Sunday, 23 November 2014

Backyard Composting!

Hey everyone,

As you may know I am now serving the city of Red Deer as a member of the Environmental Advisory Committee. I attended my first meeting last week and one of the things we talked about was the successes of Red Deer's composting pilot project held over the last few years. It is really exciting to be able to work with so many great minds on this committee!

I completely missed the boat on this project. I didn't sign up in time to get my free composter bin and didnt get to attend the seminar about how to compost. But rather than letting myself become discouraged I built a wooden composter bin and watched youtube videos until I learned what to do!

I used to wonder what was the BIG DEAL about composting. What does it matter if I throw a banana peel into a compost bucket or into the landfill. There are a few reasons but the biggest for me is this:

When organic material breaks down not in the presence of oxygen (ie. trapped under layers of landfill) rather than CO2 being produced, methane is produced and methane is a 20% more potent greenhouse gas than CO2!

By throwing a banana peel into a hermetically sealed landfill you are doing 20% more damage to the climate than by letting it break down in a compost heap on the ground. The methane produced from anaerobic decomposition will release over time and adversely effect the climate. As a side note: by bagging dog poop in plastic we are sealing the fate of the dog poop to become methane instead of CO2 as well.

That was the main reason but here are all the reasons I compost:

1. Produces CO2 instead of CH4.
2. Free way to fertilize garden and grow cheap, healthy food.
3. Nutrients get cycled back into fertile systems instead of becoming locked in toxic landfills for THOUSANDS of years.
4. Extends life of the landfill by diverting organic materials and saves the city money.

These are reasons good enough for me. What reasons good enough for you?

I've now been composting for about a year. My household went from about 5 bags/week of garbage to 2-3. My household produces about 1 bag of compostable material and about 1 bag of recycleable stuff per week. Around the same time we started composting we started recycling as well.

The blue bin provided by the city wasn't big enough.
Am I supposed to remove labels from cans?
I am glad to hear that the city received a donation of $10,000 to in part fund this! The donation came from Shell Fuelling Change an initiative supporting projects that improve and restore Canada's environment. This is in line with my politically moderate view that we should embrace the oil wealth of our country and use it to diversify and move towards more sustainable systems. Our country and our province can afford to lead the way. The technology to truly be sustainable is coming online! But we need vision to see beyond the paradigms of the past that will not serve us in the future.

Nobody understands the environmental impact of the oil and gas industry more than those who have worked in the front lines. For 10 years I drilled and serviced oil and gas wells. Over the years I saw environmental catastrophes and I saw responsible efforts made to clean them up. I know first hand from my experience as an oilfield worker where improvements must be made. But I digress.

Ideally, everyone would compost at home and then use that compost to build up a sustainable permaculture system, a.k.a A GARDEN. There are many benefits, from reducing green house gasses produced in landfills to localizing a percent of our food source and enhancing our diet with highly nutritious food. However I know that one size doesn't fit all. Composting and permaculture aren't for everyone. A multifaceted problem requires a multifaceted solution. Most Red Deerian's will benefit from the planned enhancements to the waste collection system coming in the near future.

I am excited to understand that enhancements to Red Deer's waste management system are in the works. There are visionary leaders in our city working to remove barriers and design more sustainable systems. In the future Red Deer will collect organic waste separately and compost the material. The resulting compost resource will pay for itself in several ways.

1. A smaller impact on the landfill. (Estimated potential 40% waste diversion.)
2. Fewer green house gasses and leachate produced. (Leachate is also costly to dispose of.)
3. Nutrients being cycled back into the earth.

Last but not least...

4. The sale of high quality compost, a valuable commodity in high demand which may offset costs of the program.

Curbside pickup of organic waste will be a much needed improvement to Red Deer's waste management strategy. I would like to see further enhancements to recycling and sewage treatment; and public transit and homeFULLness for that matter, but its one step at a time I suppose.

A friend of mine shared the following link with me and now I am very jealous of the city of Edmonton! I hear they have the largest by volume and size composting facility in North America! Its encouraging to learn this because that means that we here in little ol' Red Deer dont have to reinvint the wheel. The systems are already designed and functioning and the economics are understood and scale-able. All we have to do is copy a system that has already been proven to work! 

With all this said there is still so much to learn! As I write this I am having a twitter conversation about vermicomposting. This is something I have heard of but not yet tried or even considered. But I do like the idea of growing my own fish bait! Just gotta check with the boss if she'll let me farm worms in the basement!

Shoutout to @ClairesOwner and @hezzie7 for the twitter conversation today! Cheers!

Do you have any ideas how to make Red Deer a more sustainable city?


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