Tag Archives: composting

(Com)Post-It

Okay, so you’ve purchased your organic food, but now you have all these banana peels and other random food waste lying around. Ugh. Now what?

Remember when we talked about upcycling?

Did you know you can do that with food waste, too?

No, you can’t exactly make crafts out of food scraps –– or, at least, we don’t endorse it. But you can start a compost heap, which is still pretty cool (we’d venture to say it’s cooler. But who knows, maybe your eggshell jewelry collection is really taking off).

Now, what exactly is compost?

In essence, it’s a mixture of decomposed organic materials that can be used in organic agriculture as a fertilizer and soil conditioner. It can help control erosion and even as a natural pesticide for soil. 

Compost has four main components: carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and water. The carbon and nitrogen come from things like leaves, food scraps, branches and coffee grounds. When you add water to this mixture and expose it to oxygen (that’s more or less a fancy way of saying “leave it outside”), the water and oxygen break down the contents of your pile and create compost. This creates humus (no, not hummus. Different thing. We’re fans of both), which can help retain moisture in soil and improve the soil so it can be reused.

Sometimes, fun things like earthworms and urine and human waste are added to the mix. If that sounds gross, just picture a landfill overflowing with food waste that could’ve been used to make more organic food –– yeah. Not a great alternative.

Now, why should you care about fermented food scraps?

Picture that landfill again. Pretty nasty, huh? Well, every time we throw things in the garbage that we could’ve recycled (or upcycled) (or composted), we’re adding to that pile of trash and increasing our carbon and methane emissions.

Composting helps to reduce that pile by finding a higher purpose for your food and yard trash. Instead of sending those leaves you so painstakingly raked to go sit in a landfill, why not add them to your compost heap? Add in the inedible pieces of the sustainably and organically grown fruits and veggies you used to cook dinner. With a little water, oxygen, and patience (and maybe even some cool additions, like cockroaches or larvae), you’ll have your very own compost pile.

Look at you, shrinking your carbon footprint and reducing methane emissions from landfills! Now you have some cool compost you can use to grow more things. You go, Footprint Mag reader!

Last-minute gift that will last the whole year: a Coffee Thermos

Each year my mother spends the weeks after Thanksgiving repeatedly asking me what I want for Christmas, and I never know what to ask for! I usually don’t tell her and I end up getting socks, some books that aren’t on my desired reading list, and other things I don’t particularly want. So when my mother asked me this year I set about thinking of practical items I could ask for that I would want to use in my everyday life. One such item was a Starbucks coffee thermos.

Judge if you will, but I can honestly say that I am a huge fan of Starbucks. I love that almost anywhere I go, I can get the same product at roughly the same price and have a familiar experience. I find that consistency rather relaxing, in fact.

I usually go to Starbucks every Monday morning, to kick start my week, as well as Friday afternoon, as a sort of reward to myself for making it through the week. I also go a few more times each month to have coffee with friends that I may not see on a regular basis. If you think about it, that’s around 100 to 150 cups of coffee each year. Or, if you’re being specific, 100 to 150 cups, lids, and straws or cup sleeves each year.

I found it a bit disturbing that I was creating that much waste with my habit of going to Starbucks. Meghan Eldridge, who also writes for Footprint, pointed out to me that all of these items are recyclable, but that didn’t make me feel much better. Hence my asking my mother for a Starbucks thermos.

The one I chose was a 16oz. model so that I can get a tall or grande beverage (depending on how much caffein I’m in the mood for). I will now also have a thermos that I can use for my favorite tea that I make at home. Furthermore, Starbucks gives me a ten cent discount each time I use my thermos, meaning the $20 thermos pays for itself after 200 uses or in my case one and a half to two years. I’ve now had my Sigg water bottle for about five years, so I’m sure I’ll have no trouble using my Starbucks thermos for double or triple the time it will take it to pay for itself.

For those of you who enjoy an occasional cup of Starbucks coffee but don’t generally go enough to justify buying a reusable thermos, there’s no need to fear! Starbucks does lots of cool things to help the environment. One of the major projects Starbucks is working on is making their coffee cups more sustainable. In fact, they have held several “cup summits” over the years to bring innovators together to find ways to make their cups more environmentally friendly. They also recycle most of the packaging behind the counter that the customers never even see. However, one of their initiatives that I found most interesting is that, upon request, Starbucks will give you a free 5lb. bag of used coffee grounds for your compost. Some of the locations even take their used coffee grounds to commercial composting companies nearby.

Obviously Starbucks isn’t perfect. There are still many things they could work on, but then so could all of us. It’s just nice to know a business that I frequent is making an effort to improve it’s sustainability and that I can take part in that.

To find out more about Starbucks’ sustainability efforts visit the following link: http://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/learn-more/goals-and-progress

Living the Old Life

By Briney Bischof

Martin Bellmann
Martin Bellmann stands in front of the woodshed he is building. The shed is made with reused metal siding and will keep the wood they use to heat the house in the winter from getting wet.

Martin Bellmann has a self-sufficient lifestyle. When Bellmann talks about the inspiration behind his log cabin he says, “I’ve always had a strong interest in the old ways of doing things, in a way of living that was slower, gentler, self-sustaining, and more in balance with the rhythms of nature.” Bellmann lives this principle with his everyday life.

Eva Bellmann watches the weather before they go to Ashland to cut up downed trees, which they plan on using for different building projects in the future.

He continues to say that he finds the American frontier and the lifestyles associated with it very interesting and he has always wanted to do the pioneering thing.

Bellmann and his wife Eva Bellmann live outside of Jamestown, Missouri in a log cabin that he built himself 10 years ago, according to him. He says the cabin itself is made partially from the corncrib of the barn that used to stand on his property.  The cabin did not have electricity until seven or eight years ago and it did not have running water until last year, Bellman says. Continue reading Living the Old Life