I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Food waste = Composted Soil

I'm sure that I am not the only one who feels a twinge of guilt throwing away the scrap food left uneaten by their family.  The big one that gets me is the sandwich crusts.  No matter how many times I feed my kids lines like "it's no different than the rest of the bread", or "take a bite of the crust with the rest of the sandwich and then you won't even notice" they still only eat their crusts probably 5% of the time.  Then of course there's the food that has been handled, or played with on the dinner plate and belatedly offered to mommy or daddy to eat since they are "full".  I could go on, but I think you get the picture.  There are scraps that are legitimately scraps and some that are not so much.  This is where the composting comes in.

I have separated my compostable materials for close to 3 years now and I am still impressed by how much material is being diverted from my garbage can and ultimately the landfill.  There are a couple of different ways to approach composting.  The two main choices being either do it yourself, or have it taken away.  There are arguments for and against both options, but for me, I prefer to have it taken away.

In the Greater Victoria area we are fortunate to have several different composting options.  If you prefer the do-it-yourself approach and are wondering how to get started you should check out the Greater Victoria Compost Education Centre (http://www.compost.bc.ca/).  I find their website easy to follow and it contains many different options for composting in your backyard, including a fact sheet for each option detailing, among other things, how much effort is required and what you can include.  There are options for single family home and apartment/condo dwellers alike.

If you prefer the take-it-away approach there are three companies in town that I know of providing this service.  I currently use reFuse (http://www.refuse.ca/).  I started with them about three years ago because at the time they took the widest variety of compostables.  The waste they collect is tipped into a container and taken up to an in-vessel facility in Cobble Hill where it is turned into high grade composted soil.  Community Composting (http://www.communitycomposting.ca/) is another pickup service.  They collect your compostable waste every 4 weeks and drop off a free 20L bag of composted soil in exchange.  However, they have a narrower range of acceptable materials than the other two providers.  Depending on your diet this could work just fine for you.  The third is Pedal to Petal (pedaltopetal.blogspot.com).  This pickup service is powered by bicycle, which should appeal to those of you who take into account vehicle emissions.  The range of acceptable materials has increased since I last looked at their blog.  Their composting is done in people's back yards and the resulting soil is given to groups and individuals.  All of the above mentioned compost educators/service providers have well laid out, informative websites.  What I have provided is but a tiny fraction and they are continually improving their service.

So what about the cost?  As I mentioned previously I currently use reFuse for my pickup service.  We pay a rental fee for a large, green, pest-proof bin ($7.50/month), and $22.50 for a pickup when it gets full.  With a family of four and some garden waste (depending on the season) I call for a pickup once every 6-8 weeks.  To put that into perspective that works out to about $20.00 per month.  Take a minute and think about the "little extras" that you spend $20.00 a month or more on.  So what are you waiting for???

Yes, the CRD has proposed a ban on food waste at the landfill by May 2012, but I can't think of a good reason to wait until then.  Living in an apartment or condo is no longer a good excuse either.  Find some like minded neighbours and implement a plan.  reFuse and Community Composting already have existing pickup arrangments with apartments and condos.  Many commercial operations, and public schools are also utilizing this service.  I started a composting program at the elementary school my children attend just over a year ago.  If I can do it so can you!

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