Archive for April, 2006

Indoor Compost Bin

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How to make an at home indoor compost bin that DOESN’T stink.

When my husband, Ariah, asked me if I wouldn’t mind trying to compost inside our apartment I had some visions of sharing our apartment with overgrown, slimy, yucky little critters. I envisioned dirt everywhere and a huge mess with rotting food smell to boot. It turns out that I was wrong, and we have about 500 little clean worms under our sink contained in a wonderful home-made little composting system that (my happiest little part) DOES NOT smell!

So do you want to know how to make your composting dreams a reality? Follow our steps and we will get you going.

1. Order worm friends. In order to do this you will need to search online (if you’re reading this you are capable of ordering them online, thankfully) which is pretty easy and will take a little while. A website that we used was Worm Man’s Worm Farm. Mail Order Worms
2. Collect newspapers without color (this may take you a couple of weeks) so that you can shred them into pieces about 1-2 inches in width. (This is actually kinda fun because you get print all over your little grippers and you get to tear apart any ads that may be totally ridiculous or any articles that you don’t like the author of.) I would recommend doing all of the shredding at once so that you sit in a fun pile of paper AND only make as much as you need. Make Strips of newspaper
3. Select a good sized bin (you can see the picture of perfection in our bin 2′x3′x1′ Rubbermaid, which fits nicely and snugly under our sink in the cupboard). Having a bin with a large surface area is more important than having a deep bin. Using a sharp object, like scissors or a knife, put holes in the sides about 2/3rds of the way from the bottom. This gives your friends the oxygen needed to turn your rotting veggies into great compost. Putting holes in your bin
4. Take your shredded newspaper and get it wet in your sink. Now, if you take it and hold it under the water to soak it and then squeeze it out like a sponge it is kinda fun – and the benefit is that you won’t totally drown your new worm friends. (NOTE: sometimes worms like a little change in texture…so if you are adventurous you could also add some wet shredded thin cardboard to your bin – a good example of this type of cardboard is the toilet-paper role!) Wetting your bed
5. Spread the damp/wet and loosened newspaper in the bottom of your bin to cover it to about the depth of 1/2 full. This is their nice little bed. Then spread your new worms over the bed and watch them wiggle. This is the fun part where you get to say hello and say any blessing over their work that you would like to do. And then cover them up with about 2 more inches of the damp/wet newsprint that you have shredded, wet, squeezed out, and loosened. Spreading the newspaper
6. Next you wait one week to let the friends get accustomed to their newspaper home after which time you can take veggie/food scraps that you have. Good ones are carrot peels, excess from cutting celery, banana peels, and actually egg shells crushed up (if you are going to do egg-shells you need to rinse the shells right after you crack them so that they don’t have any gook on them when you put them into the bin), coffee grounds that have been used, tea bags, used paper towels. Things to avoid putting in your compost pile: meat scraps, actual eggs, anything that is already rotting. or other leftovers. Let your composting begin
7. Wait, and smell the nothingness of your bin while the worms do their job and fulfill their purpose.

NOTE: Wormies like to be in a dark cool place that has not TOO much noise or movement of their bin. If you open up the bin with the light on they will run away because they don’t like the light…so if some of them wiggle near the top of the bin just open it up and watch them retreat.

Another NOTE: You can add about 1-2 pounds of veggie scraps to your bin every week, and the best way not to disturb your little friends every day is to collect them in a larger tupperware bin in your refrigerator through the week and then open the bin to put them in once on the weekend or something.

One more NOTE: For up-keep of the bin you need to move the created compost to one side of the bin and then add some more of the good damp/wet paper to the other half and ONLY put your food scraps on this new half. This will coax your worms to the new bedding and then you can take the created dirt and put it in your garden! This is good to do after about 3 months, but you can wait until about 6 months if you are like us and don’t want to do it that often. Just make sure that your friends aren’t drowning in the nutrient rich liquid that gathers at the bottom of the bin (and if it is gathering, just add some shredded but dry newspaper).

Outdoor Compost Bin


I walk out my backdoor 32 steps, past the shed that Mike built, past the forsythia that is starting to bloom to my15 year old compost bin in the back corner of our yard. I dump the little bucket-full of grapefruit rind, banana peels and coffee grounds on top of the decomposing leaves and know I?m doing something good for the earth. But let?s start over so I can tell you exactly how you could start a compost bin of your own, just like ours.

First you need to get a wire frame in which to dump all of your stuff. We purchased a do it yourself compost bin years ago, but it is just as easy to buy 7 sections of sturdy wire measuring 36x36x26 from your local hardware store. We have three separate bins, each is 36? wide and 36? deep and 26? high and made of plastic covered wire. The three bins are connected with a chain link fence comprising the back wall of each bin. Because it was possible to utilize the chain link fence in the back, we were able to make 3 joined compartments out of the 7 36x36x26 sections.

We joined them together using long wires on the sides of each section, but you could buy extra wire and using a pair of pliers, wrap it around each section you are joining. If you don?t have a chain link fence to hook it up to, you would be able to make a 2 compartment bin with the 7 sections using the same method. It is best to situate the bin with as much exposure to the sun as possible. Ours gets more sun when there are not leaves on the trees and we have trimmed trees in order to expose it to as much sun as possible.

The bulk of the contents is leaves from the autumn season, but you need some moist stuff like grass clippings, dead plants, and kitchen waste mixed in to make it go. I don’t like to put in sticks or pinecones or other solid matter because they really don’t decompose fast enough. Be careful not to put the weeds you pull out of your garden into the compost because the seeds will not be destroyed so your compost soil will contain weed seeds.

We keep an orange plastic bucket in the kitchen sink so that every time we are tempted to put some biodegradable item in the disposal, we will see the bucket and put it in there instead. Mike likes to cut everything up into little bits so it will decompose faster, but being the lazy me, I sometimes leave the grapefruit half intact and that?s okay. It will just take a little longer to de-compose. We compost all fruit and vegetable detritus including coffee grounds. However, avoid putting in animal product waste (e.g. bones, eggshells, etc.) because it will stink, attract pests, and not decompose fast.In the fall, we load the bins up with leaves; 97% of the volume of the compost bins is leaves. The kitchen waste we put in the bins speed up the decomposition process of the leaves.

Mike turns the contents more in the spring summer and fall, than in the winter, probably 12 times year. If you leave one bin empty it makes it easier to mix things up with a pitchfork by throwing the stuff from one bin into the other. That turns the pile. The purpose of turning the compost is to put air pockets in between the stuff. If a compost pile is working well it will generate heat from the decomposition happening, you’ll feel it if you plunge your hand into it. But you need oxygen for decomposing. You should turn the pile as often as you can to keep it going. After a rainstorm, the pile will shrink due to the water absorbed. That usually will drive out the oxygen, requiring a turn. Depending on how you choose to practice compost managment, you can either have each bin at different stages or all at the same stage.

Compost piles make great quality dirt by the time they are done! It’s time to take the dirt out when you see that you are turning mostly dirt with your pitchfork. You can separate dirt from the other pretty easily. Then just shovel it out into a wheelbarrow and you can place it somewhere in your yard or garden.

Happy composting!

the Challenge of Late Spring

Happy Earth Day to all! I have chosen this wonderful day to kick off the first annual Challenge of Late Spring. Sound interesting? Sound fun? Sound like something you would love to do? YES! YES! YES!

Well, let me first take a moment to tell you a little about this exciting Challenge. Spring is a wonderful time for new beginnings. Trees and plants that were once barren are covered in fresh new buds, leaves, and flowers. Everything is turning green and even the sun seems to want to shine more. Our days are getting longer. Sweet baby animals are being born to proud parents that are ready to teach them how to be cows, horses, birds, and sheep. Humans cannot help being effected by all that is taking place in the world around them and we become filled with a new sense of hope and life as everything is being given a fresh start.

This may be a little to cheery for some of you, but I am feelin’ it today.

The first annual Challenge of Late Spring is going to ask people to put that wonderful spring energy towards making changes their lifestyle that will have positive affects on the environment and social justice. The idea is for you to go and talk to as many family members and friends as you can and in a loving way ask them to make one change to their lifestyle that will help the environment and/or social justice.

While the Challenge is to get people to make changes to their lifestyle that will make a difference, it is important that we don’t approach people in a judgmental way. It may take some practice, but try and find a way to communicate with people about the environment in a way that they can hear it.

A few ideas to get your brains started:

The list could go on and on. However, I want you to be creative and I want to see pictures and hear all about it! If you take a day with a friend or a group of people and go pick up trash I want to see pictures and hear all about it. Please, please share. If it’s ok I want to share your pictures and stories in later posts.

On your mark…..get set…..GO!

Where do you start?

You finally get that global warming is a HUGE problem. You get that we all need to become A LOT less dependent on oil. You get that we need to start buying products that are made in an environmentally friendly way and using sustainable resources.

Now that you get it you don’t want to hear any more information about the problem of global warming, in fact, you never wanted to hear about it in the first place–you’re not an environmentalist, you’re not an activist, you’re not a scientist, and to be honest, you secretly don’t even care all that much about nature.

The big question now is where do you start making changes? How do you even know what changes you need to make? Is buying a hybrid car and putting solar panels on your house the only that you can do? Or, more to the point, are they the only actions you can take that are actually going to make any significant difference?

No, there are a lot of smaller changes you can make that will have profound positive affects on the environment. By making one change at a time making that lifestyle shift doesn’t have to be so daunting.

As for where to start, you start with the knowledge you already have.

Maybe you have learned that you need to reduce your energy consumption. Do a self evaluation and make a list of all the ways that you use energy. You can also go to Safe Climate and use their calculator to find out your carbon footprint.

Your carbon footprint is a representation of the effect you, or your organization, have on the climate in terms of the total amount of greenhouse gases you produce (measured in units of carbon dioxide). Many of your actions generate carbon emissions, which contribute to accelerating global warming and climate change. By measuring your carbon footprint. . . you can get a better sense of what your individual impact is and which parts of your lifestyle deserve the greatest attention.

Your total carbon footprint would account for the energy used to produce all the products and services you consume, as well as all your other activities, and would be substantially larger [thank the number produced using the carbon footprint calculator]. Home energy use and transportation represent approximately 40% of all U.S. emissions, so for an average person the emissions from these two activities would have to be multiplied by 2.5 to determine the person’s total carbon footprint.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is not the only man-made greenhouse gas – it is simply the one that has accumulated the most in the atmosphere and is presently having the greatest cumulative warming effect on our planet. Human sources of carbon dioxide primarily include the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), and deforestation. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased 30% since pre-industrial times.

SafeClimate typically quotes greenhouse gas units in terms of carbon dioxide (1lb carbon dioxide = 0.2729 lbs of carbon), as well as converting other greenhouse gases into units of carbon dioxide based on their relative global warming potentials. This standardized approach simplifies things and makes for easier and more meaningful comparisons.

Now that you know what you are using energy on and how much, you can begin finding ways to reduce your carbon footprint. You can begin right now by emptying your outlets of the plugs that are currently being stored there. I try to keep all of my outlets empty, minus things like lamps that I am regularly turning on and off. When appliances are plugged in they are taking energy from the outlet even though the appliance is not being used.

Finding ways to reduce the amount of energy you use may take a little research and will mean that you will need to get more informed about what actions you can take. At least now you know where to begin and you can slowly begin to build a repertoire of knowledge that you can draw from and share with others. You can also use a few posts that I have written as resources by going to the one-change homepage and clicking on environment and/or products in the categories section and reading through some of the posts I have written.

Another great resource is My Footprint and take the quiz to find out your Ecological Footprint which estimates you how much “productive land and water you need to support what you use and what you discard”.

Cape Wind

Cape Wind, a proposed wind farm off of Cape Cod, has been getting a lot of attention in the “green” world and is now getting even more since the future of the project is being threatened. Cape Wind would be the United States’ first offshore wind farm and the energy produced by this farm would provide 75% of the Cape and Island’s electricity with clean renewable energy. There will be 130 wind turbines, that are 1/3 to 1/2 a mile away from each other, located over 5 miles away from the closest shore. The problem is that although they will be silent, they are slightly visible from some shores and therefore some wealthy property owners are upset that it is going to hurt their property value. I have to admit, that even though they are hardly visible, I prefer a clean horizon to one spotted with 130 tiny twig-like things. However, if I had to pick between giving up my clean horizon and significantly reduce polution/global warming or an extremely polluted, twig-less horizon, I pick the former (the first one).

If you feel the same way Take Action to protect Cape Wind.

I would also recommend that you read more about the project, Cape Wind environmental studies, the project siting and visual simulations, and the picture simulations of the view from the Cape and Islands.

More on An Inconvenient Truth

About a month ago I wrote a post titled Al Gore and Global Warming in which I discussed Davis Guggenheim’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, staring Al Gore. I just finished watching the trailer for it and I am now more excited than ever to see the movie. It is scheduled for limited release on May 26, 2006. As of right now I have not been able to find what theatres it will be playing in but, if you are interested in seeing it I would continue to look online as we approach the release date.

Overwhelmed with the environment.

It seems that lately there has been so much talk in the “regular world” about the environment. Most days there is at least one segment on National Public Radio (NPR) or more specifically, Chicago Public Radio, that has to do with the environment. TIME magazine focused their April 3, 2006 issue on Global Warming. In it they wrote a great article, The Tipping Point, in which they discuss global warming and its effects. There is Vanity Fair‘s much talked about Green Issue hitting newstands nationally on April 11th. There are blogs, ads, news segments, newspapers, and even grocery stores talking about the environment and global warming.

I love that the environment and global warming are getting so much attention. They deserve so much attention! I love it because I feel really optimistic that the “regular world” is getting informed and that they are going to use that information to make lifestyle changes that will have positive effects on the environment. However, I can’t help feeling a little skeptical and also, at times, a lot overwhelmed. Is all this talk, just talk? Is the attention that the earth is getting because of the upcoming one change at a time, do my one-person-part to take care of the environment, and remember why it is that I choose to live an environmentally and socially responsible life.

Water Conservation and Toilets

How dedicated are you to conserving water? Would you be willing to resuse water with a Toilet Lid Sink? It’s clean water of course because what good would it do to wash your hands in dirty dirty water.

With each flush of your commode, clean water that would otherwise go straight down the toilet is first routed up through a chrome gooseneck spigot to dispense pure water for hand washing. The Toilet Lid Sink installs easily without tools, is attractive for any bathroom and is a great space saver. Shuts off automatically. Porcelain-like white plastic replaces your existing tank top and adjusts to fit standard toilets up to 8in wide and 18-22in long. Built-in soap dish. Overhang varies up to 1.5in.

I think this is a great idea, but would you still keep a sink in your bathroom? Would you wash your face and brush your teeth in the toilet sink? Does anyone already have one?

Thank you Ariah for pointing me to the lifehacker post.

Poverty and the Environment

Recently a friend of mine was asked by a maximum security prison if she would help them start an organic farm that would be located within the walls of the prison. The inmates would grow and eat their own food and give the left over food away. As part of this project she wanted the prison to buy industrial strength juicers so that the inmates could use the fruit and vegetables they have grown to detox; ridding their bodies of the many toxins they have been exposed to throughout their life as a result of growing up in poverty.

Grist Magazine (an environmental magazine based out of Seattle) began a seven week series, in February, on Poverty and the Environment. Weeks One and Two they discuss the environment in terms of the space in which people live, more specifically, looking at the environment in which the poorest among us live.

This is a land where people live near the freeway or next to a power station or miles from public transit; a land where the neighbors include landfills, oil refineries, nuclear-waste repositories, factory farms. This is a whole different kind of environment — but one that is no less American, and no less deserving of a movement to protect and transform it.

This is a reality most of us recognize in the developing world, and it’s true that the confluence of economic and environmental injustice can be particularly extensive and devastating in poor nations. But it is also true — and far less remarked-upon — that poverty and environmental degradation go hand and hand in the United States as well. The lower your income in this country, the higher the likelihood that you will be exposed to toxics at home and on the job. The greater the risk that you will suffer from diseases — ranging from asthma to cancer — caused or exacerbated by environmental factors. The harder it will be for you to find and afford healthy food to put on your table. The less likely you are to live in a community that provides safe outdoor spaces for you and your family to enjoy. And, as recent history tragically exposed, the more vulnerable you are to environmental catastrophes, whether they are natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina or human-made tragedies like the Exxon Valdez.

The definition of poverty in the U.S. given by the U.S. Census Bureau for 2004 was a family of four living on $19,157 or less a year. However, An Atlas of Poverty in America, says that $35,000 is needed to cover the basic needs for a family of four living in the U.S. The number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.1 million in 2004 alone, meaning that now there are 37 million people living at or below the poverty threshold. One-third of those who have been classified as poor are children. Because those in poverty live on such an extremely limited income, they don’t get to choose the home that will be best for their family. Instead, they choose the home that they can afford and most times this means living in bad neighborhoods where their family is left exposed to dangers of many forms. They live in the areas that no one else wants to live because it is better than living on the street. They eat the food that they can afford because it is better than not eating. They work as many jobs as they need to, whatever the job may be. They do their best to survive.

Is it possible, that the inmates I mentioned earlier, many of whom are serving life sentences without parole, are going to have their basic human rights met more than poor who are free?

I realize that we live in a very complex world and that poverty is a very complex problem with no easy or full proof solutions. There are many reasons why people are living in poverty and within those groups of reasons every person’s story and situation is unique. However, this does not give us an excuse to ignore this major problem that is in desperate need of a solution.

Chevy Tahoe

Chevrolet has started a contest for the all new 2007 Chevy Tahoe. The challenge goes as follows:

The all new 2007 Chevy Tahoe is more capable, more responsible, and more refined. Now, you?re the director and it?s your job to communicate this message by creating the best Tahoe online commercial for your chance to win.

So anyone can create and submit an ad? Really? Even environmentalists? Well, ok.

Check out this ad. It happens to be my favorite one. In fact, it might inspire you to submit an ad of your own. Let me know if you do and I would love to check it out.

To read more about these ads that are being submitted by environmentalists and the effect that they are having go to News.com

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