Compostin around Brattleboro
Step one is easy: compost. Rotten fruit, vegetables, paper towels, leftover meals, what do they have in common? They're organic waste, and half of our trash in Brattleboro. That's a lot that could be composted.
In Brattleboro, many people already compost or think about composting. Before you start taking all your leftovers into the backyard, you need a plan -- not all organic waste is easily or safely composted in your compost pile. With a little effort just about all of it can be kept out of the garbage.
Some people compost religiously, but would like to be able to dispose of things like meat which attracts animals, dairy and oils which are hard for the micro-organisms to break down, animal wastes which can carry pathogens, or weeds which have seeds that can be spread in compost. Some people would like to compost, but feel it is too difficult or they don't have the required space.
When most people think of composting, they think of a heap or bin in someone's backyard. Kitchen scraps and yard waste are put in a pile, and nature slowly turns it from trash into very fertile dark brown dirt known as humus. This can be put in with potted plants and used along with soil as a nutritional supplement instead of petrochemical-based fertilizers saving precious oil from a job done as well by a natural product.
It can also just be left where it forms if you don't grow plants and don't have any friends who want your compost. This type of composting can only take fruit, vegetables, egg shells, yard clippings, leaves and non-bleached paper because it's a low temperature process. It's easy so many people do it. The pile needs a specific ratio of green material to brown material in the pile- most people just manage this themselves by putting on more yard clippings or food depending on how the pile is developing.
The compost heap can be improved with a bin. A bin speeds up the composting process and can kill weed seeds and germs if it's hot enough. Still you are limited to what you can compost. Every Spring, WSWMD has compost bins available at a discount. Check out the Web site www.windhamsolidwaste.org for details.
You can also make your own bin. I live in an apartment house with three total units, and I made a compost bin from a large plastic garbage can with many 1/4-inch holes drilled into it. We all use the compost bin. It works slower in the winter, but we don't run out of room.
At home, there are two advanced forms of composting: vermicompost and bokashi. Both can be practiced indoors with very little odor in a small space. Vermicompost is composting with a specific type of worm. Worms actually eat the organic matter, and leave very nutritionally rich castings. The worms work fast, but they should be kept inside because they are not native to Vermont. You can put more types of scraps into vermicompost than into a compost heap, but you must care for it like you might care for a potted plant. It's not as much responsibility as a pet, but it still requires some nurturing.
Bokashi is the only form of composting that uses fermentation instead of aerobic decomposition. It's like making beer for your plants. Bokashi is a japanese technique that allows you to turn any kitchen scraps into nutritious plant food. This can be meat and bones, citrus, eggshells, yogurt and even milk. To make bokashi, you need a bucket with a drain or spigot on the bottom, bokashi mix (which contains the microbes that break down the food) and your kitchen scraps.
Brattleboro has a large renter population, and sharing a compost bin may not work for everyone. Even one person interested in composting and willing to manage it a little can make a difference to all our neighbors.
If you are interested in putting together a community composting project, please contact the Solid Waste Committee at email@example.com, and we will try to help.
Junio Anthes-Moody is a member of the Solid Waste Committee in Brattleboro.
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