Friday, March 4, 2011

Another one from guest Blogger Shannon Herbert. With gardening and all the joys of spring right around the corner, now is a great time to start or revive your compost pile! Read Shannon's blog - any questions? call 855-3188, Facebook your question at!/copeenvironmentalcenter

We can answer questions to help guide you in starting a compost pile that will fit your needs!
Adventures in Sustainability: The “What is that?”
Now that I have made a commitment to attempt a green lifestyle, I feel like my eyes have been opened to an entirely new world. It’s similar to when I saw Inception for this first time and started looking everywhere for signs that I was dreaming. (“Do I really remember how I got here? I don’t think that’s what that building looks like. I could have sworn it was a darker grey.”)

Because I’ve started looking for “green” things, I no longer walk right past them as I once did. I now see the sticker that says my notebook is made from 100% recycled material, the bottles of all-organic (and surprisingly delicious) apple juice, and the numerous recycling bins on campus. With this new perspective—my “green vision,” if you will—I have begun to look deeper into the environmental efforts on campus, starting with the one I am faced with every day: composting.

In Earlham’s cafeteria, there are three trash cans in the area where students drop off their plates. One of these is used for regular trash (aka the barbeque pizza that looked good but really wasn’t), and the other two are designated for composting. Before coming to Earlham, my knowledge regarding composting could be summed up with, “…It’s something to do with rotten food, right?” However, after receiving withering looks from people upon dropping a piece of cake into the composting bin, I have been forced to learn a bit more.

For those who are unfamiliar, composting is the controlled decomposition of organic matter, which is then applied to a garden to improve the soil. Or, in more comprehensible terms, things such as vegetables, fruits, lawn clippings, et cetera are put in a container and left to rot until they become an effective fertilizer. Seeing as I’m a lifelong city dweller, my knowledge of gardening is fairly limited, so I decided to contact my grandma, the only person I know with a garden, for more information on composting. Here is the basic run-through on one method of composting used by my grandma. (I assure you that her garden looks very nice.)

1. Take an old 50 gallon oil drum and drill holes in it—sides and bottom.
2. Inside the drum, put/layer anything organic (i.e. grass clippings, weeds, potato peels, carrot tops, clippings from everything, et cetera).
3. Between the layers, pour a special “composting tea" that consists of hot water, old tea from used tea bags and old coffee grounds.
4. Let it sit and then take a pitchfork and turn it. It will smell a little as it rots.
5. When it has decayed enough, empty it into the garden, spread it and work it into the soil.

There are many books and websites devoted to composting and several different approaches to it. I know it’s an added effort, but the environmental effects are significant. Composting reduces the amount of trash sent to landfills and puts it to better use. Also, it creates a thriving garden that can be used to grow all kinds of food that one would otherwise have to buy. All and all, I believe it is a very worthwhile endeavor and something I will surely try (once I’m out of this dorm).

If you’re thinking about trying your hand at composting, check out these helpful websites that will get you started and provide information on what not to do:

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