up too fast so this year we built one out of old repurposed fenceposts and chickenwire, with one half for current garden and food waste and then when it fills up, we'll let it settle and start filling up the second one. They say more than 20% of our garbage dumps are filled with food - crazy!!! Every city should have mandatory curbside composting like our big cities here on the west coast - it just makes sense (economically as well!).
  • Because it reduced how much trash we were throwing out, it's good for the environment and for our garden, and we get free soil.
  • I compost because food waste is such a problem in the landfills, plus it's free fertilizer. I don't use bins though, I bury mine right in an empty garden plot to decompose.
  • We don't have anywhere to use the compost we'd make.
  • I've had a garden my entire adult life. My current one is my toughest, here in the American desert Southwest. It's hot. And dry. To manage water usage and keep vegetables comfortable through hundred-and-teens, I have to have compost (and mulch, which is sometimes the same thing)! Besides, it's the right thing to do--perfectly good coffee grounds and vegetable peelings certainly don't need to clutter landfill.
  • To nourish my soil and recycle my green waste
  • I am studying here and I live in apartment, thus I don't have place to plant or cultivate. In my hometown, my family lives in city and has the same situation.
  • Because it good for the soil and keeps the balance of nutrients naturally. We also should be recycling everything we can and this is a great way to recycle your food scraps and make use of the that nature provides us. It is also very economical.
  • Less waste, though we don't know how to make it compost faster and just put it into a bin we got at a hardware store, so any tips would be great :)
  • Because it makes sense! :)
The majority of people, who participated in the survey, do compost. Reasons included things like reducing landfill waste and nourishing gardens. Some folks use commercial composting containers, others make their own, and still others simply bury compostable materials directly into an empty garden plot.

My sense is that those who do compost, use it in their gardens rather than participate in curb-side pick-up or donate it to a neighbor or community garden.

One participant asked for tips on how to make a compost pile work faster. I found a great article on the subject which you can read HERE. Suggested methods include shredding, turning the pile often, and ensuring that the carbon to nitrogen ratio is appropriate (they include the ratio of common items like grass clipping, food scraps, etc., and give you an easy way to approximate the ratio).

A few people don't compost and their comments got me thinking about situations that make the practice difficult (or impossible) and how we might comes up with solutions.

Composting while traveling

Many of our green-living practices suffer when we travel. Certainly composting seems to fall into that category. Still, we need to eat and that means generating usable waste. Here are a few tips which might help:
  • If you eat out, choose restaurants which compost kitchen scraps. To find out, call ahead and ask.
  • If you prepare food while traveling, bring along a bokashi composting system which can be carried back home for use in the garden. Or, carry a container with a good lid, fill it with scraps and bring it home to your bin.
  • Ask the hotel, campground, bed & breakfast, etc., if they compost and, if so, how you can add scraps to the bin.
  • If you are staying in a rented home, find out if curb-side collection is available or if a neighbor might be able to use scraps.

Composting without gardening

What if you don't garden and have no use for compost? Here are some ideas:
  • Participate in curb-side collection if it is offered.
  • Donate your compost to a local community garden, a neighbor, or offer it on Freecycle or Craigslist (I'm guessing that someone would be happy to pick it up and use it).
  • Use a bokashi bin and then use the fertilizer on house plants or a lawn ... or, again, give it away. And if you don't have house plants, get some ... they are a great way to clean indoor air.

Composting in an apartment

So here's the scenario ... you live in an apartment which doesn't have a deck or patio. There's no space for a garden. There's no curb-side compost pick-up. Of all the reasons not to compost, this one is, in my opinion, the most difficult to find solutions for. But let's see what we can do. How about these ideas:
  • Consider the bokashi system. Use the results on houseplants or offer it up on Freecycle. Perhaps the apartment management would appreciate a bit of fertilizer on their landscaping ... just be sure to ask, first.
  • Collect scraps in an air-tight container and donate them to a community garden.
  • Find out if a college or work facility has composting. If they do, ask about adding your scraps to their bin.
  • Contact the city waste management department to discover options. If they have no options for you, ask them to consider providing some in the future.

A few more thoughts on composting

When we think about composting, we tend to consider it from the end results. While free, green fertilizer is appealing to those of us who garden, it really doesn't mean much to people who don't grow things.

So perhaps we need to look at this activity from the other end ... the beginning. If we consider it as a viable way to divert usable materials from landfills, it becomes a practice which all people can take part in. Yes, there's still the question of what to do with the end results but that seems relatively easy. There's always someone who could use free soil enhancements.

With the many, easy ways to recycle our food waste, composting is no longer a labor-intensive, stinky process. In fact, anyone with a counter can compost. It takes no more effort than tossing those scraps in a trash bin. Yes, perhaps it means coordinating with a neighbor or driving to a community garden but protecting our environment is worth the effort.

If you're not already doing so, I encourage you to compost. It is one way to keep "stuff" out of landfills and protect the earth.

Thanks to everyone who participated!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW) - No Till Gardening

Welcome to Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW)!

Wondering how to live greener? You've come to the right place. Each week we challenge ourselves to try a new task ... or "amp up" something we're already doing. We raise our awareness, learn from each other and develop Eco-friendly skills which will improve our lives and protect our planet. Doing so together gives us power ... the power to Change The World!

If this is your first visit, please click HERE for information and a complete list of all the challenges we've taken on so far.

This post contains great information and I encourage you to read through it at your leisure ... however, if you are short on time, you might find the following quick links helpful:

Last week our challenge asked us to prevent soil erosion by adding mulch and ground cover to our gardens. My home is surrounded by deciduous trees so we have a good supply of leaves which we use to mulch our garden. We also planted ground cover to further hold our soil in place. I was particularly fascinated by the number of perennial plants which are edible. Thyme, strawberries, mint, and American cranberries are just a few of the many, delicious ground covers available.

The Honor Society are those people who help us spread the "green" word by writing an article about our challenges and/or leaving pertinent comments.

Marla had some great ideas for us: "We have a lot steep banks that I we have slowly been planted ground cover on. We have planted ivy which is great because it is very tolerate to temperatures and pest resistance but it does grow fast so you have to keep it trimmed. I do love it though - it looks really nice. We also have planted Juniper (which is an evergreen) that makes a great ground cover. Phlox is another great choice that blooms with a glory of beautiful bright colors ranging from different shades of pink, lavender to white. It is absolutely gorgeous in the springtime. Ours should soon be blooming very soon. It spreads each year. I also have use butterfly bushes to help with erosion and they are always a pleasure with the lovely butterflies they attract. They come up every year more beautiful than before. I have recently discovered perennial geraniums that spread quite quickly and just transplanted some to another one of our banks. They also bloom throughout most of the summer into early fall and are very hearty. I have used daylilies too and I love the many beautiful colors and sizes of this striking and weather resistance flowers. They are easy to transplant and I just planted about 5 new petite size bulbs last week for ground cover. They get bigger and have more blooms every year. We also have used stepping stones and small gardening ornamental stones to fill in in small areas that stops erosion and looks very attractive. We have just added some old bricks to some areas last summer to hold the soil and arrange them in different shapes and forms. There are so many great ways to help erosion while beautifying your home. Just use a little imagination and work. It will pay off so that we don't lose valuable soil. It has worked for me."

Alicia accepted the challenge and shared this: "We use mulch which also helps in keeping the soil more moist which really comes in handy especially during drier times in the Summer. We also like planting things like turnip greens in the Fall. It is a great ground cover and you have food also! Alan also edges our gardens which helps keep the soil from eroding. I always love the challenge of not eating meat. It really is easy to do and can help so much. Just imagine if we would all just not eat meat even once a week what a HUGE difference it would make!!"

cstocks is way ahead of us: "I'm almost done applying mulch! Last year I mulched all of our fruit trees and in August a flood washed it all away. It ended up in neighbors yards, so hopefully it was not a total lost cause. So... try as I might again this year. I mulched all of the fruit trees PLUS some more areas that have not before--a new grape arbor and a kitchen herb garden (sing along now: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme!) plus some areas that had been grass, which we want to turn into garden areas. I read (somewhere) that shredded newspaper covered with sheets of corrugated paper act to suppress weeds, so I suppose that constitutes a mulch. We put that down in the paths in the vegetable garden and it will eventually break down. We have quite a bit from a recent move and keeping it out of landfill (though we would recycle it, it's a 20-mile trip to the transfer less gallon of gas to put in the car). We're acutely aware of preserving our water resources; no part of our yard gets water unless it's for creating food. Mulch helps to retain necessary moisture (especially in summer with single digit humidity). Since I was doing it anyway, it's not fair to accept this challenge, so, I'll have to go meatless!"

Charlotte joined us and said: "Ground cover and mulch - interesting challenge!"

Did you know that some commercial mulches contain artificial dyes? That's just one of the interesting facts included in Mulch now to rescue your gardens by Vicality!

Our Twitter friends joined the conversation and shared the following:

From @WorldChangingMe
- Mulched the raspberries! #ctww

From @rose_rambles
- I plan to plant this native Australian violet as ground cover in place of grass - for this week's #CTWW challenge.

The #CTWW Gang are those folks who tweet our challenges using the hashtag #CTWW. If you're a Twitter member, I recommend following them ... they share great things. Let's meet them:

@2kidsandacoupon @arithatcher @beatepdx
@bestrawesome @brokeblokeblogs @collegegogreen
@debsmikdav1 @dehelen @dominiquegoh
@ecofairiesclean @efoodpyramid @familyfocusblog
@freshcleanersaz @ginavalley @givelocal15
@grandmasdiaries @greektitan_mov @greengympenge
@greenqueenofmod @gronavra @groovygreenlivi
@herbgir1972 @ifarmlight @islayhijk
@jen_fontaine @kaitlingarder @kayelleallen
@krmbalclothing @laalicia @ladyjcmuses
@leslieveg @letgogracefully @littlewing_13
@london_020 @marjoriemcatee @martha_bourke
@mdgblogger @memorialgrdnscg @mimibarbour
@momfindsout @mommyhiker @motheremu
@myzerowaste @mzazeela @nolafusion
@nomadictexan @organicgpodcast @outdoorfammag
@rckweddings @realityarts @rose_rambles
@rosehipsmedlars @rulesofgreen @shoppingcharity
@shopwhatpops @signsbyrhonda @spafloating
@spookymrsgreen @sustyq @tcvgreengym
@tgilbt @thefreckledrose @theworld4realz
@ticlme @treesgroup @turningclockbac
@wary12 @wellminded @williambllp
@wimpyvegetarian @worldchangingme

My Final Thoughts:

We've been working, all month, to protect our soil. Mulching and ground covers are two easy ways to do that. Considering the important roll which soil plays in food production, it only seems to make sense that we treat this amazing resource with respect and care. To any doubters "out there", I say ... just take a look back in history, to the 1930s and the "dust bowl". Taking the soil for granted caused people to lose their homes and struggle to feed their families. Food production, throughout the entire country, was negatively affected. It all could have been prevented! Let's learn from their mistakes and never repeat them!

Thanks, everyone! If you wrote an article, I Stumbled, Tweeted, Facebooked and posted it on Google +. You can help spread the "green" word by using the share features located below this post.

This Week's Challenge:

April's theme is: 2015 Year of the Soil

Change The World Wednesday (#CTWW) - No Till Gardening
Tilling the soil fatally buries
beneficial organisms

Tilling damages and exposes earthworms.

It also releases CO2 into the air and destroys soil structure.

Here's your challenge ...

This week, consider using the "no till" method of gardening. Basically, avoid inverting the soil and tread lightly, or not at all, on your planting area. Some ideas to try include raised vegetable gardens, "lasagna" gardening, straw bale gardening, and square foot gardening. If you have a new garden area, start with the double-dig method followed by the addition of soil amendments such as compost. The idea, this week, is to disturb the soil as little as possible when planting.

OR ...

Not into gardening? There are still actions which you can take to help the soil. Since large commercial farms (the guys who provide produce to most grocery store chains) are more likely to till, support local, organic farmers this week. Buy veggies from a farmer's market or a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm. Consider preserves (jams, canned foods, etc.) which were made locally using local foods.

Are you ready to hang a "do not disturb" sign on the soil? I know that you are!

Until next time ...


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Guest Post - Encouraging Manufacturers to Help Preserve the Environment

We count on our manufacturing companies for everything from the windows in our homes to the bricks and steel supporting our cities’ tallest skyscrapers. The finished products these companies create are often beautiful and needed, but the environmental impact of the manufacturing isn’t always as pretty.

It is no secret that the manufacturing sector can produce a lot of waste. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2013 alone, manufacturing processes created close to 8 billion tons of nonhazardous waste. Even worse, a vast majority of that waste ended up in landfills.

It begs the question “is there a way to reduce all this waste?” Thankfully, the answer is a resounding yes. You could even say it’s a classic case of one man’s trash being another man’s treasure. Unfortunately many companies overlook these recycling opportunities favoring the cost efficiency of trashing the extras, but there would be endless benefits if large manufacturers committed to creating and following simple recycling programs.

Thankfully, there are a few companies that are spearheading these efforts and just from their modest work to reduce the amount of trash they produce, we can already see the improvements.

Encouraging Manufacturers to Help Preserve the Environment
In the spirit of Earth Week, April 20-24, 2015, and recognizing those companies that are dedicated to environmental causes, it’s worth talking about Thompson Creek Window Company, a Maryland-based window manufacturing company. They have committed themselves to being green and making a concerted effort to minimize their carbon footprint by recycling the excess raw materials that are created when making windows.

For example, and unsurprisingly, glass is a common excess material for a window company. Thanks to their recycling program, Thompson Creek diverts over 412 tons of glass from the landfill each year. These 100% recyclable leftovers are used to create other glass products, for further consumption.

Encouraging Manufacturers to Help Preserve the Environment
Additionally, 84.42 tons of vinyl are recycled by Thompson Creek every year. The recycled vinyl can be reused in packaging, traffic cones, siding, floor tiles, and more. The company also diverted 38.73 tons of cardboard and 14.87 tons of aluminum from the landfills.

All in all, we’re talking about over 550 total tons of recyclable materials diverted from the landfill every single year. Thompson Creek holds strong to their commitment to minimize their carbon footprint and they are among a growing list of companies committing themselves to reaching “zero-landfill” status.

Encouraging Manufacturers to Help Preserve the Environment

Imagine if larger manufacturers made the same commitment. The impact would be colossal. I think we can all agree it’s a pledge we’d like to see more companies make, both large and small.