compost

My Very Own Brown Bin

By Sophia Kelley

#BrownBin in Brooklyn

#BrownBin in Brooklyn

I was elated to see a flyer in my mailbox from the NYC Department of Sanitation this week. Why? Because it said that my building would be one of the 35,000 new households to be part of the city’s expanded organics collection pilot program. In other words, we’re getting our very own brown bin! Perfect timing because our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) just started summer distributions and the amount of food scraps produced in our kitchen has already increased.

All the buildings in my neighborhood received the bins for food and yard waste and each individual apartment was given a small container for collecting kitchen scraps. The brown bins go to the curb once a week with our regular recycling pick up. Until now, we had to collect our food waste and take it to a community garden or farmer’s market for composting, but now it’s easier than ever to recycle our organic waste.

This is great news because food makes up the largest percentage of waste going to landfills each year and uneaten food rotting in landfills accounts for almost 25 percent of U.S. methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. So think about climate change the next time you toss your leftover lunch into the trash.

Instructions for the NYC Organics Collection Program

Instructions for the NYC Organics Collection Program

Instead of landfills, our organic waste is going to be turned into compost to help keep the soil in New York City’s parks healthy. Some of the scraps are also going to be collected and taken to the Newtown Creek sewage treatment plant. The waste will be put to use in an anaerobic digestion process that will capture the methane and convert it to biogas which can then be used to generate electricity… all from your old pizza crusts!

If your neighborhood has not been included yet in the organics recycling program, don’t worry – the city’s goal is to provide all New Yorkers access to organics recycling by 2018. Until then, do your best to prevent food waste and take your kitchen scraps to the nearest compost collection project.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Earth Month Tip: Compost

Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage you send to landfills and reduces carbon pollution. Using food and kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, and other organic waste to create a compost pile can also help increase soil water retention, decrease erosion, and replace chemical fertilizers.

Learn more about composting at home: http://www2.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

More tips: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/actonclimate/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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El control de porciones para un mundo más verde

Por Lina Younes

Como he batallado con mi peso a lo largo de mi vida adulta, estoy muy consciente de la importancia de controlar las porciones de alimentos. Aun cuando trato de convencerme de que estoy controlando la cantidad de alimentos que ingiero al limitar el tamaño de mis porciones, he notado que la balanza nunca miente. Si he sido más generosa al momento de servir mis porciones, he podido constatar que las libras registradas en la pesa aumentan en la misma proporción. ¿Acaso han pensado cómo si controlan las porciones de alimentos para un estilo de vida más saludable también pueden tomar acción para un planeta más saludable?

Déjenme explicarles.

¿Sabían que mientras estamos incrementando las porciones de alimentos en nuestros hogares, escuelas y restaurantes, de hecho, estamos desperdiciando mucha comida? ¿Sabían que las personas en Estados Unidos echaron más de 36 millones de toneladas de comida a la basura en el 2011? ¿Sabían que el 96 por ciento de los alimentos desechados terminaron en rellenos sanitarios o incineradores en este país? ¿Entonces, qué podemos hacer para desperdiciar menos comida?

·         ¿Han pensado en servirse porciones más pequeñas o usar platos más pequeños para comer? También, cuando comemos despacio y pensamos en lo que estamos comiendo, es más probable que nos demos cuenta de que ya estamos satisfechos y no tenemos que servirnos nuevamente.

·         ¿Antes de echar frutas frescas o vegetales frescos a la basura, por qué nos aventurarnos y elaborar nuevas recetas? ¿Han pensado en congelar las frutas frescas para usarlas para hacer batidos de frutas en el futuro? También se pueden lavar los vegetales y congelarlos para usarlos en guisados para una cena futura.

·         ¿Qué tal les parece usar el pan después de varios días para hacer croutons en casa?

·         ¿Han pensado en hacer compost de los desechos de alimentos? Pueden usar las cáscaras de las patatas, la cáscara o pulpa de las frutas, la borra del café, la cáscara de huevo o especies secas para crear su propio abono orgánico.

Este verano, la EPA y el Departamento de Agricultura de Estados Unidos (USDA, por sus siglas en inglés) lanzaron un esfuerzo de colaboración llamado el Reto de Desperdicio de Alimentos de EE.UU.  para concienciar acerca de los retos ambientales y de salud creados al desperdiciar la comida. Aprenda más acerca del programa y cómo involucrarse.

Al tomar pasos sencillos para no desperdiciar comida, puede ahorrar dinero al comprar menos alimentos, conservar energía y recursos naturales, y especialmente, reducir su huella de carbono al reducir las emisiones de metano que son producidas en los vertederos durante el proceso de descomposición de la comida en la basura. Me parece que es una solución verde que beneficia a todas las partes interesadas.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la Agencia de Protección Ambiental de EE.UU. desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como portavoz hispana de la Agencia, así como enlace de asuntos multilingües de EPA. Además, ha laborado como la escritora y editora de los blogs en español de EPA durante los pasados cuatro años. Antes de unirse a la Agencia, dirigió la oficina en Washington, DC de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales a lo largo de su carrera profesional en la Capital Federal.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Sister Blog: Small Business Innovation is Mushrooming

EPA Connect, the official blog of EPA’s leadership, recently shared a post featuring Ecovative, one of our favorite success stories!

Small Business Innovation is Mushrooming

By Judith Enck

Sometimes I worry that one of the enduring manmade wonders of our time will be the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. You know the Garbage Patch – the huge concentration of marine debris (mostly plastics) floating in the Pacific Ocean. It may still be there centuries from now. I wonder if a thousand years from now, tourists will visit the Garbage Patch the way we do the Roman Coliseum or the Pyramids. They’ll take pictures and stand there with their mouths agape wondering “how could they let this happen?”

Personally, I’m hopeful we can reduce the “greatness” of the garbage patch – and solve many of our other waste disposal problems – by reducing packaging or at least making it more sustainable.

Wine packaging

read more…

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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The Story of “Less” Stuff

By Ellie M. Kanipe

A couple of weeks ago, I met the coolest person. Stephanie totally inspired me. She’s part of a movement called the “Small House Movement”, and is actually moving into a tiny house.  And, when I say tiny, I mean tiny.  Her house is 130 square feet.  She’s chosen to live simply and in doing so to live sustainably.

This totally inspires me for a ton of reasons, but one that stands out is that by choosing this life style, Stephanie is significantly lowering her carbon footprint. Approximately 42 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are associated with the energy used to produce, process, transport, and dispose of the food we eat and the goods we use.  42 percent! (Learn more.)

At EPA, I work on sustainability – specifically looking at materials and how we can be more sustainable with the materials / stuff we use in our daily lives. The program I work on (Sustainable Materials Management Program) looks at what we use in our daily lives a little differently – to rethink the norm and instead look through a life cycle lens. In other words, when I think about the shirt I’m wearing today, I wonder where and how were all the materials to make this shirt extracted? Is the cotton organic, or is it made of recycled materials?  Where and how was the shirt manufactured, and how and how far was it transported to get to the store where I bought it? The problem is that we don’t think about our stuff’s lives before they come into our life.  Imagine dating a person without sharing life experiences before you met?  That’s what we do with the stuff we use daily!

While we might not feel like we’re able to lower our own carbon footprint by joining Stephanie in the small house movement, we can all rethink how we view our stuff, and take actions to simplify our lives. We can know where our stuff comes from, and in knowing make smart choices about what we choose to have in our lives. We can reuse, repair, and share. We can buy durable goods. We can stop wasting food, recycle and compost. We can use EPA’s iWARM widget. We can reflect on what we really need in our lives to be happy and act on it.

Stephanie inspires me. She reminds me that often less is more.

About the author: Ellie M Kanipe works in EPA’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. In her spare time, she helps people to simplify their lives by teaching yoga.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Spring Time to Prep the Garden!

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Gina Snyder

The crocuses and birds have been greeting me in the mornings this month. That must mean spring is here, although the wind can still seem like the beginning of March! But the warmth of the sun and the flowers springing up remind us all that it’s time to spruce up for spring.

Even though it’s not quite warm enough to plant outside yet, there are some timely tasks you can do now to get your yard ready and help satisfy your gardening urges. The first thing to do is give your garden organics by visiting your local compost center.

Many towns have a compost center, and in my town, the compost center is open again as of the first weekend in April. There you can fill some buckets with finished compost to bring back home and enrich your gardens.
If you don’t compost in your own yard, you can also take advantage of the compost center by bringing any leftover leaves from last year and any windfalls from the winter – broken branches, downed sticks – and drop these off to be composted and mulched.

For vegetable gardens, add the new compost to the top of the existing soil without tilling it in. Annual tilling is not recommended as it disturbs the natural and beneficial work of organisms in your soil. When it is warm enough, plant your seeds and seedlings in the new topsoil and as they grow, their roots will extend into the naturally aerated existing soil.

Gina collects wood chip mulch at her local compost center

Chipped wood is also available at my compost center for mulching. When I mulch, a couple of layers of newspapers between my soil and mulch provide an added barrier to weeds while still allowing the rain to penetrate to the soil.

I have found wood chips decompose more slowly than some other mulches, and they can be quite effective in helping establish trees and native plants, especially in areas that are hot and sunny.

Good, rich organic compost and mulch make for a great combination to keep your yard and garden healthy, and help your soil retain moisture when conditions get hot and dry. Now is the time to get the garden ready and give it extra hardiness as we head into summer.

About the author: Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental and Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and has been a volunteer river monitor on the Ipswich River, where she also picks up trash every time she monitors the water quality.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Diving Green for Science

By Sean Sheldrake

EPA’s Seattle dive van loaded up with a full ton of dive gear—plus a bicycle.

In previous blog posts, we’ve shared how EPA diving scientists support cleanups in the nation’s waterways.  In this post, I’ll talk about how we are working to “dive green” while undertaking EPA’s mission.

Getting On Site

Getting on site to conduct a scientific survey usually involves using some kind of vehicle.  So, we do it as “greenly” as possible:

  • Our gear and our divers like to travel together! The dive van gets virtually the same mileage whether it carries one diver or four – travelling together saves tax dollars.
  • Van pooling this way lowers our environmental footprint – fewer emissions of air pollutants protect the air we breathe and there’s less pollution to wash into our waterways and ocean ecosystem when it rains.
  • Did you know most brake pads contain metals that hurt fish?  Fewer vehicles on the road also lowers the amount of pollution from brake pads getting into the environment and washing into the ocean ecosystem.
  • And we try to be creative – one of our divers bicycled to and from the boat launch to a friend’s house! You can see the bike tucked into the van in the photo above.

No American Idle

EPA vessel at anchor with divers below.

Whether it’s our van or our vessel, we cut the engine whenever possible. After all, what’s good for kids riding on school buses is good for diving scientists carrying out EPA’s mission.  Many of our van drivers are surprised to learn that it’s more efficient to turn the engine off than let it idle for even 30 seconds!

Reducing engine use is important for our vessel, too, since it’s mainly powered by diesel engines, which can generate large amounts of particulates as well as sulfur and nitrous oxides. Anchoring and turning off the engine helps keep the air and our waterways cleaner.

Diving Scientists Need to Eat

EPA diver with a wireless communication unit.

Once out on the vessel divers are a hungry bunch! We pack meals and plenty of snacks, and carefully separate out all compostable material and recyclables to bring back to the lab for proper disposal. On one recent trip on the Elwha, our crew kept some 60 pounds of trash out of the landfill!

“Scotty, I Need More Power!”

Our underwater lights, communications systems, and scientific equipment run on a lot of ‘juice,’ so to cut waste we use rechargeables.   Just one diver using a wireless communications unit to talk to their buddy diving and to their “tenders” topside can go through up to forty AA type batteries per week! Rechargeable batteries that conk out after a few hundred charges get added to the recyclables we take back to the lab rather than sent to a landfill where they might leach heavy metals.

EPA divers make a positive impact on the ocean environment in the work that we do, and the green way we do it.  It’s also a positive example that we hope inspires divers and diving scientists elsewhere!  What else can you think of to reduce our footprint?

Read more about the latest in EPA scientific diving at facebook.com/EPADivers.

About the author: Sean Sheldrake is part of the Seattle EPA Dive unit and is also a project manager working on the Portland Harbor cleanup in Oregon.  He serves on the EPA diving safety board, responsible for setting EPA diving policy requirements.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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The World’s Worst Composter Hits Pay Dirt

By Pam Lazos

Let me start by saying that I’m relatively new to the sport of composting. For the decade I lived in Philadelphia there was no place for a bin, and for next decade I had my hands full with an extensive home restoration project: new walls, new windows, new wiring, a top-to-bottom job – not an excuse, I know, but a person can only handle so much. So it’s only in the last decade that I’ve taken up composting.

Composting is one of the easiest, most sustainable activities around, but somehow I’ve managed to make it both difficult and anxiety-producing. Perhaps because I work here at EPA I feel I should excel in this environmentally-friendly activity. Nonetheless, I am convinced I am the world’s worst composter.

Every evening when I make salad, cut fruit, prepare vegetables, or clean the non-meat, non-grain discards from the plates, I set aside the remnants in a bowl or bag. After dinner, one of the kids runs it out back to our fancy compost bin. I first used a rather small bin, but results were snail-like so I amped it up with this larger fancy-pants model. The six-tiered design allows me to disassemble it, turn the soil, and put it back together with the utmost of ease.

However, we’re still talking refuse, and fluttering around the refuse is a barrage of fruit flies and other winged demons that rise up in protest every time I open the lid to deposit my castoffs. It gets worse. I had been filling this bin for three years and never once turned the soil.

Embarrassed by my incompetence, I decided, just for kicks, to get out there with a shovel since none of my kids could be bribed. To combat the creepy flying things, I donned my husband’s beekeeper hood and prepared to be attacked. I had low expectations, but after the first turn of the soil, I was amazed. Beneath the still recognizable orange peels and pineapple rinds, the discarded zucchini ends and apple cores, was none other than black gold.Beautiful, black, rich, fertile soil that I intend to spread on my flower garden this fall — using the bee hood, of course. So I’m here to tell you, if the world’s worst composter can do it, you can too!

About the author: Pam Lazos, one of our attorneys, about her experiences with composting.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Lunchroom Battles!

The 7th grade doesn’t know it yet, but we 6th graders are going to win the Going Green competition at school, which also means…….PIZZA PARTY!!  Ok, so the pizza party would be awesome to win and so would rubbing it in to the 7th and 8th graders, but that’s not the point.  We’ve really learned something!

A few weeks ago, you heard from Brandon about how his class is using the 3 R’s to use less paper and make less waste.  Their classroom does look neater, but so does our lunchroom now. Thanks to us!

The 6th grade decided a bigger impact can be made where we eat, in the lunchroom.  Our class pledged to create a waste-free lunchroom.  It took some research, but we created a plan that included using less and reducing waste in the lunchroom. Instead of buying milk or soda cans for lunch, we’re using water bottles with juice or soda from home. If we bring lunch from home, it’s in a reusable container so paper and plastic baggies aren’t used.  There’s also a supply of reusable utensils that everyone has access to instead of using and throwing away plastic forks and knives. We have also taken old plastic barrels and made them recycling containers –one for the aluminum trays that contained our lunch, one for milk cartons, and one for waste.  We even talked our teacher into helping us build a compost bin for any food waste left over from lunch that can be used as compost.  Each week a few students are selected to clean any dirty aluminum trays and put any food waste in the compost bin.  It’s a dirty job, but there’s extra credit for the hard work.  In the last 3 weeks, our lunchroom ladies have reported only having to use 2 trash bags for waste instead of the usual 6 for all three classes.  The aluminum trays and any soda cans have totaled $86.72 in recycling cash too!

When I stop to think about it, it’s not about the competition anymore.  It’s about making our school better.  Our teacher calls it sustainable. I call it GREEN.

How did we come up with the idea? We did some research on the EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/osw/education/toolkit-res.htm

Josh is a middle school student in inner city Chicago. He has played the violin since he was 4 and hopes to someday be part of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Inspired By The NFL

By Gina Snyder

When I was a teenager, we used to play touch football in the neighborhood. Whoever was around would be allowed to play, regardless of ability or age. Super Bowl Sunday brought me back to those memories of what seemed like a simpler time.

But maybe it wasn’t so simple. In those days, we used to drive trash over to the “town dump” and toss it into a former gravel pit. Things have changed and the NFL has changed with the times.

The NFL worked to minimize the environmental impact of Super Bowl activities. And in reading what they were doing, I saw that the NFL’s activities and actions were so easy we can scale them to our personal actions.

The first activity they listed dealt with trash. NFL event facilities diverted trash by recycling and reusing potential waste materials. The Lucas Oil Stadium, the Indiana Convention Center, and hotels serving as team headquarters, as well as the NFL headquarters and the Motorola Super Bowl Media Center all participated. The JW Marriott hotel also took part in a composting pilot project during Super Bowl week. Food waste scraps were collected in compostable bags and taken to a facility to be converted into nutrient-rich compost.

Massachusetts has extensive recycling programs and so, like the NFL Superbowl Committee, we can divert waste from the trash through our recycling and our composting programs. Inspired by the NFL, I put my recycling bin out for my guests on Superbowl Sunday and collected cans, bottles and plastics. And I composted paper and food scraps.

The NFL even launched a Superbowl Climate Change Initiative with steps taken to reduce the overall greenhouse gas impact of Super Bowl activities and events. The organization used renewable energy certificates to provide “green” power for major Super Bowl XLVI event venues and is planting several thousand trees in neighborhoods in partnership with ‘Keep Indianapolis Beautiful’ as part of the “greening” of Super Bowl XLVI. Again following the NFL, I plan to participate in a local tree donation program this spring and contribute to the greening of my community, too. There are so many ways to participate locally in NFL’s greening efforts. Let us know your ideas.

About the author: Gina Snyder works in the Office of Environmental and Compliance Assistance at EPA New England and has been a volunteer river monitor on the Ipswich River, where she also picks up trash every time she monitors the water quality.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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