You Can Compost More Than Food

Most of the time when we think of what goes into compost, we think of organic food waste and yard clippings.

compost container

While that is entirely correct, there are plenty of other natural items that can be added to your compost pile as well. Here are some other items you may have been tossing into a landfill that are perfectly acceptable to be returned back to the soil.

  • Dry Cereal
  • Bread
  • Crackers & pretzels
  • Pasta, rice, and grains
  • Loose leaf tea
  • Natural fibers (ie. cotton, hemp, silk, wool)
  • Coffee grounds
  • Shredded paper
  • Human and pet hair
  • Sawdust
  • Cardboard
  • Lint from dryer and vacuum
  • Napkins, paper towels, and tissues
  • Wooden chopsticks and popsicle sticks
  • Wood ashes
  • Brown paper bags
  • Old spices
  • Egg shells
  • Expired jams and preserves
  • Nail clippings
  • Cotton balls & cotton swabs (the cardboard kind)

Think of what will actually be left in your trash can! Probably not a lot!

All of this depends on if you are composting at home or using a service. If you have compost collection, your municipality or service will give you exact guidelines of what is and is not allowed.

Below is what my pick up service, Healthy Soil Compost, accepts.

what-to-compost

Buying Local: Week 7 & 2nd CSA Share

I can’t believe it has been seven weeks since we have started this local journey.

Our refrigerator is full of so much green and our cabinets are looking more full of less processed products.

 

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This week’s CSA box (photo by K since I was in Denver)

 

berries

On Wednesday I brought my CSA box back to the farmers market and picked up some raspberries. Instead of taking the carton the raspberries came in, I brought my own produce bag and plopped them in my berries colander when I got home.

What We Bought (Almost All from CSA box):

  • Head lettuce
  • Avon Spinach
  • Red frill mustard
  • Arugula
  • Radishes
  • Strawberries
  • English Peas
  • Greenhouse Cherry tomatoes
  • Yellow Spring onions
  • Raspberries from Mick Klug Farm in St. Joseph, MI

What We Learned:

  • We still need to up our arsenal of recipes for veggie meals, often we are just cutting up a bunch of greens and tossing it in a pasta or salad
  • Smoothies aren’t so bad after all
  • K really did not like having to shell those English Peas
  • Still not sure what to do with radishes

Nerding Out Over Compost In Colorado

One of my very best friends currently resides in Denver, Colorado.  My other very best friend, Sam, and I had the chance to visit her over the weekend. We used all of our Southwest points to get us there for free!

 

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The view from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

 

We had the chance to do some early morning yoga at Red Rocks Amphitheater and the weather was gorgeous!

 

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It was a pretty big yoga class!

 

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It was nice chance compared to my usual yoga in a studio in the basement of my gym…

 

Besides being a mountain yogi, I was able to explore some of the waste differences between Denver and Chicago.

For instance, city recycling bins are purple! Here in Chicago, recycling bins can be a number of colors depending on who you get service through.

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In the city, Chicago’s carts are blue. Our building recently just switched to a private hauler (stay tuned for that post) and now both our garbage and recycling bins are blue. They are slightly different shades, but both blue nonetheless. How confusing is that?

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On Saturday, we went out to eat at Denver Central Market, which is basically a fancy food court. You could pick from a number of local items and could sit wherever you want at communal tables.

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They had amazing clearly labeled compost, recycling, and trash bins. Unfortunately, I ate everything on my plate (pizza), so there was nothing to dispose of!

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Not only can you compost at eateries, but Denver also has a city compost collection program. It is not free and is not available in all areas of the City, but I am still jealous that the city runs a program like this.

 

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Kitchen compost container

Residents who sign up for the program get a green cart that is picked up weekly.

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Other than me nerding out about Denver’s waste systems, we did do other things such as visit the Denver Botanic Garden and go to a Colorado Rockies game.

 

 

It is neat to experience other cities and how they handle waste issues. What city were you most surprised by in a visit?

We Broke Our Microwave and Never Fixed It

Usually, I am always in the pro-fix-whatever-is-broken camp, but in this particular case, I am not so sure.

A month or so ago, we had an incident with the microwave…

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Since we have a tiny kitchen, we have an abnormally tiny microwave. Basically, a heating pad was in there and couldn’t fully spin around, leaving it stuck against the microwave’s wall. That caused a bit of a sparking and singeing episode and the microwave has not been used since.

To avoid any accidental and habitual use, I just unplugged it. At first, it was quite annoying since I was so used to checking the time on it, even though there is a clock right on the wall.

microwave

My morning oatmeal used to be ready in 2 minutes and re-heated dinner was just a few minutes away. Ok, I don’t need to explain to you how a microwave works…

Anyway, now everything gets heated up in the oven or on the stove. I used to grumble about it, but really it doesn’t take that much longer. If I know I need to heat up leftovers in the oven, I just need to remember to turn it on a bit beforehand.

Overall, the re-heating process of any food does not take any more than 15 minutes, but it does create some extra dishes…

Should we even try to fix it? Or just go with the flow of no microwave?

 

 

 

Buying Local: Week 6

We still have so much produce from our CSA share last week. Thank goodness we did not get the full share where we would pick up every week.

Since we still had so much to work through, we did not visit the farmers market this past weekend. We needed to concentrate on what we had left!

 

first CSA share week 2

We ate everything with an “X” through it. The others we are still working on! 

 

A variety of recipes were tried this week. We had some pasta with sauteed spinach and spring onions one day.  One night was veggie pizza night and I am usually against having vegetables on my pizza, but it was delicious! We used the broccoli raab and asparagus for that. Kale and quinoa were also on the menu one night.

In order to work through some of the spinach, I forced myself to start making some smoothies as well.

blender

What We Bought:

  • Oberweis milk from family farms around IL and WI
  • Turano bread from Berwyn, IL
  • Greenridge Farm lunchmeat from Elk Grove Village, IL
  • A couple other things that don’t make it under the local label

What We Learned:

  • Shaved asparagus pizza is amazing! Check out the recipe.
  • Our blender is really bad (we have no idea where or who it came from)

Have You Heard of Floating Gardens?

I’ve been on a volunteering kick lately.

After two beach cleanups in one week, I switched gears and spent Saturday morning with Urban Rivers planting floating gardens.

We planted a variety of native Illinois wetland plants into floating garden structures, which were then filled in with mulch.

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Basically, the goal of these “plant rafts” is to bring life back to the Chicago River.

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Once the structures are bolted together and placed in the Chicago River, they will create a cozy habitat for fish, birds, mammals, insects, and amphibians.

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Although I didn’t get to actually do any installing of the floating gardens via kayak, I am so excited to see them grow and flourish.

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There will be plenty more volunteer opportunities available once they are all in the water.

Check out their volunteer opportunities here.

What I am most excited for is kayaking the river for trash cleanups! 😉 Apparently, I love picking up trash everywhere. Ha!

Back to the Beach Clean Ups

I willingly spent a Saturday morning picking up garbage.

It has gotten to the point where I will stop my run to pick up a plastic water bottle.

Other people don’t enjoy that as much as I do? Hmm.. weird!

Anyway, we are back to the beach clean up season.

Last Saturday, in honor of World Environment Day, I cleaned up Montrose Beach with members of Delta Institute (I serve on their associate board), Alliance for the Great Lakes, and Goose Island brewery.

 

 

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Montrose Beach, Chicago, IL

 

Although it looked pretty clean from far away, in about an hour and a half, our group of three collected:

  • 98 cigarette butts
  • 40 food wrappers
  • 49 foam pieces
  • 110 pieces of glass
  • 108 small pieces of plastic
  • 19 popsicle sticks

beach cleanup

In total, our whole group picked up over 290 pounds of trash!!!

 

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The whole crew

 

 

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Some members of Delta Institute’s associate board, the Delta Emerging Leaders

 

 

Then yesterday, I met up with Alliance for the Great Lakes again and Barefoot Wine to clean up North Avenue Beach to make it barefoot friendly.

 

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North Avenue Beach, Chicago, IL

 

It was a beautiful evening so there were still plenty of people hanging out by the water. As opposed to Montrose Beach, there was definitely garbage that you could easily see.

 

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Ew.

 

I wouldn’t want to play around in that.

This time our group of three picked up:

  • 205 cigarette butts
  • 43 food wrappers
  • 15 popsicle sticks
  • 44 pieces of glass
  • A nearly full box of cookies
  • 14 total pounds

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A lot of the stuff we picked up is small and doesn’t weigh a lot, but once you put all of it together it sure does seem significant.

Buying Local: Week 5 & 1st CSA Share

We had been waiting in anticipation for our first CSA share and oh boy it was a lot of greens! Our box was jam packed with goodies and I am excited to eat the produce that I know and the new ones as well.

first CSA share

What We Bought (all from CSA box):

  • Baby leaf Salonova Lettuce
  • Avon Spinach
  • Red rover radishes
  • Red spring onions
  • Russet potatoes
  • Rapini (Broccoli Raab)
  • Asparagus
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Earliglow Strawberries (plus an extra box because I love strawberries)

What We Learned:

  • I have gotten a little caught up in trying to get everything local that I really forget how I originally laid this challenge out. We were going to focus on produce, meat, dairy, and eggs, and I basically forgot that. Back to focusing on those main pieces from now on.
  • Is local olive oil even possible?
  • CSA shares are awesome
  • We are so glad we got the half CSA share, where we get a box every other week, instead of every week. We would need a bigger refrigerator!
  • We can bring back our CSA box to the farmers market for them to reuse #score
  • We are going to have to start making smoothies
  • Rapini tastes like leafy broccoli and we are in love!

Going Off the Grid on MDW

K jokes with me all the time that I am a terrible naturalist and environmentalist for not loving camping.

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What’s not to love about this though?

I did not grow up camping, so it was something I was never really exposed to. For instance, when I told my mom we had to use a pit toilet and that there were no showers, she proceeded to be extremely grossed out. So that basically explains why I never camped as a kid.

It is not that I don’t love nature, I just want to sleep in a bed and use a real toilet.

Is that too much to ask?

Anyway, myself and 5 others ventured out to Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota over Memorial Day Weekend.

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We drove up to Minneapolis Friday night and then drove the rest of the way Saturday morning.

While Saturday had beautiful weather, the forecasted weather for the rest of the weekend made us change our plans up a bit.

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To prepare for the onslaught of rain that was going to be coming, we rigged a tarp up in the trees to give us a dry space to hang out that was not our tents.

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It worked great! Our food prep area and firewood stayed dry. We spent both evenings under it playing cards around the picnic table.

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Luckily we did have the good weather Saturday before the rain came. Some of our group canoed and some of us hiked.

My phone had died by Saturday night and I did not charge it again until I got home Monday night. It was a cool experiment to be without my phone for that long.

That is also why I only have pictures from the first day we were there!

Anyway, I don’t think this will be the last time I go sleep under the stars, but I will enjoy the modern luxuries of a bed and toilet until then.

 

 

Passing on A Traditional Florist

I like flowers.

I really do, but spending a fortune on plants that are flown in from far away and most likely going to be discarded the next day is just not my cup of tea.

So I made the easy decision that a traditional florist is not the route I will be going for my wedding.

Luckily we have a family friend who started Avium Flowers, providing fresh-cut flowers grown right here in Chicago in a sustainable and organic manner.

avium flowers

Right now I am working with them on the flowers and colors that I like. When the time comes, they can then order the appropriate seeds and specifically keep me in mind for the next growing season.

My wedding flowers are legitimately being grown just for me, right here in Chicago.

Seriously, how cool is that?

See some of their amazing work below.

All of the 💗🌸💋🎈💖 for @curtismcassell today. You're fabulous!!!

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We flexed our design muscles this week! 💪🏼 Congrats Julia and Ryan ❤️🎉 #aviumweddings #farmerflorist

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Remembering these bundles of joy on this brrr day 🌬 #farmerflorist #slowflowers #dahlia #heirloommums #aviumweddings

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