Friday, February 02, 2007

Green Kitchen Tip # 5

Kitchen Scraps

Have you ever considered what happens to America’s food wastes? Nearly a quarter of all trash we toss in our garbage cans are kitchen scraps and yard clippings, both of which could be recycled into compost. If you include paper wastes, that adds up to nearly half of all solid wastes. Instead of being composted, a lot of those wastes end up in landfills. As they rot in landfills, they emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas thought to contribute 20 times as much to global warming as carbon dioxide. I had no idea we each made that much of an impact, in such an off-handed manner.

If you have a garden, composting is intuitive. But not everyone has the space or even an outdoor location for a traditional compost pile or bin. No worries, a young inventor by the name of Russ Cohn, has created a composting machine that is small enough to fit under your sink, and more efficient than a neglected pile out in your backyard. In his own words:

It's great to buy a hybrid car, but without composting you might as well have an invisible SUV running around your kitchen. Most people don't yet realize the staggering imipact of kitchen waste on greenhouse emissions, or how simple it is to divert so much landfill fodder to healthy and sustainable use. My goal is to make it easy, fast and painless for people to do this.

I really like the idea of his small, efficient machine, but I don’t have one yet. I keep a container on my counter for kitchen wastes to be composted, and I’ll tell you it isn’t always a pretty sight, even though I carry it out to my compost pile several times a week.

Another option for getting rid of your kitchen scraps is vermiculture (worm bins). I include worms in my compost pile (I go with the laziest method of composting), because they add what some would call “black gold” – their castings improve soil structure and microbial activity. In order to grow worms in a compost pile, just ensure you add soil and keep things moist for them(or give them an escape route into the earth).

But if you really mustn’t be bothered with recycling, the most conscientious thing you can do is get yourself a sink garbage disposal, and divert those wastes to the wastewater treatment facility. Not only will you be diverting methane production to a facility that might have the capacity to burn it for energy, but macerated kitchen wastes can aid in phosphate and other nutrient removal from the wastewater stream, which is good news for all the little fishies downstream.


At February 04, 2007 10:13 AM, Blogger PeakEngineer said...

Good discussion! My own yard and kitchen waste is rapidly exceeding the capacity of my meager compost bin, due our decreased consumption of pre-packaged foods and increased work digging new gardens. A new, bigger compost bin is next on the list...

At February 05, 2007 8:03 PM, Blogger bucket said...

I just wanted to add that it is always good to think if you can use the "scraps" some how. Like vegetable peels can make a stock, I just peeled a bunch or oranges and instead of throwing the peels aways as scrap I candied them.
We have become wasteful in not just how we throw away things but what we throw away.

At February 07, 2007 2:27 PM, Blogger Jade said...

A little known side-effect of a healthier diet is a healthier garden! I hope, Peakengineer, that you find a composting system capable of efficiently recycling your increased capacity, that also won't take up too much gardening space! A method I would like to try, if I ever have more space available, is to use straw bales to fence in the compost pile. One advantage is the ability to easily expand and make the pile as large as needed, another is that the straw bales will insulate against cold weather, and additionally straw is an excellent, aerating material to add to wetter compost ingredients.

And thank you, Bucket, for reminding us that re-using is also a rewarding activity. I like finding creative ways to re-use things too. I feel it is a good skill to foster. Lately I've been trying to get better at giving new life to left-over ingredients in my refrigerator. Not only can it inspire me to try something new, but it further helps to keep my fridge cleaned out -- an essential skill when you live with the smallest fridge practical for your needs.

At February 08, 2007 8:18 AM, Blogger ericswan said...

Here's one of those green thumb links all the way around the planet just waiting for this moment to arrive...

At February 08, 2007 2:43 PM, Blogger Jade said...

Thanks for the link, Ericswan! Funny I was just wondering what was up in your neck of the woods . . . have you started any seeds yet?


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