Compost King: San Francisco

EC file photo

EC file photo

According to Mother Nature Network, the city of San Francisco has taken a novel approach to a long known fact of human beings: we generate waste.  On October 21st the city of San Francisco made composting mandatory for all citizens.  Although fines won’t be enforced until early 2010, the new law is an effort to push the city closer to its goal of producing zero-waste by 2020.  Cities are the biggest offenders in generating waste.  In San Francisco the solution to this problem has turned out to be quite dramatic.  The city will no longer sweep the issue aside, but, instead, will send most of their compostable waste to a facility in Vacaville, CA, where gardeners, farmers, and vintners can buy the end product for their crops.  San Francisco has made it easy for citizens to comply with the new ordinance by distributing three different bins to each household: blue for recycling, green for compost, and black for trash.

This new composting push is a simple idea that fosters sustainable behavior. San Francisco already boasts a 72 percent recycling rate. reported on a recent study showed that 36 percent of the city’s landfill garbage is food waste, while 31 percent is paper. Food waste is a major concern that needs to be dealt with. Rather than simply informing the public and hoping they make the right decision, the city took a direct approach because the deadline for their zero-waste commitment is fast approaching. Residents can no longer feign ignorance about the problems waste creates.

The new ordinance is anticipated to dramatically increase recycling within a city that already boasts the highest recycling rate in the nation. Some estimates figure that as much as 90 percent of all waste generated within city limits will avoid the landfill.  Hopefully citizens who have not composted, or recycled in the past, will do so now. Thus, we find the idealized concept of a zero-waste community becoming a reality. It’s a new chapter of sustainability in the United States and hopefully one that will catch on in other metropolitan areas.

– Caryna Pourier

Make the Jump to Compost

EC File Photo

EC File Photo

Fall is finally here, and it is now the season for pumpkin carving, corn mazes, and leaves to change and fall. I’m sure most of you will agree that no matter what age you are you still enjoy taking part in the fall pastimes. Raking a pile of leaves and then jumping in them has always been a favorite of mine, but what do you do when you’ve had all the jumps you want and need a place to get rid of the leaves?

Leaves happen to be one the best fertilizers. So after you have had all of the fun jumping into the pile you can compost the leaves and spread them across your garden. For those of you without a composter you can use your lawnmower to chop the leaves up so they’ll break down sooner. You can also add fruits, vegetables, napkins, and coffee grounds for extra nutrients. This leaf concoction can help you harvest winter roots like leeks, carrots, and rutabagas. The only precaution to take when spreading the leaves is to make sure they don’t get too thick over the crowns of your perennials. This can cause root rot.

You can also compost your leaves during the winter and use them next spring to give your garden an early boost. You can simply place the leaves in a wire round bin and turn them every three or four weeks. Adding coffee grounds, vegetables, and fruits is also a great way to make the fertilizer even more nutritious, but can attract animas. If you’re adding food scraps to your compost make sure you have a closed container. By spring next year you can have all of the fertilizer you need to start a beautiful s garden.

Finally, if you don’t garden but don’t want all that leafy goodness to go to waste, call the Environmental Center at 247-7676. Our zero-waste crew is collecting leaves this fall for several of the community gardens we work with. This fall after carving pumpkins, going to corn mazes, and haunted mansions don’t forget to re-use those fun filled leaves. Gardens everywhere will thank you.

– Devon Dey