Monday, November 26, 2012

compost queen

I don't know about you, but I always get this twinge of guilt when I throw something away that I know can be reused. I've felt a particularly strong twinge every time I've thrown away table scraps that I know would make good composting.

In case this concept is new to you, any raw food such as peels, cores, stems, etc make excellent composting. Compost is the rich soil produced from decomposed plant matter and is extremely healthy and delicious to plants! Composting is nature's recycling bin, and if I claim to be green, then by golly, I'm wanna be green down to my cooking scraps.

Actual bee on actual flower at Truly Living Well Urban Farm

However, composting is difficult. It requires space; outdoor space. And frequent tending to. You have to have the right balance of food scraps and "brown" substance (basically mulch) or else the compost will be all wrong and attract animals and become a big stinky mess. If you live in an apartment, like I do, it's not an option. So what to do other then sadly watch your wilted lettuces and hardy potato peels be carted off to the landfill where they're no use to anyone?

In my search to end this moral conundrum, I found several solutions. One is making something called garbage soup. Appetizing, no? You keep your tasty leftover bits in the freezer, and at the end of the month you make a vegetable broth out of them. This option didn't really work for me because I just don't find myself making vegetable broth very often. My freezer scraps eventually made their way to the trash can, iced over and pungent. But if you like to cook soup, this could work for you.

If you live in a super cool progressive city like Portland, there is an amazing service where people on bikes will come and collect your composting scraps at the end of the week. But I live in no such city.

So I researched community gardens to see if any nearby greenspace would appreciate my leftover scraps. Several gardens declined, saying that to keep their crops organic they must only use compost matter produced from the garden itself. Finally, I discovered Truly Living Well, an urban farm located surprisingly central to Down Town Atlanta.

It's nestled away by the Martin Luther King Center, and you'd never know this bit of green heaven existed unless you stumbled right on top of it. The friendly (mostly volunteer!) staff was delighted to accept my composting scraps. Not only that, I started the school I work at on a composting regimin, and deliver the entire school's scraps every week, too! Teachers and parents, this is a wonderful learning oportunity and children love visiting the farm and delivering their scraps in person. It's a great way for them to physically interact with the food cycle and to think about their own waste and green choices.

You can buy simple compost bins for your counter top at stores like Walmart and Home Depot. I use this one for the school and a simple tupperware in the fridge for at home. I find that reduces the smell factor.

It feels awesome doing something (even so small) for the planet. And it tastes great too. I like to stop by Truly Living Well's market when I'm done delivering my scraps and peruse their organic, locally grown goodies. I even like to flatter myself by thinking that in a way, I helped grow them. YUM!

What can you do? Use the ever-trusty google search engine to find community gardens in your area, and start making calls. Even if they can't help you directly, they may have some good leads for you. That's how I found my own urban farm utopia! 
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