Avocados to Compost
What a way to start off the new year! The first week our office collected this much food waste from our snacks and lunches! In 2012, the Linn County Iowa State University Extension & Outreach office diverted nearly 300 gallons of fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds (lots of them) from the landfill. With the help of a few thousand red wigglers, it is transformed into yummy, sweet smelling compost right under my desk! I didn’t measure the amount of compost we harvested, but I can tell you that the tote was emptied 3 times and was enough to top dress my small grove of hazels and aronia berry shrubs this fall.
You don’t need thousands of red wigglers to do this, we started with just a handful and they reproduced so much that we shared worms to get at least 16 households, a high school ag classroom, a couple of 4-H clubs, my egg farmer and a young agronomist in the composting business. Well, not really “in business’, but we were able to expand the opportunity for individuals and families to divert food waste all over Iowa and beyond, 20 fold!
We now have two vermi-compost bins in the office. The Super Snack Lady, our school nutrition educator, snagged a pickle bucket from a local restaurant and it became the second one now residing in our volunteer coordinator’s office.
People ask if it smells. No, unless we wait too long to put the scraps in the bin and they have started rot. Then I bury the really ripe pieces a little deeper so the worms will work on it right away. But, I have to tell you, the harvested compost smells SWEET and FRESH! Our little friends prefer to be ‘incognito’, so we cover them with about 3 inches of shredded office paper and they do their work quietly and quickly each week without fanfare. The perfect environment is 55-75 degrees fairenheit, dark and moist with a 50-50 mix of green and brown goods. The green goods are high in nitrogen and include things like avocado skins and pulp, banana peels, apple cores, kiwi and broccoli trimmings. The brown ingredients are carbon based and include coffee grounds, tea bags, paper towels and that sort of thing. There are some things that do not compost well - meat, dairy, salad dressing and other fats. We do, however, add clean, crushed egg shells about monthly for some calcium to the mix and to keep the pH balanced.
How much food waste does your household throw into the garbage can each week? Would you consider composting it? Tell us about it at http://blogs.extension.iastate.edu/isuecofamily/