So if throwing my apple in the landfill is not such a good idea, what else can I do with it? Of the 250 million tons of waste Americans produce each year, a full 56% is compostable – meaning that it can be recycled as a fertilizer and soil amendment and used in agriculture and gardening.
We met with Jenny Thacker of Seattle Tilth to learn about composting. Seattle Tilth’s mission is mostly educational, offering classes to adults and children about composting and gardening as a means of preserving soil, nutrients, and resources.
Our meeting with Jenny was scheduled for 10am. At 9:50 we found ourselves dead still, sitting in Seattle rush hour (I ask myself daily why I continue to fall for Phil’s foolishness? He convinced me that rush hour in Seattle ends at 9am. Where does he get this stuff from??? More importantly, why am I so gullible? He just says these things so sincerely…). Amazingly a traffic wormhole opened before our eyes (Holy Family, was that you???) and we covered nearly half of Seattle’s downtown in 10mins… and no, we were not speeding.
Pulling up to Seattle Tilth’s offices was an experience in itself. I was awed. A composting palace?? Could this be my dream come true – an environmental non-profit funded by the royal family? Turns out Seattle Tilth occupies just a few offices in the Historic Shepherd Center which used to be a home for girls. Still, a pretty sweet place to go to work me thinks.
Luckily Jenny was also slightly late as she was coming from a previous meeting at the tea house. I have no idea what that is… but it also sounds like a pretty great place to have business meetings. While we waited we heard funny snippets of conversation coming from the ‘garden hotline‘ operator. “The one that smells like rat poo? Yeah, that’s the one.” I also browsed their extensive gardening/food library.
Once Jenny came she escorted us out to their on-site teaching garden where she showed us the goods. Most of this tour included Jenny opening up mysterious looking boxes, shoving her head inside, and making Phil touch things. I kept safely to my camera – a camera really is the best defense.
The key to high quality and non-smelling compost is air. While the problem with my apple in the landfill is that it rots without air (anaerobically), compost piles allow organic material to decompose aerobically. This not only reduces methane emissions, but composting also preserves the nutrients in the organic matter, producing some very rich soil and fertilizer. With frequent mixing to aerate, and keeping materials to smaller chunks, they are able to produce compost within 60 days. Jenny suggests putting yard waste and some paper in outdoor compost bins, but refraining from adding food, as this could attract rat visitors. I’ve had several compost bins and never suffered from rats so she may fall on the more conservative side here.
Jenny recommends putting food scraps in a sealed worm bin. She says ‘there’s no excuse not to have a worm bin,’ as you can even keep one on your kitchen counter or under the sink. Some people keep the small worm bin underneath their cutting board – just chop up that carrot, dump in the peelings, and voila! Of course, an indoor worm bin won’t be able to accommodate all your food scraps, but it is a good start. Here are some directions I found for starting your own kitchen worm bin.
Wherever Phil and I end up after this journey, we will definitely be starting a worm bin. Just be prepared if you plan on coming to visit us…!