compost

Compostables, But No Composting at Work

The kitchen at my workplace is stocked with compostable plates and bowls.

Which is awesome.

But only if there is actually somewhere to compost them.

As you can probably already tell where this is going, there is nowhere to compost these items at work.

While I applaud facilities for going for what seems like the right choice, they need to take it a step further for it to achieve the desired result.

Our break room has 2 clearly labeled waste cans; one for recycling and one for waste. All they need is another for compost.

Since I do compost at home, I end up smuggling the occasional plate or napkin home in my lunch bag to add to my compost bucket. One less thing in a landfill, right?

 

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Banana peel and compostable plate ready to head home with me

 

The next step is to talk to Facilities about providing composting services. Someone has got to be the one to bring it up? Might as well be me.

Keeping Food From the Landfill: ’17 Totals So Far

We are now in the 8th month of the year! Yikes!

And once a month I have been putting my food scraps out by my front door to be picked up by Healthy Soil Compost.

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Before I put it on our stoop in the morning before pickup, I weigh my bucket with a hanging scale and mark down the weight in a spreadsheet (nerd status over here).

Here are the totals from the past few months:

January 15.5 lbs

February 17.22 lbs

March 12 lbs

April 18.74 lbs

May 8.8 lbs

June 20.44 lbs

July 22.84 lbs

So far this year we have diverted 187.66 pounds of organic waste from the landfill!

Gonna Be Composting at My Wedding

Yup. This is going to be a thing.

Let’s be honest. Weddings are quite wasteful. All that hullabaloo for just one day.

The biggest investment in our “special day” is feeding all of our guests. As a couple, we decided to avoid the detested dry chicken breast and sad, floppy asparagus in an unidentified sauce.

Instead, we are going for food that we love and that we know our guests will love. This will hopefully lead to less food waste since everyone will be cleaning their plates and filling their bellies.

But being realistic, everything will not be eaten. There will be food waste.

I have not yet researched into whether or not it is an option to donate unused food, but for now, I do know that composting is my number one option right now.

Healthy Soil Compost is a member of the Green Wedding Alliance and also the service that picks up my household compost. Since I love supporting my bicycle powered pick up service, it only makes sense that they come and collect any leftover taco bits from our reception.

Up front, I can already tell you that no, my guests will not be scraping their plates into an orange compost bucket. That should be taken care of by our caterer when cleaning up.

Either way, I am super excited to have this important element be a part of our important day!

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

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?

Lots of Food Scraps- Good or Bad?

It’s Compost Awareness Week!

 

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Even though I have been collecting my food scraps for compost collection for over a year now, I only started weighing our compost bucket last August.

I keep a little spreadsheet with the totals from each month.

  • August 11.22 lb
  • September 5.88 lb
  • October 7.04 lb
  • November 15.74 lb (house plant and outdoor plant)
  • December 11.48 lb (Not including our Halloween pumpkin)
  • January 10.38 lb
  • February 15.5 lb (dead house plant, RIP)
  • March 17.22 lb (chicken carcass, cleaned out the fridge)
  • April 12 lb
  • May 18.74 lb
  • TOTAL TO DATE = 125.2 POUNDS

While the numbers have fluctuated and have been going up, I have been bothered about whether or not that is a good thing.

Having a heavy compost bucket means we have a lot of food scraps and that can mean one of two things:

1.  We are finally figuring out what can be composted and just collecting more of it

OR

2. We are just wasting a lot of food 

So which one is it? What do you think?

Let’s Make 2017 Better: Resolutions for a Less Wasteful Year

2017 is here. It is a whole new year and a fresh start, but it is going to be a tough road ahead.

The United States will inaugurate and swear in two men who do not believe in climate change as President and EPA Administrator respectively.

That is a tough pill to swallow, but not a time to back down. 2017 will be a year of trying even harder to make a change.

New Year’s resolutions are all about making a¬†change, and I have plenty. These are not the generic resolutions everyone makes and breaks by February, but instead specific Waste Not Want Not resolutions that can make a difference beyond yourself.

I am looking forward to seeing the changes I can create in my own environment and the one around me.


 

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I am not going to focus on shedding pounds from my body, but instead, remove pounds of organic waste from ending up in the landfill. Since I was able to compost about 51 pounds in a 5 month period, I feel this is a good goal for next year.


 

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Eating healthier means paying more attention to what you are putting into your body, but it is often overlooked as to where your food is coming from. Sure you can eat broccoli that traveled across the country on a truck, or you can eat broccoli that was grown less than 100 miles away (0r even grown in your own backyard).

To find your local foods, head to a farmers market near you or a store specializing in local products. In Chicago, I love to shop at Green City Market which is just a 5-minute walk from our apartment. I recently started shopping at Local Foods and am considering joining a co-op like Chicago Market.


 

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Everyone wants to save money, but we can save even more by not buying the things we don’t necessarily need. Buying a shirt because it is marked 50% off, doesn’t save you 50%. You just spent 50% more because you made a purchase on a whim.

For the purchases of items you know you will need, do your research. Find a high-quality version of what you are looking for. Chances are it will be more expensive upfront, but in the long run, it should save you money because you’ll¬†never have to purchase it again.

One more thing we can stop wasting money on is our food! Every time you let food go to waste, dollar signs are flying out the window. I try to repurpose leftovers into other meals, compost organic waste and freeze older vegetables to make stock.


 

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I think the Container Store is a hilarious idea. They preach how buying more stuff at their store will make you more organized. Hang your 45 infinity scarves on this specially made scarf hanger! Buy more plastic bins to store your fake plastic Christmas tree and non-recyclable wrapping paper!

How about we just pare down our belongings so we don’t constantly have to be organizing? I already read about Marie Kondo’s method in The Life-Changing¬†Magic of Tidying Up, which basically involves going through everything you own and asking yourself, “Does this item bring me joy?” In 2017, I plan to ask myself that question with more of my belongings.


 

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I have already purged a lot of my clothes, but there are still plenty hanging around that I don’t wear that often. I want to be at the point where I do not have any more clothes¬†left at my parent’s house.

There are many other options on what you can do with your clothes besides donating them. First, you can reuse them for a different purpose. T-shirts, for instance, make great cleaning rags. Also, consider trading clothes in a clothing swap with friends and family. Probably most important is to repair your clothing! I just noticed a hole in one of my 2 pairs of jeans. I am going to learn how to properly repair that rip!


 

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Did you know that basically half of the trips you make are 3 miles or less? Most of the places we need to go, like the pharmacy, the bank, and the grocery store are not far away (of course, this only applies if you live in a high-density area).

I, of course, advocate for everyone to get physically moving at least once a day, but another way to escape our sedentary lifestyles is to use walking and biking as our mode of transportation. I personally hate having to get into the car to run an errand while living in the city (I don’t want to lose my parking spot!). Being able to get things done by foot or bike is way better for your health and the environment.

Let’s bring on 2017! Did you plan to make any similar resolutions? Or are you inspired to add some of these to your list? Let me know!¬†

 

 

 

 

A Succinct Summary of My 2016

2016 is just about over. Hallelujah.

Aside from all the craziness the world had to endure for the past 360-ish days, this was my first full year of blogging.

What started as a tiny creative outlet, has turned into something much more. I get excited about writing new posts and love hearing friends and family talk about my blog.

A lot has happened this year.

I  purged a lot of my belongings before moving downtown,

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started composting,

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got a recycling bin for our building,

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became a Chicago Conservation Corps leader,

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cleaned up multiple beaches,

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stopped buying new clothes for myself,

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tested out bamboo toothbrushes,

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And crafted up a storm.

 

Look out for my post on what to expect for 2017! Coming soon!

 

 

 

How Much Food Waste Can You Create in 5 Months?

I started composting for the first time when I moved to the City.

That does not sound like it should be an accurate statement, right? But it is! You can learn more about how I started to compost in this previous post.

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It wasn’t until a few months ago that I decided to start keeping track of how much food waste I was collecting in my composting bucket. To do so, I first weighed an empty bucket with my hanging scale. Then when it was time for me to put out my bucket for pick up, I would weigh it again and subtract the weight of the empty bucket, leaving me with the correct amount of weight.

August through December of 2016, I diverted 51.36 pounds of organic waste from the landfill!

That is only the measurement of me (and sometimes K) contributing for only 5 months of the year. Think of what we could do in a whole year!

My bucket and I have now been through all the seasons together. In the spring, I kept a potted plant on top of it. In the summer, the bucket smelled a bit when it was opened so I tended to do that outside. In the fall, we were happy campers, and in the winter we have already worked through some freezing and thawing cycles.

I am so glad to have started this composting journey. Not only have I learned a lot, but everyone else around me has learned a lot whether they wanted to or not. K’s friends even ask him how the composting is going. I know it’s in jest, but at least they are talking about it!

Tis the Season For Frozen Compost

“Baby, it’s cold outside”

So cold that my compost bucket (which we keep outside on our fire escape) had frozen shut.

After a weekend of numerous home cooked meals, our compost bowl was starting to overflow, and its contents needed to retreat to the outdoors.

There was no way I was getting the lid off the bucket, so I figured I would bring it inside to warm on up.

 

frozen-compost

Nice and cozy compost bucket

When I got back from work, I soaked up the remaining water and was able to add my food scraps no problem.

The bucket is back outside now, ¬†but I am sure that will not be the last time¬†it gets to dodge the fire escape’s winter chill. Stay tuned!