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Posts Tagged ‘compost’


Providence resident Stewart Martin’s passion for science and art have informed his work to promote urban gardening and composting.

My husband and I have a compost pile in Massachusetts (with a naughty mystery squash reaching out to strangle our neighbor’s lilac), but we are not brave enough to compost food scraps as there are too many animals around. I think if I lived in Providence though, I’d try a food-composting service and reduce my contribution to landfills.

In a recent edition of ecoRI News, Abby Bora interviewed Stewart Martin, a Providence entrepreneur who has perfected the art of urban composting and now offers his skills to others through Providence GardenWorks.

“Martin and his wife, Adrienne Morris, moved to Providence 15 years ago from New York City.

They were looking for a yard and fresh air, along with the bustle of a city. Providence was the perfect place. …

“Martin and Morris decided to replace their shrubs and perennials with veggies. To grow his skills, Martin trained through multiple gardening and composting programs. He has earned numerous certifications, including becoming a tree steward with the Rhode Island Tree Council and a University of Rhode Island master gardener.

“Martin said that in the past 14 years, his family hasn’t contributed even a cup’s worth of food scrap to landfills.

“ ‘We’re throwing away gold,’ he said, when food scrap is casually discarded.

“Compost — recycled food scrap, among other organic ingredients — contains many necessary soil nutrients that are valuable in fighting soil depletion. When not composted, organic matter rots in landfills, creating heat-trapping greenhouse gases such as methane. …

“Providence GardenWorks provides installation and training to urban gardeners and composters. For his composting clients, Martin installs an outdoor, animal-proof compost machine, and teaches them how to use it. He also provides a stainless-steel food-scrap pail, carbon filters, aerator, and a full bag of shredded leaves to begin the composting process. After installation, he offers technical support over the phone, via e-mail and on-site for six months. …

“While local organizations are working toward better food-scrap management, Martin wishes the city of Providence would commit to initiatives like the food-scrap collection program run by the city of Berkeley, Calif. … ‘The myriad benefits are well documented and it’s not rocket science. No one has to reinvent the wheel here.’ ”

More at ecoRI News, here.

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Photo: CivilEats
The rooftop garden at Montreal’s Santropol Roulant, which has a Meals on Wheels program that addresses food waste.

Recent U.S. news stories suggest that Meals on Wheels in this country is about to lose some of its funding, but in Canada, the program for housebound residents has been growing and innovating for years. It now hopes to share its knowledge.

Meredith Bethune writes at CivilEats, “The rooftop garden at Santropol Roulant in Montreal looks like any other at first glance, with 40 self-watering containers and a small greenhouse lining the 1,500-square-foot rooftop. …

“Santropol Roulant—’the Rolling Santropol’ in French, is named after the café at which the founders previously worked. It was originally founded in 1995 to connect youth with seniors, and over the past 20 years it has expanded to include a Meals-on-Wheels food delivery program, a rooftop garden to grow food for those meals, including compost for the garden, a three-acre farm off site, and much more. …

“The Roulant’s Meals-on-Wheels program is staffed by volunteers who cook and deliver about 100 meals per day, five days a week to seniors and other local clients with a loss of autonomy….

“The power of waste reduction became an important part of the Roulant’s work in 2001, before it had established an agriculture program. Kitchen scraps were collected and delivered to a community garden, eventually reducing their waste by 40 percent. Three years later, the group began experimenting with urban farming techniques, growing produce for the kitchen in unused spaces like balconies, patios, and rooftops. …

“The Roulant also supports several collectives that use space in their building, including SantroVelo, a bike collective that began in 1996 as a place to store delivery bikes or fix flats. Today, the building houses beekeepers, worm composters, mushroom growers, and urban fruit-picking collectives, all of which function like autonomous teenagers: They live at home, but operate independently. …

“While the Roulant’s waste reduction methods have come a long way since in 2001—the vermicompost collective now hosts several long tables and towers of soil-making worms in the basement—they can’t compost every type of waste, particularly leftover cooked food and meals. The kitchen aims to prepare precisely as much food as they need to serve their clients each day, sometimes there are last-minute delivery cancellations and other mishaps.

“So in 2014, the Roulant began selling leftover products at what they call their ‘general store.’ … No one staffs the general store. Instead, the Roulant posts a price list and a cash box for customers to make change, and they haven’t lost any money yet. Though this new program generates some extra revenue for the organization, its main purpose is waste reduction.

“Through innovative solutions like the general store … Santropol Roulant is trying to reduce waste as much as possible. They also want to share these strategies with other Meals-on-Wheels programs around North America.”  More here.

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In Massachusetts, large facilities are complying with a food-waste ban, creating many green jobs and boosting economic activity.

EcoRi News reports, “The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently issued a report which found that the state’s commercial food waste ban has created more than 900 jobs and stimulated $175 million in economic activity during its first two years.

“Implemented in 2014, the nation’s first food scrap and organics ban requires any commercial organization that disposes of a ton or more of food scrap a week to pull it out of the waste stream and reuse it, send it for composting or animal feed operations, or use it in an anaerobic digestion facility that produces renewable energy.

“The report, conducted by ICF International Inc. of Cambridge, assessed the economic development benefits of food-waste-reduction initiatives. The 25-page report compared jobs and economic activity among food-waste haulers; composting, anaerobic digestion and animal feed operations; and food-rescue organizations before and after the Oct. 1, 2014 implementation of the ban. The ban creates jobs by driving a market for alternatives to disposing of food waste in Dumpsters, according to the report.

“The report also shows that food-waste haulers and processors, as well as food-rescue organizations, employ 500 people directly, while supporting more than 900 jobs when accounting for indirect and induced effects. These sectors generate more than $46 million of labor income and $175 million in economic activity. …

“About 1,700 facilities, including restaurants, hotels and conference centers, universities, supermarkets and food processors, are covered under the ban.” More here.

Meanwhile, the more of us who convert our own food scraps to compost for our yards, our friends’ yards, or community gardens, the better for the envionment. “One and one and 50 make a million,” after all.

Photo: Green Fingers
Converting food scraps to compost instead of putting them in the trash. In Massachusetts, large facilities are complying with a food-waste ban. Individual efforts add up, too.

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When dollar bills of any denomination get too beat up to use, the federal government shreds them. For a long time, the various Federal Reserve banks gave out small bags of shredded money to visitors as a souvenir — always a big hit with kids.

But for the last few years, shredded money has been used as compost in gardens. Here’s a story from Seth Archer at Business Insider about the new approach.

“Have you ever wondered what happened to currency that gets damaged? If you have a paper shredder in your home, you already have a pretty good idea. But that’s just the start….

“The New Orleans branch of the Federal Reserve shreds $6 million in cash each day. They mainly shred bills that are dirty, taped, graffitied or otherwise unfit to be used as cash.

“The bills are shredded to a fine texture to make compost. … The cash is transferred to a compost facility, where it is mixed with other materials to make nutritious plant food.

“After the compost is made, it is sold to local farmers, who use it to grow peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers.

” ‘It is very fulfilling to be growing using a material that would otherwise go to waste.’ — Simond Menasche, founder and director of Grown On.”

More here.

Photo: Great Big Story

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Tara Mitchell writes at EcoRI News, about the many virtues of compost. It’s a timely topic for gardeners starting to think about spring and what to order from the seed catalogs that arrive this time of year.

Mitchell reports from Wrentham (MA), “John Engwer, owner of Groundscapes Express Inc., and Butch Goodwin, operations manager, recently led Ecological Landscaping Alliance (ELA) participants on a tour of the company’s composting facility, explaining how compost is made and discussing its many benefits and uses. …

“With the recent implementation of the Massachusetts ban on food waste being buried or incinerated, food scrap from hospitals, restaurants and supermarkets have become another component in the composting process. Food scrap from a local hospital is now incorporated into Groundscapes’ composting operation. …

“Goodwin said the material takes about four months to decompose and is then left to cure for another two months. It’s then screened. The finished product, dark brown, moist, light and crumbly, smelling of earth and full of microbes, is then ready to be delivered. …

“Engwer emphasized the importance of using, reusing and retaining existing wood, stumps, brush and other natural material on site so that organic matter can remain part of the cycle of growth, death, decomposition and renewal.”

You can find more on the how-to here.

Photo: Ecological Landscaping Association
The first step in the Groundscapes Express composting process is mixing the raw materials. 

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Discouraging as it is to read that many children won’t eat the healthful food schools are now providing, I take heart that at least they are learning to compost.

Al Baker writes at the NY Times, “The sad voyage of fruits and vegetables from lunch lady to landfill has frustrated parents, nutritionists and environmentalists for decades. Children are still as picky and wasteful as ever, but at least there is now a happier ending — that banana-filled bin is a composting container, part of a growing effort to shrink the mountains of perfectly good food being hauled away to trash heaps every year.

“New York City’s school composting program, kicked off just two years ago by parents on the Upper West Side, is now in 230 school buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island, and is expected to more than double in size and reach all five boroughs in the fall, with an ultimate goal of encompassing all 1,300-plus school buildings. …

“The hope is that by building up composting in school, the city will help the environment, instill a sense of conservation in schoolchildren and, critically, save some money. The city paid $93 per ton in 2013 to dump in landfills, up from $68 in 2004. Composting saves the city $10 to $50 per ton, because the cost is offset by the sale of the end product, according to the Sanitation Department.” More here.

I tend to think kids will eventually eat something nourishing if that’s what’s available and they’re hungry. All I know is my kids eat everything now that they are grown-ups. (Still laughing that John came home from college and said, “How come you never told me I like mushrooms?”)

Photo: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

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