Posts Tagged ‘compost’

Delicious Uses for Compost: More Companies Take the Waste from Restaurants

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Think of all the times you left remainders of your meal on your plate at a restaurant, and multiply that by all the people that go out to eat every day and what do you see? That’s right, piles and pounds of food scraps. Where do they normally end up? That’s right – in your local dumpsite. Did you know that the gases given off by food scraps can be as harmful to the ozone layer as those given off by our cars?

Thankfully, a recent trend is making better use of all that food waste, to the betterment of our environment. In a recent article by The Associated Press on USAToday.com, restaurants are finding a way to save money and the environment at the same time, by composting local restaurant food scraps.

“’ The restaurant business is an incredibly wasteful business,” says Peter Egelston, owner of PortsmouthBrewery restaurant in Portsmouth, N.H. “We generally put more food in front of people than they can eat in one sitting. If it’s not going home in a doggie bag, it seems like we should send it where it will have new life.’

Two years ago Egelston’s brewery began composting with the help of EcoMovement, a company that hauls food waste from about 40 restaurants in the region and takes it to be composted.

Composting — a natural process in which food and other organic scraps are decomposed into fertile soil — has long been a mainstay of farms and backyards. But few restaurants have the space or time to compost their own waste. They typically pay to have it disposed of in landfills along with the rest of their trash.

But as communities have struggled to reduce their waste, pressure has mounted on the restaurant industry to do its part.

‘A few things changed,” says Michael Oshman, CEO of the Green Restaurant Association. “Cities in California passed laws requiring some level of waste reduction. To attack waste reduction without looking at food is like having a heart patient come in to the doctor and not talk to them about exercise and diet. So cities like San Francisco begin composting. They demonstrate it’s doable and others follow their lead.’

San Francisco began a pilot composting program in 1996, which quickly expanded. In 2001, officials made composting available city-wide on a voluntary basis; it became mandatory in 2009, including for the city’s more than 5,000 restaurants. Since 1996, the city has composted more than 835,000 tons of food scraps.

Since then, other cities — including Seattle — have passed similar laws that mandate composting. But desire isn’t enough. To compost, you either need to have a place to put food waste — and the time to tend to it — or arrange for it to be taken to a farm or composting facility.”

Read the entire article here.

As the trends towards commercial-level composting continues to grow, the reality that the progress needs to continue really begins to settle in. The adoption of compost as a way to manage most of our yard and food waste is really the only answer to the exceptional amount of garbage we create all over the planet if we want to slow down the climate change issues we are facing.

Managing the Details of Bulk Composting: The “Sweet” Smell of Eco-Friendly Success

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

In a recent article from The Virginia Pilot, a local waste management company has found a solution to the odorous, if planet-friendly problem of composting yard waste for multiple communities. As anyone with a compost bin knows, the smell of organic materials being processed can be unpalatable to some, but no different than the smell of a local farm , and certainly not as pungent as a dump site.

That being said, communities in the Norfolk, VA region recently saw a change in the chain of command of their community composting efforts when their previous vendor, the Southeastern Public Service Authority, was replaced with a private company, McGill Environmental Systems when SPSA stepped down due to complaints about fees and their practice of burying the waste into a local landfill in lieu of composting it.

According to the article, “The company, based in North Carolina and with operations in Ireland, now handles yard waste from Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Isle of Wight County, as well as organic waste from clients including Smithfield Foods, Birdsong Peanuts, Lipton Tea, Wal-Mart, Anheuser-Busch, the Virginia Beach Convention Center and the College of William and Mary.”

“Broom was surprised by how Virginia – and the United States in general – has not embraced composting the way Europe has.

“Composting has the potential to recycle 70 percent of the world’s wastes,” he says, “but we somehow don’t do it.”

Finding a location for a new compost center is usually difficult – except here, where there were no neighbors to contest plans and worry about odors, and because Sussex County welcomed a new, tax-paying business within its borders.

In Ireland, where McGill’s president, Noel Lyons, hails from, composting is done entirely indoors – to control smells and because open land is so scare.

“We could never do in Ireland what we do here,” Broom says.

The McGill facility in Waverly contains indoor and outdoor curing areas, and today it generates about 175,000 tons of compost a year, according to company literature.

Broom says the company’s “secret weapon” is a labyrinth of underground pipes beneath the indoor facility that blows air into stewing piles of organic material, all alive with microscopic growth that is so active that it creates heat (hence, all the steam).”

The move towards public composting continues as private companies like McGill Environmental Systems continue to turn the waste management industry towards ecologically-friendly practices. It is the effort of companies like this that will make composting a norm and not an anomaly across the US.

Spring Break Project: Start a Garden with your Kids

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Looking for some way to fill the spring break time with your school-age kids? Dreading the “I’m bored” statements on days their friends aren’t around? If not. You’re not alone. Parents scramble to fill their kids down time during spring break as a prequel to summer. Why not have them start a garden to grow their own fruits or vegetables? It’s a project that begins now and can continue to be fruitful well on into the summer months. Think of it as the time-filler that keeps on giving!

Location, Location … well, you know…

Have a sunny corner in your yard with no trees or flowers? Clear out the brush, grass and leaves from a 5X8 foot area and rotatil down about three inches. If you don’t have any clear yard area, consider buying a small plastic kiddie pool or wooden box around the same size and place it where it will get regular sun for about 6-8 hours a day. Want to increase the time and effort investment for the kids? Have them use metal rakes to dig down through the top spoil.

Pick your Poison

Are you planting tomatoes? Carrots? String beans? Radishes? Do you want edible flowers in your garden? Let the kids choose 3 or 4 different products to plant and have them read the planting instructions to decide on placement. Once you have your garden mapped out, you can buy your plant or seeds and get ready to plant.

Feed and Protect

Using compost from your bin or some you have purchased, layer about 1 inch across the garden surface before placing seeds. Throw a little in the hole with seeds or roots to enhance growth.

Add red wiggler worms into your garden to increase the nutrient level of the ground. They’ll much their way to a better garden for you.

To keep local pests (think bunnies, cats, stray dogs, raccoons) out of your garden, layer about an inch thick row of clean cat litter around your garden borders.  The “hint” of cat is enough to keep them from munching your freshly-grown produce.

Have your ids manage the garden watering, weeding and produce collection. They’ll love seeing the results of their labor and you’ll enjoy some downtime knowing they’re not parked in front of the television or game console.

Spring Break Project: Composting with your Kids

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Many kids around the US have off from Good Friday through the following week for Spring Break. If you know you’ll have more people home that week during the day than you’re used to, you are well aware of the need to fill their time as effectively as possible so your days are not plagued with “I’m bored” complaints and the subsequent moping. Think of Spring Break as a prequel to summer… oh yeah, they need something productive to do. Friday is creeping up on us… get your action plan in place now to save yourself the unnecessary stress.

Have a compost bin in your yard? If not, then now is the best time to make use of those extra little (and not so little) hands to get one in place. Kids like to do things with you more often than most of them will admit so planning your compost bin initiation as a family activity kills two birds with one eco-minded stone.

Step 1

Shop for the compost bin you want – indoor or outdoor, large or small. Order the red wiggler worms you need to get the best results from your compost bin.

Step 2

Weed, rake, dredge through your garbage and yard-cleanup your way to organic materials that you will use to feed your red wiggler worms and make the compost you can use to feed your garden and yard in the future.

Tip: Great materials to use in your compost bin.

Paper (shredded is best)

Grass clippings

Leaves and weeds

Food scraps except: meat, grease or oils, citrus fruits

Hair (clean out your brushes)

Have the kids to the work to gather the composting materials for the bin – it’ll get them outside and get your house and yard cleaned up all at once.

Step 3

Armed with your compost materials, set up your compost bin by layering the brown (dried leaves, coffee grounds) and green materials (grass, weeds) in your bin and add in its new residents.

Have the kids do the layering and dropping of the worms. If they do the initial work, there’s a good chance they’ll be interested in how the composting progresses. Let them spend the week monitoring what the worms do to begin the process, and if you’r efeeling particulatly creative (and have kids in elementary or middle school – this won’t work for toddlers or high schoolers) Have them write a short story of their efforts for their “What Did I Do over Spring Break” project.

Working with compost and worms, you just might make it to May with less grumbling than usual…

Love your morning coffee? So will your compost.

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Do you love your morning cup of java? Well, you’re not along. In 2000, the National Coffee Association estimated that 54% of the adult population of the United States drinks coffee every day and another 25% drink coffee occasionally. Gourmet coffee shops claim 18.12% of those coffee drinkers on a daily basis. The point? There is A LOT of coffee being consumed all around the US, and from the perspective of a composter, that creates a lot of nitrogen-rich compost materials to be found.

How many Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks coffee shops do you have within three square miles of your house? Best guess would say at least 2. Each of those coffee shops will have pounds of coffee grinds left at the end of any given day for which they have no use. How can you reap the benefits of our nation’s obsession with the morning cup, or cups, of coffee?

  • Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, a mineral that helps to maintain the proper temperature and pH level in your compost bin to obtain the very best results for your compost.
  • If you have an outdoor compost bin and your neighboring critters like to try to munch away at the organic material in your bin, coffee grounds are a natural deterrent so layer them on top of the kitchen scraps that draw unwanted attention from your woodland neighbors.
  • Coffee is perfectly safe to add to your bin if you are composting with red wiggler worms.

Stop by your local coffee shop and talk to them about getting a portion of their coffee grounds on a regular basis for your compost bin. Your local city dump and your compost will both reap the benefits.

Have a Compost Party!

Monday, April 11th, 2011

The smoky smell of a barbecue pit, the clanging of horseshoes being thrown, rows of cars parked along streets, the time is soon approaching when the spring and summer barbecues will take over your weekend schedule. While you plan your next festivities for family and friends, try and keep in mind how you can be eco-minded and make your party a party for your compost bin and the environment as well!

Getting Ready

Planning on a last minute grass cutting session? Need to prune your hedges to impress your guests?  Those great green materials can layer in with your compost nicely.

Paper or Plastic?

Paper plates and cups make the perfect choice for serving your outdoor barbecue fare, at least from a compost standpoint. To make things easy for your guests, place a trash can labeled PAPER in an easy to access spot so all of that paper waste ends up in the right place.

Full?

Sometimes people find that their eyes are really bigger than their bellies when eating at a party.  Remind your guests that you’re compost bin can handle many of their food scraps, all except for

  • Meat
  • Fish and Poultry
  • Cheese
  • Oily foods (may-based salads for example)
  • Butter
  • Other animal products

Having another easy-to-spot trash bin labeled “vegetable scraps” would be a nice way to harvest these remainders and relieve you of any plat scraping.

Enjoy the coming months’ outdoor festivities but your compost practices need not fail with the extra scraps. Use the party to your advantage to increase your composting efforts.

Chemical Fertilizers VS. Compost

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

It’s not quite as old as the dispute over the chicken or the egg, but the argument over chemical fertilizers vs. compost does rage on, between those eco-minded members of the community like ourselves and those that go the more conventional, and harmful route. (Hope we don’t seem to biased)

To be frank, there are four very real facts that should drive anyone away from the harmful-if-colorful chemical fertilizers when the time comes to feed their lawn.

  • Compost is organic so it won’t burn your grass if you accidentally apply too much at one time.
  • Compost is organic so it won’t stain your driveway or brick work that borders your lawn.
  • Compost is organic so it won’t give off a chemical smell.
  • Compost is organic so it is easily, and naturally, absorbed into the soil to feed your lawn quickly.

Now back away from the pink or blue bags and get to composting.

3 Uses for Compost in your Garden and Yard

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Okay, so you’ve spent the fall and winter feeding organic materials to your compost bin, turning it when necessary, keeping a watch on your pH levels, making sure your red wiggler worms are multiplying and munching their way to making the nutrient-rich compost you expect at the end of the process, but now that it’s time to get your yard ready for the warmer months, what exactly can you do with all that compost?

Green up that Grass

Is your grass looking a little wan after the cold months? Not to worry – after you aerate your yard and lay down your organic weed killer, grab your wheelbarrow and fill her up with that dark compost and layer it over your grass. Take a metal rake and work it down into the top soil to give it somewhere to cling then run your sprinklers to hold it in place.

The minerals in the compost will feed your lawn better than any commercial, chemical based grass feed.

Need to reseed this year? Add the compost in before you spread the new seed around for an extra boost of growth.

Nourish your Flower Beds

Shoots have been driving up out the ground for weeks now, so you know that Mother Nature is doing her part to get your flowers and shrubs back to their beautiful selves. Why not give them a boost with a layer of compost? Clear out any old leaves or sticks, weed your gardens and then sprinkle an inch of compost throughout your flowerbeds. Water the beds and then cover with mulch to keep it in all in place.

Don’t Forget your Trees

Oftentimes we think that due to their size, and maybe because they were there before we were, the trees lining our yard don’t need any tending beyond the occasional trim of a branch or limb. Not so. Trees need nutrients too, and because of their size, tend to leach it from the soil around them faster than other plant life. Add about 3 inches of compost around large trees and two inches around smaller ones to give them some much needed nutrients. If the ground is sloped or uneven around your trees, you may want to consider rimming them with pavers or stones to keep the compost around them where it belongs.

Love those Baseball Fan Freebies? You should be Green with Envy of Safeco Fans!

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

That’s right – we mean green. As in eco-minded, eco-friendly compost green! The Seattle Mariners are following the path they set as a founding member of the Green Sports Alliance recently by offering up a truly unique, and totally organic, FAN freebie at several games during this season. Bags of locally made compost will be given to fans to promote the clubs eco-friendly goals.

Sound a little crazy? Not so says VP for Ballpark Operations for the Seattle Mariners, Scott Jenkins. According to the Seattle Times, Jenkins sees the initiative as a natural growth of the sports industry.

“’We’ve had a culture of consumption,” said Jenkins. “We need to have a culture of conservation.’

Founding members of the alliance include the Seattle Mariners, Seahawks, Storm and Sounders FC, as well as the Portland Trail Blazers and Vancouver, B.C., Canucks. Representatives of their venues are also participating.

Several speakers Monday credited Paul Allen and members of his organization with helping spark the creation of the alliance, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Allen owns the National Football League’s Seahawks and National Basketball Association’s Trail Blazers, and is co-owner of Major League Soccer’s Sounders FC.

Team representatives said each of their groups has been taking steps for years to reduce their energy consumption, waste production and use of natural resources. The alliance will give them tools to measure the success of certain actions, and share the information with other organizations around the country.”

It is initiatives like the Green Sports Alliance that will continue to drive the momentum behind the movement towards composting practices as a norm, not an anomaly. It is a move that must be made,  the sooner, the better for all of us and the planet alike.

From the Green Grocer to Compost

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Can you imagine the amount of fruit and vegetable garbage that must be produced by one grocery store? Even with climate and moisture control in the areas that need it, there is a significant amount of your grocer’s product department that is written off as garbage before they even receive it. That doesn’t count the shipments of fruits or vegetables that end up with recalls on them or those that are spoiled or damaged upon arrival. All in all, there is a lot of waste in your produce department.

From the perspective as eco-conscious composters, this wasted seems appalling, but one company is making a dent in the spoiled fruit and veggie totals in Tempe, Arizona and its surrounding regions.

A recent post by Desertnews.com notes the success of EcoScraps, a startup that is taking on grocery waste single-handedly.

“EcoScraps has inked deals with grocers and wholesalers to haul it away and use it as a key ingredient in organic compost and potting soil that it sells at independent nurseries. The company plans to add 88 Bashas’ stores and is looking for others in addition to its existing wholesaler supply, said Brandon Sargent, EcoScrap’s co-founder and vice president. It hasn’t been too difficult to get grocers to sign on, Sargent said, because trash companies charge stores by the weight of what’s hauled away.

“In almost every situation, we save them money by picking up their waste,” Sargent said. “If they don’t understand the eco-friendly aspect, at least they understand the bottom line.”

Having opened their doors in February of this year, this new venture has already set its sights on surrounding areas of New Mexico, Southern California and Texas for franchise options as well as Oregon and Colorado for direct expansions. 2011 Sales are projected at $400,000.

EcoScraps provides a direct answer to the budgeting problems faced by communities and corporations looking into composting options. Their service is affordable and could help reduce the residue of the more than 30 million tons of food thrown away each year.

While EcoScraps is still expanding in the western part of the country, there is no reason that similar ventures across the nation could be sought to fight for a greener earth.