The science and technology of composting has already made a huge impact on communities and businesses. Now, the urban home composter is getting a lot of attention and support from manufacturers and service providers.
Homeowners are increasingly aware of their impact on the planet and are asking
“what more can we do?” Sure we all recycle, and up-cycle, we try to bike, or walk when can, pick up liter, and save energy where we can, but sometimes we feel like there is something more we could be doing right at home. A great next step in being green is reducing food waste. Serendipity has been diligently reducing the amount of food waste that ends up in a conventional landfill by composting 95% of all kitchen food waste. This is no easy feat for a busy catering kitchen, but being Denver’s first Certifiably Green catering company, we felt it was our duty to add this step into our earth-friendly practices. With more than 36 million tons of food waste annually generated, composting is important in helping environment. With composting gaining popularity, we wanted to explore the next frontier in going green and got together with Angela, Account Executive for Alpine Waste, for expert advice on compost.
The Basics on Composting at Home
Any serious gardener knows that compost is far better than store-bought soil, and even better than peet. Compost is richer, creates more healthy microorganisms, and is more nutrient dense. The best part is, compost can be created simply by combining three basic materials: “browns” meaning, dead leaves, branches, and small twigs, “greens” grass clippings, vegetable waste, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds, and water.
Seems easy enough, right? We all have these things at home and plenty of food scraps to spare, but there is a bit of an art to composting. Here are the basics: You either need a designated place in your yard for a pile, or better yet, build a bin to keep things a little neater. Compost needs an equal amount of brown and greens in alternating layers. The browns make carbon, the greens provide nitrogen, and the water breaks it all down to the highly sought-after “black gold.” Turn the compost every week, or two to assure the materials are mixing well and there are no large clumps. Add water when needed (the rule of thumb it that the compost should be as wet as a damp sponge). The compost will be ready to use when the original materials are no longer identifiable. This will happen on the bottom layer of the compost. When compost is ready to be harvested it is dark, crumbly and has an earthy smell. Now your “black gold” is ready for digging into your garden beds, or simply just spread on top.
Composting at Work
We are a busy kitchen with food scraps being created no matter how efficient the chefs are, but your office or business doesn’t have to be in the food industry to compost. If you are lucky enough to have an outside area for an office community compost, build one! If not, save compost materials for a home compost, or explore other ideas for compostable food waste, like an electric composter (add link). Set up a three-stream waste system for trash, recycling and compost. The compost bin is great for coffee grounds, breakfast and lunch scraps! When the compost is ready, host a gardening afternoon at work and plant new flower pots for the office, allow co-workers to take any home for their gardens!
With composting gaining popularity, we wanted to explore the next frontier in going green and got together with Angela, Account Executive for Alpine Waste, for some of the dirt on compost.
Why is composting important for the environment?
There are many ways in which composting is important for the environment. I believe most importantly that it is an effective way of keeping organic materials out of landfills, thereby avoiding warming gases generated by these organics materials. The US sends approximately 35 million tons of food waste to landfills each year. The greenhouse gas impact of composting this mass would be the equivalent of removing 7.8 million passenger cars from the road. The EPA has identified landfills as the single largest source of methane.
A few other benefits of composting are:
§ Reduces and/or eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers
§ Promotes higher yields of crops
§ Facilitates reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization
§ Remove solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from storm water runoff
§ Extends landfill life by diverting organic materials from landfills
How much of our “regular trash” can be reduced by composting?
We believe that as much as 67% of all waste is compostable. According to the EPA, 21% of the waste taken to the landfill is food waste.
Can you give us a brief run-down of what happens to our compost once it leaves our kitchen?
Once the compost is collected from Serendipity Catering it is transported to our compost facility in Bennett, CO. It is mixed with other organic materials and separated into windrows. Once all of the material is in the windrow its temperature is monitored and it is turned to improve the porosity and oxygen content, mix in and remove moisture, and redistribute cooler and hotter portions of the materials. When the composting process is complete have a nutrient rich soil to be used in farming, landscaping and other agricultural needs.
Are you seeing more interest and popularity in composting? Why do you suppose that is?
There is an increased interest and popularity in composting but it is not near where it should be, particularly in CO. Colorado has some much landfill space compared to other parts of the country especially compared to the east and west coast. Education and awareness are increasing which is helping to grow interest.
Composting at home can be intimidating, what advice do have for home composters?
Look into the programs offered by the city, and if there is not a program in your area check out the community gardens that are growing in popularity. But if you are truly interested in composting in your own backyard do your research, ask questions, and be sure to proactively address any of the popular obstacles that others have come across.
Any facts we’d be surprised to know about composting?
According the Colorado Restaurant Association, over 2 million meals are served in CO restaurants each day. We believe that less than 1% of the organic waste in Colorado is being composted. Imagine the difference that could be made if just Colorado restaurants started compost programs like Serendipity Catering has.