food waste

What Will Happen to Chicago’s Worm Farm?

For the past three or so years, almost every banana peel, eggshell or orange rind that came out of our household has made its way to one urban worm breeding farm to become compost via our composting service Healthy Soil Compost.

compost bin

The remnants of tonight’s dinner end up in our bucket.

That worm farm is Nature’s Little Recyclers. They take my food waste and turn it into worm castings to be added back to the soil as a rich growing medium, they create local jobs, and save quite literally tons of food waste from landfills.

I owe them a lot.

Unfortunately, as with anyone trying to save the world, a few barriers are standing in their way.

Right now that barrier is the City of Chicago, who is shutting down Nature’s Little Recyclers last location due to lack of a permit and cease-and-desist orders. The laws in this city are not made for small business composters.

So Nature’s Little Recyclers started a petition to tell the Chicago City Council and the mayor to make it easy to compost in the city. Since the petition started 2 weeks ago, it has received over 4,400 signatures.

So if you compost in the city or support updating our laws to accommodate urban composting please sign the petition here.

Learn more about the situation with recent news coverage:

Compost 2018

2018 has been a good year for us and bringing our food scraps back to the soil in the form of compost. Last year, in 2017, we collected over 215 pounds.

This year, we collected 227 pounds! And that was just from our home 5-gallon bucket!

Not only did we continue using Healthy Soil Compost for our monthly pick up service, but we also used them to compost at our wedding in June.

Our wedding and our 145 guests kept 139 pounds of organic material out of the landfill, which produced 10 pounds of finished compost and 100 pounds of greenhouse gas carbon emissions.

Also, just recently, I finally asked my place of employment why we had compostable plates/cups/bowls, but nowhere to compost to them. They are currently reaching out to compost pick up services around the city.

work compost

So that’s it for 2018!

Since we have started collecting in July of 2016, we have kept over 504 pounds of organic materials from the fate of the landfill. Which is really amazing when you think about it.

Ending the year on a high note!

I Finally Asked

I have been at my current job for almost a year and a half and work in a large office building in downtown Chicago.

Since then, I have always wondered why my office had compostable plates, bowls, and cups, but nowhere to compost them.

I never used those things while at work. I have my own cup and plate that I reuse, but there are PLENTY of people that use those compostable materials and I don’t doubt that they think its fine because they are compostable.

But they aren’t.

Because they are being tossed into the trash can.

Which goes to the landfill.

Where nothing decomposes.

I had originally tried to work up the courage to shake up the wasteful office culture like 11 months ago and unfortunately never followed through.

Now many months later, I finally worked up the courage to ask the facilities department why they provided these materials to their employees, but not the proper way to dispose of them. I also offered to provide any assistance in picking a composting service. After reviewing my email a million times, I took a deep breath and clicked send.

Later that day, I ran into our facilities manager in the hallway and he excitedly told me how glad he was that I had emailed him. Apparently, the original plan was for the office to get the compostable materials and then set up composting, but it fell to the wayside. There wasn’t someone to champion it! Hey, hey, that’s me! I told him I have used two different composting services in Chicago and he urged me to send over their details and contact information. I expertly pulled together the resources and sent them over.

So the ball is rolling! And I am proud of myself for finally doing it.

I plan to follow up soon to see if the contact ever occurred. I will keep you updated!

 

 

Wedding Food Waste: How Much Did We Collect?

As you may know, one of my wedding vendors was a compost collection service.

Which is totally not normal and really awesome. 

Healthy Soil Compost, the company that has come to my apartment every month for the past 2 years to pick up my 5-gallon bucket, got to be a part of my wedding day.

compost HSC

Working with my caterers, food waste was collected in larger rollaway totes, rather than my usual 5-gallon bucket. Scraps were collected in the kitchen, as well as out in the reception space.

compost at wedding

Me, in my wedding dress, and one of the Healthy Soil Compost containers.

Having the opportunity to support my values on my wedding day was extremely important to me. When else do you get to craft an event that is truly all about you and what you believe in?

139 pounds of organic material

At the end of the night, Healthy Soil had collected 139 pounds of organic material that would have otherwise gone straight into a landfill.

10 pounds of finished compost

Our 139 pounds of organic material (aka tacos) will produce 10 pounds of finished compost to go back into the earth and grow more goodies.

100 pounds of GHG

This entire process saved 100 pounds of greenhouse gas carbon emissions from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Small changes can make a difference. Now, go compost for your next event!

A Year of Collecting Food Scraps in A Bucket

It has been my first full year of composting, or really, my first full year of saving food scraps and keeping them in a bucket on my fire escape until it gets picked up to be made into compost.

compost1

Each month before I set my bucket out on the front step, I used my hanging scale to weigh it, diligently tracking my results in a spreadsheet.

compost-bucket4

And now, here we are, twelve months later, and we have successfully diverted a total of 215 pounds (plus some here or there) from the landfill!

compost bucket7

It is pretty impressive and I am very proud of myself for this accomplishment!

Here’s the month by month breakdown of our food waste poundage.

  • January 15.5 lbs
  • February 17.22 lbs
  • March 12 lbs
  • April 18.71 lbs
  • May 8.8 lbs
  • June 20.44 lbs
  • July 22.84 lbs
  • August 25.4 lbs
  • September 19.74 lbs
  • October 21.61 lbs
  • November 18.5 lbs
  • December 14.58 lbs

That’s 287 pounds of organic matter going back into our soil and helping plants thrive. Wahoo!

10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2!

If you missed Part 1, you can check that out here.

10 most overlooked ways to reduce waste.p2

Let’s get right into it.

#5 Vote with Your $$$

Every time you purchase something, you are contributing to its demand. This is simple economics.

Put your money towards products and companies that you believe in. If it is important to you that your items are produced using renewable energy, then support companies that do.

For instance, there is a fair trade shop just around the corner from our apartment and it is currently struggling, so after work today I popped in and used my dollars to buy wool dryer balls and Bee’s Wrap. My dollars did not just get me faster-drying clothes in the dryer but they made a statement that I support these kinds of shops and want them in my neighborhood.

Resources:

#6 Your Pantry and Fridge

Open your fridge.

Now open your pantry.

How much of the stuff in there is going to end up in the trash can/landfill? I am not just talking about food packaging and wrappers, but food waste too.

Keep this in mind when you are at the grocery store. I am not asking you to only shop in the bulk aisle of Whole Foods, but just start noticing.

Once you do it is hard to shake it.

 

CSA week 7

Joining a CSA helped us cut down on packaged produce, but sometimes we still received things in plastic. 

 

Resources for Cutting Back on Packaging:

#7 Wait it Out

When I find something that I want (not need), I bookmark it in my browser under a folder called “Things I Want to Buy.”

And then I leave it there for days, weeks, and months.

If I am still thinking about it long after I saved it, then I will consider it further. If not then it gets deleted, and to be honest, not many things have survived the “Things I Want to Buy” folder.

Basically, avoid impulse buys by having a waiting period for each item. You might find that you didn’t like it as much as you thought, or get home and realize you already have 5 black sweaters.

Resources:

#8 Put Some Effort into What You Already Have

Did something break? Then fix it.

Do your jeans have a hole in them? Sew them.

jean-patch2

The #8 overlooked way to create less waste is also known simply as taking care of your stuff! Wash and dry clothing according to the directions. Store equipment in the proper place. Use a coaster. Give your car regular maintenance. Fix the soles of your shoes when they have worn through.

Putting a little extra effort or elbow grease will make your stuff live a longer life.

Resources: 

#9 Buy Secondhand/Previously Loved

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that the majority of our furniture is secondhand. Everything pictured below has either come from Craigslist, a garage sale, or family/friends.

Not only is it way cheaper than buying anything new, but it keeps pieces out of the landfill. Beyond furniture, I do have some pieces of clothes that are secondhand, but the majority of my wardrobe is not. It is something I am working on.

Resources to get your secondhand shopping on:

#10 Don’t Give into Trends

The fashion world likes to tell us that we need new styles of clothing every few months. If it is not the 70’s bell sleeves, the chokers, or those “cold shoulder” shirts, it will be something else tomorrow. That way you can buy, buy, buy.

Don’t give into that crap. You don’t need any of it. I like to think that the clothes I purchase will be something I wear for a long time, so I stay away from trends and keep my closet pretty neutral.

Whatever the next ridiculous trend is, pass on it, and just wear your regular sweater that covers your shoulders with pride!

More Resources:

 

What else would you add to the list?

Inspiration

This blog does not get an unreal amount of traffic.

My page views are not off the charts.

And I am totally okay with that.

That’s because I love hearing from friends and family (and those on the internet) about what they have learned from my blog. It makes all of it worth it.

I have had friends in Washington reach out about recycling questions. I have had family friends in Maryland send me food waste articles. Followers now know what to do with their old running shoes, their old Apple products, and their old jeans.

 

I had a friend from DC message me the following:

“I love following your blog and seeing all that you do to help the environment. It really inspires me to do little things to do my part. I realized how awesome cloth napkins are for EVERYDAY!”

So much excitement about cloth napkins!

compost bucket7

Another friend has started composting, like real composting in her backyard. I am so proud!

Just being able to make one small difference is really what this blog adventure is all about.

So thank you.

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?

 

work compost

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.

compost bucket7

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!