Monday, July 6, 2020

DIY Worm Bin

Haven't been able to make it to a Worm Bin Workshop? No problem. Today we are sharing a video on how to build your own worm bin! If you'd like to learn more about vermicomposting before you dive in, we recommend checking out the book "Worms Eat my Garbage" by Mary Appelhof.

Materials Needed: 
  • 1 lb of Red Wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida)
  • 10 gallon (shallow) plastic container
  • Drill
  • 3/16 drill bit
  • 2-3 handfuls of garden soil 
  • Fruit and veggie scraps (non-citrus)
  • 3 - 4 lbs moist bedding (leaves or newspaper will work!)
  • Extra lid or drainage basin for under your worm bin
  • Pieces of wood or other material to prop up your worm bin over the drainage basin 


Vermicomposter, Angela Rivera


My Journey to Farming Black Soldier Fly Larvae

I started composting as a young girl by throwing egg shells and coffee grounds into a flowerbed. Although we found this beneficial to our garden, as an adult I began more intentionally  composting. I started with an informal pile in the back of my yard and grew to using multiple tumbler systems. But perhaps the most interesting and most asked about composting system I have now is my Black Soldier Fly (BSF) bin.

"Farming" Black Soldier Flies
Even though I’d accidentally invited some Black Soldier Flies into one of my tumblers a few years ago, after a casual comment made on Day 1 of Civic Garden Center’s Master Composter Class, my interest in this squishy little insect was renewed.  

My husband and I own and operate a farm. Though we aren’t large-scale vegetable producers, we picked up too-ripe-for-people-to-eat-food from a local roadside market. Typically, we would toss these fruits and vegetables straight to the chickens, and then after a few days rake up what remained to put into a compost bin. But I am always looking for a better/faster/less expensive/more efficient way to operate, and I approached the concept of a BSF bin with gusto.

Creating a BSF Bin
Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) eat all organic material – food scraps, fruit/vegetable scraps, manure…  basically, they will eat just about anything that is or was food. When they mature, they will crawl upward and out of their food pile to pupate. Adult BSF’s don’t have stingers, and they don’t even have mouths. They exist for one reason: to mate and lay eggs.

In an effort to intentionally bring the BSF to our farm, to have a self-contained area for the too-ripe-fruits-and-vegetables, and to have an additional FREE source of chicken feed, I decided to build a bin.

Creating a modified version of the Northwest Redworms' Black Soldier Fly bin, our design modifications included installing a 2” PVC pipe for self-harvesting the pupae instead of a centralized containment point, as well as rotating knobs to prop the top open for easy access to adult BSF.

Considering this could also be done on a much larger scale, there is tremendous potential to use BSF as a waste-reduction method to dispose of restaurant and grocery store food waste. Even if you don’t have hungry chickens to feed, wildlife such as birds, lizards, or livestock such as pigs and fish could benefit from this highly nutritious insect – all while keeping food waste out of the landfill.

Questions? Feel free to email Susan at susan@sbbellfarms.com

Susan Bell
Co-owner ;B Bell Farms; Composting Fanatic!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Share Your Compost Bin!

It all started with the question “What is that?” from my next-door neighbor more than five years ago. She was pointing to my new 65-gallon compost bin. I excitedly stated “it’s my new compost bin!” I then went on to explain what compost is, why I do it, and how I will use it. She asked about rodents getting into it (as expected by a next door neighbor), to which I explained that I did my research and, based on the reviews, even bears have trouble getting into it (thanks Amazon reviews!). 


Then I asked the magical question to my neighbor “would you like to use my bin?” I surprised myself by asking this question, but I thought: if I am reducing my environmental impact by keeping food waste from going into the landfill from my home, then why not share my bin with her to reduce her impact, too?

This led me to begin sharing my compost bin with three more neighbors over the past year, and I’m now at three 65-gallon bins! Every time I open up my bin and see new food scraps added , it makes me so excited! I am so happy to help other families reduce their environmental impact. Here are the things I’ve learned and done to ensure that sharing my bins with neighbors has been successful:

·        Create a simple graphic to explain what to ADD and NOT ADD to your bin. This can be based on known compost rules and also your personal preference. This is your bin and you want to make sure that it isn’t mistakenly contaminated. For example, pizza crust can be composted along with bread as long as there’s no butter and cheese, etc. on it. So you may choose to say no pizza crust at all. Below is my graphic I give to my neighbors (download here!). Lastly, make yourself available by whatever means works for you and your neighbor because they’ll have lots of questions the first few weeks. Throughout this year I have not had any contamination issues.

·        Make sure to add much more  “browns” (yard waste, newspaper, etc.) into your bin since you are getting so many “greens” (food scraps) from your neighbors. I check my bin once a week to add browns and turn it.

·        It takes about 3 months to fill up a bin with a total of 4 families filling it. Here is how I use my 3 bins: one bin is the one that gets fresh new scraps, another one is actively working and breaking down food scraps, and the third has completed or almost completed compost. I put a brick on the top of the bins that should not be added to, so neighbors don’t mistakenly add to the wrong bin.

·        Offer the finished compost to your neighbors. My neighbors do not garden so they are not interested in having compost. Interestingly enough, my neighbors use my bins mainly to act as role models of sustainable behavior for their kids, or to help me make compost for my garden. If you find yourself having too much finished compost, you can store it to add to your garden later, or you can share it with your local community garden-- just make sure to ask the gardeners first!

I challenge you to share your compost bin. It is very rewarding to enable someone else to be environmentally friendly and creates community around composting. It grows people’s knowledge about food waste and the environment. And it allows you and your neighbor to connect in a new way.
 If you are interested to talk more about this, please reach out to me at livingearthfriendlyco@gmail.com or on Instagram @livingearthfriendly. 

Can’t wait to hear from you!


Pilar
A Composting Friend and Veteran Composter

Quick social distancing safety tip: when sharing your compost bin with neighbors remember to stay 6 feet apart and always wash hands after handling the compost bin. 


Monday, June 22, 2020

Paper: Better to Recycle or Compost?

After doing a number of  composting seminars this spring, I was asked this question a few times: is it better to recycle paper or compost paper? Well, the way I always respond is "it depends on what type of paper!" So here are my thoughts on a few paper products and if they should be composted or recycled.

Office Paper - RECYCLE. Office paper tends to have high quality fibers that can be used multiple times through the recycling process. Plus, when office paper gets damp during the composting process it tends to clump.

Newspaper - COMPOST. Newspaper is made mostly of recycled content already and the fibers of the paper are poor quality, which is not great when trying to process during recycling.

Cardboard - RECYCLE. Cardboard is a very valuable recyclable in the economy and would be best suited to turn into something new rather than into a soil amendment.

Magazine - RECYCLE. To achieve the shiny gloss of your magazines, companies coat the paper with synthetic materials. Thus, they are better for your recycling cart rather than the compost bin.

Paper Cartons - RECYCLE. The paper cartons we can recycle in Hamilton County tend to be made of virgin paper, which can be recycled multiple times and is valuable to the paper industry. Some paper cartons are also lined with foil and plastic, which are removed when recycled but won't break down in your compost bin.

Paper Egg Carton - COMPOST. When you look at the paper egg carton you can see all the fibers and it has that grainy look to it. This indicates to us that it is a lower quality paper and would be better suited for composting. 

So, when making the decision to recycle or compost, keep these tips in mind. Also, remember that other non-recyclable paper types can be composted when they are free of cleaners and grease, such as paper towel, tissues, and paper plates.

Guest Blogger, Angela Rivera

Monday, June 1, 2020

Are Two Bins Really Better Than One?


Once they get the hang of composting, many composters run into the issue of having nowhere to store new material while an old pile is breaking down into compost, causing delays between finishing an old pile and starting a new one. An easy solution is to use a two-bin system. With two bins, you’re able to increase your composting capacity and store unfinished compost in one bin and mature compost in the other, allowing for a continuous cycle of composting and easy access to ready-to-use compost. What’s more -- two-bin systems are relatively simple and inexpensive to construct using wooden palettes or spare lumber and chicken wire. 

If you’re ready to take your at-home composting to the next level, a two-bin system may be just what you’ve been looking for. Check out this video to build your own two-bin unit! 


For building blueprints, click here



Guest Blogger and UW-Madison Graduate Student Liaison, Kristi O'Conner

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Back by Popular Demand!

Need a new compost bin or maybe a second? Have a friend interested in starting backyard composting? Good news! We are hosting a pre-order only Compost Bin Sale! Residents can purchase compost bins and accessories at wholesale prices. 

Order your compost bin before June 18th by visiting: https://hamiltoncompostersale.ecwid.com/

You can pick up your bin on  June 27th at the Fifth Third Bank parking lot (5050 Kingsley Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45227). Please note, compost bins will not be available to purchase on June 27.

Do you want to brush up on your composting skills and save money on your new bin? Don't miss our final one-hour "Get the Dirt on Backyard Composting"  webinars of the season on June 15 at 12 p.m. and June 16 at 7 p.m. Those who attend the webinar will receive a $10 off coupon for a compost bin and a digital download of our “Get the Dirt on Backyard Composting” booklet. To register for a compost webinar, click here!

*If you plan to use a coupon, please wait to purchase your bin until after you receive the coupon. All items pre-ordered are guaranteed and must be picked up on June 27.

Items for purchase include: 







Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Virtual Worm Bin Workshop

Are you interested in learning about worm bin composting? Worm bins are a great way to compost fruit and vegetable scraps year-round and indoors! This year we are hosting a one-hour online workshop with the Civic Garden Center on how to manage your own indoor composter to turn food scraps into valuable fertilizer including how to  harvest vermicompost.

You can choose to purchase a worm bin before or after the workshop and pick it up at the Civic Garden Center.



Date: June 11, 6 – 7 p.m.
Cost: Free for Webinar; Purchase Worm Bin with Worms $43 (must pick up at Civic Garden Center the week of June 15)

Register Here

Purchase a Worm Bin here



Guest Blogger, Angela Rivera

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Word Savvy Composter?

We are putting you to the test with our Compost Terminology Quizlet! Quizlet is a platform to practice vocabulary terms, so of course we had to create one about composting! Challenge yourself with this matching game! Let us know how you did. 

Try it below! 




Guest Blogger, Angela Rivera

Friday, May 1, 2020

It's International Compost Awareness Week!

Friends, good news, our holiday has arrived. May 3-9, 2020 marks the official...


International Compost Awareness Week!!!

You may say to yourself, "what does this mean?" "How can I celebrate?" 

Well, before you start stringing lights around your compost bin or hiding piles of compost around the yard for your kids to find, here are few more practical ways to celebrate:

1. Spread the Compost Love: shout your love of composting from the rooftops (not literally, that would be dangerous). Share a composting selfie with your bin or your finished compost on social media. Use the hashtag #soillovescompost to connect your post with others around the world.

2. Help a Friend Start Composting: share our upcoming virtual compost seminar classes with your friends and tag a few that you think would enjoy backyard composting. You can find a link to our events on Facebook or on our website

3. Give Your Compost Some Attention: step outside and take some time to aerate your compost pile, learn about a new material you can compost, or harvest compost to use in your garden. 

Check out this beautiful poster from Composting Council. Any poster featuring an adorable bee bottom gets two thumbs up from me.


Happy International Compost Awareness Week, composting friends. Compost on!




Thursday, April 9, 2020

Can I Compost my Potting Soil?


Last year I made a container garden for my herbs. I planted the seeds with store-bought potting soil and enjoyed them for the season. As I cleaned up my container from last year, I headed over to the compost bin and was about to dump the entire container in, when something caught my eye... those little white balls in the soil. I had no idea what these were or if they could go into my compost bin, since they resemble mini balls of Styrofoam.



So I did some digging... These little white balls found in store-bought potting soil are called perlites. Perlites are naturally occurring minerals found in soil, aiding aeration and drainage for plants. And for our use, YES you can compost them along with your potting soil! 
Guest Blogger and Composting Coach, Angela Rivera


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Harvest your VermiCompost

One of the hardest parts about having a DIY vermicompost bin is harvesting. So we created a short video on one method of harvesting the vermicompost. Some quick steps you'll see in the video:
  • At least 1-2 weeks before harvesting, start to put your food scraps on only one side of the bin. This will help encourage the worms to migrate to one side of the bin.
  • Lay out a tarp for a work space outdoors on a sunny, warm day and grab some gloves.
  • From the side without food, grab handfuls of compost and make cone shapes on top of your tarp. 
  • Wait at least 15 minutes after you finish making the cones to come back to harvest the compost. This allows the worms to move to center of the cone. 
  • Start to pull off the top and outside of the cones, sifting through to see if there are any worms, cocoons, produce stickers, or food not fully decomposed. Put worms you find and food back into the worm bin, and discard any inorganic items.  Put finished vermicompost in a container as you go. 

Here is a quick tutorial video to show you how it is done! 




Guest Blogger and Composting Coach, Angela Rivera

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Be a Compost Guru

Do you want even more resources on composting? Follow our Pinterest account which includes an entire board on Composting! Check out the board here!



Pinterest is a platform to save your favorite websites and posts from the internet. 

Comment below to share some of your favorite composting resources outside of this blog; we may even add them to our Pinterest!

Guest Blogger and Composting Coach, Angela Rivera

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Spread the Compost Love!

Rescheduled and New Dates Due to COVID-19

While we eagerly wait for the first compost turn of the spring, here at the District, we are also preparing for our “Get the Dirt on Backyard Composting” spring series!

Since we know you all love composting, we hope that you can share our seminar information with your friends and family! Imagine how a whole community of backyard composters could positively impact our local sustainability, since it is estimated that each household can divert 600 pounds organic waste per year through backyard composting!

Seminars are no charge, cover the basics of composting, and last one hour. Here are the backyard compost seminars being offered in 2020:

Date
Time
Location

May 26th
6:30 p.m.
California Woods Nature Center, 5400 Kellogg Avenue, Cincinnati, 45230

May 27th
6:30 p.m.
Madeira Municipal Bldg, Centennial Room, Lower Level, 7141 Miami Avenue, Madeira, 45243
  
June 3rd 


June 9th
6:30 p.m.


7 p.m.
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 101 South Lebanon Road, Loveland, OH 45140

Hamilton County Environmental Services, 250 William Howard Taft Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45219
  
June 15th
7 p.m.
REI Rookwood, 2643 Edmondson Road, Cincinnati, 45209


Register Here! Oh, did I mention each family attending also gets a free Kitchen Scrap Collector and a $10 off Coupon for a Compost Bin during our spring Compost Bin Sale (more details coming soon).

New this year: Attend a Composting Webinar on April 20 at 7 p.m., April 21 at 12 p.m., June 15th at 12 p.m., or June 16th at 7 p.m.: follow this link to register for one of our online classes. Attendees will receive a $10 off coupon for a Compost Bin but not the composting accessories. 



Guest Blogger and Composting Coach, Angela Rivera

Friday, February 7, 2020

Little Known Items You Can Compost from the Bathroom



Guest Blogger Angela Rivera

Need some new inspiration of what else you can compost? I went on a search recently to see what else I could put in my compost pile and found I needed to start a small collection in my bathroom. 


Here are some bathroom items you can put in your compost bin:
  • Used Tissues
  • Paper Q-Tips
  • Toilet Paper Cardboard Rolls
  • Hair from Hairbrush
  • Facial Hair Trimmings
  • 100% Natural Loofahs
  • 100% Cotton Balls
  • Wooden Toothpicks

These items take up about 95% of my bathroom waste and now I get to put them to better use! Did I also mention a compost pile can also take urine? Although I am not ready use my compost pile as a bathroom, it’s good to know it is an option.

What new compostable item have you added lately?






Guest Blogger/ Composting Enthusiast Angela Rivera

Thursday, January 30, 2020

How Composting Helps Me Eat Healthier in the Winter



Guest Post by Jonah Christner



The middle of winter never fails to make me feel like the glummest, plumpest of raccoons. The holiday season has passed and responsibilities resume, but it always seems to be either cold, dark or a combination of the two. Every action takes a little extra effort. I scurry home from work at 5 o’clock and it’s already dark, so I scavenge through my cabinet and eat until I’m happy. I don’t want to get up, I don’t want to exercise, and I don’t want to bother with my food scraps.

It’s time for a little mental manipulation.

As a 22 year old college student (and seasonal raccoon), I am prone to eating the most comforting food my little paws can grab. Ice cream, frozen pizza, cookies, mounds of mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and bags of various candies. However, this is not the best practice. No, what’s best is a plant-rich diet with plenty of veggies, a few sweet fruits, and lean proteins. 



I am able to check up on my habits though. Unlike the typical fruit and veggie skins that fill my compost, plastic sleeves, films, and trays are not compostable. I am not able to compost as much as I used to, simply because my diet has changed. For most people, composting is a way to sustainably get rid of organic scraps. For me, composting is a way to ensure I’m nourishing my body properly during these miserable winter months.

I make it a goal to frequent my kitchen scrap collector. “You typically fill this container up regularly. Make this your goal. Eat enough organics to fill this container,” I say. Suddenly, it becomes a little bit more difficult to justify eating the plastic sleeve surrounding cookies. I begin to eat better, slowly at first. This only feeds my willingness to go the extra mile. This winter, I will be a little more human than raccoon.  


Guest Blogger Jonah Christner, Solid Waste Intern/ Seasonal Raccoon