National Learn About Composting Day

Day 149 – I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when I hear someone has started to compost. A friend, my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law have all started composting at home using commercial composting. They have made the decision to reduce their carbon footprint by diverting food from the landfill and helping create nutrient rich soil, instead.

Today is National Learn About Composting Day! I have spent the last 6 months telling anyone who wants to listen, how awesome it has been to compost our food scraps and many other nonfood items. On Day 2, way back on January 2nd, I posted about how my family started composting using a commercial composter. I wrote about the ease of the entire process and how it’s not as labor intensive as composting at home. Now, if creating an at home compost pile is up your alley, I highly encourage you to go for it. However, if you’re like me, the simpler the better and commercial composting is the answer!

  1. We spend the week filling our bucket with our food scraps. We have a smaller receptacle on the counter that collects our scraps on a daily basis. Once, the smaller bin is filled, it is dumped in the 5 gallon bucket provided by WasteNot Compost (for $10 a week). The 5 gallon bucket is kept in the basement, where it is nice and cool.
  2. On Thursday mornings (the day assigned to us) the bucket goes out on the front porch. WasteNot picks up the bucket and leaves us a clean and sanitized, empty bucket.
  3. No liners are needed, in either the countertop bin or the 5 gallon bucket.
  4. Not only can all of your food waste go into the bin, but so can napkins, paper towels, wood toothpicks, popsicle sticks (wooden), pizza boxes, compostable wrappers, and soiled paper products.

The United States discards more food than any other country in the world: nearly 80 billion pounds, every year. That’s estimated to be 30-40% of the entire U.S. food supply. While these numbers seem difficult to comprehend and the situation seems out of control. We, the consumers, can help. We can decrease the greenhouse gases emitted from food waste, by keeping our scraps out of the landfill. According to the World Wildlife Federation, the production of wasted food in the United States is equivalent to the greenhouse emissions of 37 million cars.

There is no doubt that food waste is a global problem and it’s going to take consumers (produce 43% of food waste), restaurants, grocery stores, food service companies (40%), farms (16%) and manufacturers (2%) to work together to first, reduce our food waste and secondly, keep it out of landfills.

So, on this National Learn About Composting Day, take a little time to consider either starting your own compost pile or check out the numerous composting companies that will be happy to do all the work for you.

  1. WasteNot Compost – north side of Chicago
  2. Collective Resource Compost – Chicago and suburbs
  3. Healthy Soil Compost – south side of Chicago
  4. The Urban Canopy – Chicago and suburbs
  5. Northshore Composting – North Shore (Chicago suburbs)
  6. Block Bins – Chicago and suburbs – A great option for entire blocks to chip in on one bin!

What are you waiting for?

Tomorrow, sustainable options in footwear.

Commercial Composting: The solution to your food waste problem

Day 118 – I truly believe most people try to be responsible with food and avoid wasting as much as they can. However, there are situations that come along that make it impossible to save all the food we purchase. The occasional piece of produce that gets overlooked and goes bad. The new recipe that no one liked and did not eat. The leftovers that sat in the refrigerator and eventually became a science project. It’s hard to completely avoid throwing something out each week. Thankfully, there are options to turn that food waste into something beneficial.

I have talked to people with strong feelings about composting. Some of those people love composting, while others are disgusted by the idea. Some love the task of turning their own food waste into soil, rich in nutrients. While others, can’t imagine working with worms. So, for those people, just the word, “composting”, turns them off. Well, I’m here to say, don’t be afraid. Commercial composting is for everyone not wanting or just not ready to take on home composting.

On Day 2, I shared my family’s experience with commercial composting and how easy it is and how infrequently we need to take our garbage out. The process is also, affordable and unbelievably rewarding. Just knowing our food waste is not ending up in a landfill, doing nothing more than taking up space and producing harmful greenhouse gases, is enough to put a smile on my face. To date, my family has diverted 105 pounds of food waste from the landfill in the last 5 months. And if that wasn’t enough, I found out a few weeks ago that my household was eligible to receive a 40 pound bag of soil, at no addition charge, from our commercial composting company, WasteNot Compost.

This past weekend, I picked up my bag of soil, in what can only be described as one of the easiest processes that I have been a part of. I drove up, opened my trunk and the bag of soil was placed in my car. All I had to do was give my name. I have never been one to get excited about gardening, but I can honestly say, I am looking forward to planting my garden this season.

If there is only one thing you do after reading my daily blog posts, composting is at the top of the list. Diverting food waste from the landfill is crucial to improving the state of our planet. It is something we should all be doing.

So, on this Stop Food Waste Day, stop throwing away food and start creating a healthier planet.

Tomorrow, reducing water use on rainy days.

Zero Waste Boxes: Assisting you on your zero waste journey

Day 77 – I first talked about TerraCylce on Day 23. I gave a brief description of the various services they offered. On Day 56, I went into greater detail about the Free Recycling Programs. Today, I am sharing information about their Zero Waste Boxes.

Zero Waste Boxes collect anything from candy and snack wrappers to cassette tapes. They have boxes for pretty much anything. I purchased the Kitchen Separation box. The kitchen has been the most challenging room in the house when it comes to going zero waste. Food packaging is difficult to avoid and recycle. It’s the frozen fry bag, the shredded cheese bag, the tortilla chip bag, and so on and so on. All of this packaging used to go into the garbage and now it goes into the Zero Waste Box.

Some say that the existence of TerraCycle is encouraging companies to continue making products that are disposable and non-recyclable. I say, TerraCycle exists to help us on our journey to zero waste. We may never reach the end of that journey, but we can improve along the way. There is nothing easy about living a life of zero waste and it most certainly does not happen overnight. TerraCycle is there to help us recycle our trash, while we make adjustments to minimize the waste we produce.

After you order your Zero Waste Box and it arrives at your home or workplace, the collecting begins. Most of my trash that I put in the Kitchen Waste box is plastic bags (food packaging). I could put many other items in the box (plastic packaging, paper packaging, filters, cleaning accessories, coffee and tea accessories, party supplies and dining disposables, interior home furnishings, prescription drug packaging, fabrics and clothing), but I have found using the box for plastic packaging has been the most beneficial.

Now, the not so great news. The Zero Waste Boxes are not cheap. The cost of the box pays for the shipping of the box to TerraCycle and the recycling of the items in the box. It takes a real commitment to want to pay for these boxes and for many, it’s just not in the budget to cover the cost. If you’re interested, but the price tag is discouraging, I suggest you start a Zero Waste Box fund. Place loose change in a jar and save up that way. Or you could even suggest a Zero Waste Box for a gift suggestion around the holidays or for your birthday. If there is a will, there is a way. I collected my plastic food packaging in a regular brown box until I was able to purchase my first box. I also suggest that you sign-up for an account with TerraCycle, so you’ll receive updates and news when there is a sale on Zero Waste Boxes. And they do have sales.

With the help of the Zero Waste Box, recycling and the incredible ease of composting with Waste Not Compost, my family of six has gone from two bags of garbage (minimum) per week to one bag of garbage every two weeks. So we have gone from producing 104 bags of waste (on the low end) per year to just 24. Can we do better? There’s no doubt we can. We’ve only been at this new way of living for 3 months.

So, celebrate Global Recycling Day, by coming up with a plan to reduce your daily waste.

Tomorrow, ways to have a sustainable Easter.

Composting: Where have you been my whole life?

Day 2 – While I was looking for gift ideas for the entire family to enjoy this past holiday season, I came across composting kits. It’s been something I had been thinking about for a couple years, but never looked any further into the process. The pandemic had me rethinking a lot of things and having most of the family home all day, everyday, had made it very clear, we produce a great deal of waste. So, the thought of composting became even more appealing.

When I researched composting a little further, I came across commercial composting. I also found two companies that offer commercial composting in my neighborhood, Collective Resource Compost and WasteNot Compost. They both offer similar services for just about the same price. I decided to go with WasteNot Compost because I liked the zero emissions component to their business model. They also have a pretty cool origin story.

On Thursday, December 3rd, we received our first bucket. The whole process couldn’t be easier!

  1. We spend the week filling our bucket with our food scraps. We have a smaller receptacle on the counter that collects our scraps on a daily basis. I tapped into my inner Joanna Gaines when picking out my kitchen compost bin. Once, the smaller bin is filled, it is dumped in the 5 gallon bucket provided by WasteNot. The 5 gallon bucket is kept in the basement, where it is nice and cool.
  2. On Thursday mornings (the day assigned to us) the bucket goes out on the front porch. WasteNot picks up the bucket and leaves us a clean and sanitized, empty bucket.
  3. Every week we are charged $10 for the service. There are other options, but the weekly service made sense for our family.
  4. No liners are needed, in either the countertop bin or the 5 gallon bucket.

I realize the cost may deter some, but I figured we could adjust our expenses to make room for composting. It’s crazy to think, but one fast food meal for our family could cover the cost of six weeks of composting. The entire experience has been so easy and rather gratifying, I can’t believe we didn’t look into this sooner. We are now food rescuers instead of food wasters.

Here’s some food for thought; 80 billion pounds of food is thrown away each year in the U.S., approximately 219 pounds of waste per person and 30-40% of the U.S. food supply. – Recycle Track Systems

Here are a few other composting companies in the Chicagoland area:

  1. Healthy Soil Compost – south side of Chicago
  2. The Urban Canopy – Chicago and suburbs
  3. Northshore Composting – North Shore (Chicago suburbs)
  4. Block Bins – Chicago and suburbs – A great option for entire blocks to chip in on one bin!

Tomorrow, I’ll share information about how to recycle your old Christmas lights.