Archive for August, 2010

Come on, Compost!

“For 200 years we’ve been conquering Nature. Now we’re beating it to death”Tom McMillan

If your lawn or garden has suffered from the summer heat and could use a boost of nutrients, a good way to get some vitality back is to throw some fruits and vegetables, hair, and wood chips on it. But not just any combination of those seemingly random ingredients will do. Instead, a properly maintained compost pile, which can break down those materials and many others, will help replenish plenty of nourishment.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that compost is “organic material that can be used as a soil amendment or as a medium to grow plants.” Natural composting has occurred for hundreds of centuries, as leaves and fruits have fallen from trees and began to biologically decompose. The decay has provided nutrients to plants and other organisms, and it only makes sense to take a lesson from nature and begin composting on our own.

Unlike expensive chemical- and pesticide-laden bags of soil, compost is a much less expensive, yet environmentally friendly option to bring the life back into your lawn or garden. It’s not hard to start composting, and there are several different compost methods you can experiment with.

Sheet Composting

Sheet composting is as close to Earth’s own practice as it gets. While this type of composting takes time to show results, it’s not labor-intensive nor does it require much experience.

To compost this way, you have a couple options: You can trim the plants around the natural borders of your garden and simply leave them to decompose, or you can cover your clippings with corrugated cardboard (or newspaper) and manure. Additionally, you can add vegetable peelings and scraps directly to your soil, as long as you’re careful to keep them at a few feet away from garden plants during growing season.

Compost Bins

Should you decide to opt for a more controlled form of composting, compost bins are a good choice. According to benefits-of-recycling.com, these bins are “structures built to house compost and are designed so as to facilitate the decomposition of organic matter through proper aeration and moisture retention.” Compost bins are made for both indoor and outdoor use, depending on which you feel more comfortable tackling.

Indoor bins can cost as little as $60, or you could spend $400 if you want more amenities. Bins hold varying amounts of food waste, but they all work best if the scraps are in small pieces. Be sure to keep dairy products out (egg shells are fine) to avoid unpleasant odors and flies.

Photo courtesy ecogloballiving.com

Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting, or composting with earthworms, is very similar to using a compost bin, though this method requires a bit more work and maintenance.

To compost with worms, you will need a wooden box drilled with air holes on the sides and top. You must include bedding for the worms, which can be made easily by tearing up strips of newspaper and soaking them in water. Finally, you will need the worms themselves; depending on the size of your family, between one and three pounds of earth/redworms are required to help decompose your materials. The Franklin County Solid Waste Management District web page offers more details if you’re interested in giving vermicomposting a try.

With a little patience and even less money, composting is an easy way to turn your kitchen scraps and other organic waste into a reusable substance that will benefit your lawn and garden. Mother Nature herself would recommend trying this natural method of recycling.

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Wake up and Smell the Coffee

The truly healthy environment is not merely safe but stimulating.” — William H. Stewart

It’s 6 a.m. The alarm goes off. You get up, get dressed, and go to the office.

At about 8:03 a.m. you’re ready for  your first (or second or third…) cup of coffee. As you wipe those little crusties out of your eyes, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is how your pick-me-up will affect the environment. Luckily, with a few simple changes, your daily “cup of Joe” can be yet another environmentally friendly endeavor.

Choosing your brew

The first step to more eco-friendly coffee is the coffee itself. There are several options available that all make a difference in their own ways. From promoting animal habitats, to maintaining healthy watersheds, to supporting good farming practices, drinking the right coffee can be a great way to do your part for the environment.

When selecting your brew, look for terms such as shade grown, organic, or fair trade”. These are signals that the coffee you’re thinking about purchasing is more helpful than hindering to the environment. You can also check to see that your chosen brew has been certified, which means it was made with a renewable mindset. Unfortunately, certification isn’t always a guarantee: While it can be expensive and in some cases next to impossible for some coffee growers to get their products certified, and other times a product labeled “certified” has only partial organic makings, a certified product is still typically a better bet than one that is not.

Photo courtesy kpcoffeshop.com

Preparing your brew

Once you’ve chosen your environmentally conscious coffee, you can continue help the environment by brewing it in a green appliance. Although coffee makers don’t top the list of big energy-wasting machines, they do have an impact, and models that use paper filters impose additional problems. To reduce these negative effects, consider replacing your coffee maker with one that provides filter-less brewing or reusable unbleached cotton or gold plated, stainless steel filters, such as Hamilton Beach’s BrewStation®.

If you’re looking for a total coffee makeover, Hourglass Coffee provides an interesting option: cold brew. This coffee maker boasts “no electricity to brew,” “no paper filters,” and “no coffee waste,” among other qualities, to help improve not only the environment but also your health. The company says coffee brewed in its coffee maker is less acidic, making it coffee much more stomach-friendly.

Sipping your brew

When you’re ready to enjoy your cup of environmentally conscious, eco-friendly coffee, don’t set back all the good you’ve done by pouring it into a plastic, paper, or styrofoam cup. Instead, opt for biodegradable cups or ones used from renewable resources. Of course, filling up your trusty mug is always a good decision because it’s reusable time and time again, and despite some rather unfriendly environmental effects, a ceramic mug is still a smart choice.

Let’s face it: That daily cup(s) of coffee makes life more bearable. So why not make life more bearable for the environmental by tweaking your brewing habits?

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