Posts Tagged ‘waste’

Ever feel a bit guilty that you are using what once used to be a stately tree to wipe your behind? The American obsession with soft tissue has been responsible for the clear-cutting of forests across the world, and all just to keep clean in between showers. Simple solution? Bamboo toilet tissue!

According to Simple Ecology, Americans use 50 pounds of tissue paper per person each year. Each household will use two trees a year to fulfill their needs, translating into 200 pounds of paper. This figure is nearly 50% more than in Western Europe and Japan. Furthermore, the processing of the tissue is a major contributor to air and water pollution as well as habitat destruction. The industry is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, and uses many cancer causing chemicals. With a full two-thirds of paper used at home, individuals can do a lot to help reduce their ecological footprint.

Finally, there is a green alternative for your bathroom break. The Tian Zhu Paper Group Co. offers bamboo pulp toilet tissue that is soft, strong, and sustainable. Established in 2006, the company is located in Jinhua Industrial Park, Chishui and operates out of a 70 acre facility. They take advantage of fast growing bamboo to create everything from toilet paper, to facial tissue, napkins, hand towels and kitchen towels. While there is a definite concern over the energy used to transport the paper products, bamboo toilet tissue is a great substitute for the devastation of old growth forests.

According to a report by the NRDC, the United States wastes a staggering 40% of all food produced. That works out to $165 billion of uneaten food each year! Organic matter is the largest solid component of our landfills, and between unsold produce and tossed meals, we glut our dumps and fritter away precious resources. Luckily, some enterprising chefs and bloggers are working towards changing attitudes and practices towards how we treat what we eat.

Culinary Misfits- Hailing from Germany, catering company Culinary Misfits uses fruits and vegetables that the supermarkets and restaurants reject. Misshapen or discolored, the produce is still perfectly good, and suited for such meals as “crooked parsnip” or “twisted cucumber soup”. Founded by Lea Emma Brumsack and Tanja Krakowski, the duo began their careers studying product design. After becoming interested in the urban consumerism and the waste surrounding food production, they opened their business in 2012. Presenting their creations on rescued thrift store dishes, the Culinary Misfits transform unloved vegetables into delicious fare.

Waste Cooking- Usually, you associate reality TV with gross-out antics and poor social behavior. Yet, in Waste Cooking, enterprising dumpster divers and chefs look to Austria’s organic waste bins for materials to make amazing meals. Creator and director David Gross was appalled at the amount of perfectly good food he found chucked into the trash of his native country, and decided that he needed to do something to publicize the nearly 105,000 tons Austrians discarded each year. The episodes, which can be found online through their website, begin with divers roaming the streets by bicycle at night to “shop” for their ingredients. Later, blogger and cook Tobias Judmaier crafts the produce, meats, and cheeses into meals presented in a public place. Upon learning the food’s origins, some are enticed, others are disgusted, but all are more aware of their consumption habits.

GleanSLO- A little closer to home, GleanSLO takes advantage of the bounty of the Central Coast and harvests unwanted fruits and vegetables around the county for the SLO Food Bank. A group of dedicated volunteers gather at farms for a couple of hours throughout the week and donate their time and labor to help feed to hungry. In addition to the feeling of a job well done, participants also get to meet their fellow community members and often take home excess food for themselves. The farmers get a tax credit and cleanup, empty stomachs get healthy and high-quality groceries, and gleaners get a great workout and some treats to take with them.

The days are growing longer, the rain is falling — albeit intermittently — and the pollen on my porch is in an uproar. In the land of permanent sunshine and perpetual springtime, this could only mean one of two things: spring is either here or very close at hand!

And if you’re a perpetual gardening enthusiast like myself, then your thumbs must be perking up, as green as the oxalis rioting in your flower beds.

I don’t know about you, but when I get to feeling this way, the first thing I do is walk around the side of the house to inspect my compost pile. For me, there’s nothing like a happy heap of compost to put a smile on the face of an organic gardener.

So in order to ensure that happy heap, here’s a quick list of Dos and Don’ts to help you maintain a healthy, well-balanced mound of compost.

Compost Tips for the mindful gardener

1. DON’T let your compost get slimy. This is of paramount importance. If you’re regularly adding buckets of wet “green” kitchen scraps to your backyard heap, you will definitely need to add some dry “brown” waste to the mix.

2. DO add dried leaves, dried lawn trimming and wood chips to help break down the wet kitchen scraps and fresh green garden waste. Ultimately, you want a mix of about 50-50 wet waste (nitrogen) and dry waste (carbon).

3. DON’T just dump your kitchen waste on top of the pile and leave it there for all the world to see. Mix it in, and try to cover it with some older and/or dryer waste.

4. DO add wood and paper ash from your fireplace. Ashes are a great source of potash, or potassium carbonate, an essential component of a rich soil mix.

5. DON’T add ash from petroleum products like starter logs, or from cigarette butts.

6. DO add eggshells in moderation, but generally DON’T add animal products like meat or cheese. They will rot rather than compost. They will also attract unwanted, carnivorous pests and scavengers.

7. DON’T put poop in your compost, either from your pets or yourself. Fecal matter can harbor dangerous bacteria and parasites.

8. DO pee on you pile. A healthy compost pile needs to be kept moist, and readily-available urine actually adds trace minerals that can benefit the mix.

9. DON’T add too many orange peals. Too much of anything can throw your compost out of balance, but the acidity of citrus peels (esp. if clumped together in the pile and not spread around) makes them slow to decompose and attractive to fruit flies.

10. DO add coffee grinds and tea bags. These contain great soil-enriching ingredients. A healthy compost will also break down the paper filters and bags without a problem. Same goes for bathroom tissues and occasional paper towels.

11. DON’T expect wine corks to break down very fast, but they can make a good addition. Natural wine corks are made from oak tree bark, definitely organic matter that will eventually, slowly decompose. In the meantime, their porousness can help with aeration and provide a niche for beneficial microorganisms.

12. DO cut your twigs and branches as small as possible before adding to the heap. Thick branches can take months or years to break down. (One or two long branches across the middle of the pile can actually be helpful for aeration purposes, but they won’t break down.)

13. DON’T worry too much about flies around the compost. That’s pretty normal, as long it doesn’t start looking like a 1950s science fiction movie. With any luck your compost will become home to herds of earthworms. We also get legions of pill bugs loitering in our compost; they thrive on the moisture. They also help break things down because they will eat anything that doesn’t move, and yet they’re relatively harmless as far as garden critters go.

14. DON’T expect your compost to do all the work. You’ll need to prod it with a shovel from time to time to make sure it’s not drying out or staying to wet. Periodic shoveling will keep it well blended and aerated. Eventually (after 3-6 months), you’ll want to flip the whole pile (so the fresh top layer ends up on the bottom and the more decomposed bottom layer ends up on top), and then start a new pile.

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