Friday, March 31, 2017

How Compost Heals Your Soil

Guest blogger Charlie Gonzalez
Compost is often described as a panacea for improving all types of soils. Whether you have clay or sandy soils, adding compost (or organic matter) improves the soil structure, and increases its ability to retain moisture and nutrients.

Storing Water for Drier Days
Organic matter acts like a sponge, soaking up excess water and nutrients, and making them available when plants and soil life need them. For every 1% increase in organic matter, soils can store an additional 1/2 gallon of water per square foot (that's 25,000 gallons per acre).

Keeping Carbon Where It's Needed
Not only that, but did you know that organic matter is 58% carbon, and that by adding compost to your soil you are sequestering carbon? In fact, leading soil scientists estimate that if we increased the carbon content of the planet's soils by just 2%, it would offset 100% of our current greenhouse gas emissions (Source: Dr. Rattan Lal).

While we should certainly continue pursuing ways to reduce our carbon footprint by moderating our consumption and increasing efficiency, the excess carbon in the atmosphere still needs to go somewhere. The solution is in building healthy soil!

Turning Waste into a Resource
In the United States we waste 40% of all food produced - an estimated 133 billion pounds each year. Only 3% of that wasted food is currently diverted from landfills. So that other 97% breaks down anaerobically and contributes nearly 25% of all our methane emissions!

By composting you are converting that waste into a valuable resource, building healthy soil and mitigating climate change. That's something to celebrate!

Keep up the good work!

For a wonderful short film on the amazing power of soil, check out “The Soil Story”.


Charlie Gonzalez is an intern at the Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and a business certificate in Sustainable Agriculture Management from Cincinnati State. He is about to complete the M.A. in Urban Sustainability and Resilience at Xavier University, where his thesis is focused on composting.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Grass, Butterflies, Rain Barrels, and Composting?

Guest post from compost-fanatic, Jenny Lohmann.

Grass: I’m not talking about the grass you mow or the grass some states have legalized. I am speaking of ornamental grass, the tall reedy type. I never cut my pampas grass back in the fall. I love the way it looks in comparison to the stark winter landscape especially when blanketed in snow. Of course this year, I never got the chance to gaze upon a snowscape and it is time to cut the dead as new life emerges from the soil.

Butterflies: Little did I know I have been helping the butterfly population in this yearly routine. According to a recently read article on butterflies, some butterfly chrysalis overwinter in ornamental grasses as well as perennials therefore we should not cut them back in the fall. I’ve been a butterfly hero without even knowing it!

Rain Barrels: As a devout re-user, I have installed a few rain barrels to my downspouts. I use them to give my plants and compost non-chlorinated drinks during the growing months. During the winter, they go into storage as do my other garden tools. I recently pulled one out to assist in yard clean up. They’re perfect transport for the tall grasses I just cut back.

My rain barrel came from Save Local Waters' rain barrel art project auction. You can get one for your home too either by bidding online or going to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s Party for the Planet on April 20. If you do go, please stop by and say hi.  We set up every year at this fun and free event.

Composting: Back to my pampas grass and composting. If you’re a seasoned composter, you know these types of reedy plants are not quick to breakdown but they do offer “fluff” or air pockets in your compost bin. However, sometimes you just want to get rid of the reedy plants and twigs from your property. If you happen to live in a community that picks up your yard trimmings and composts them then congratulations. Mine does not L

Fortunately, this great county organization (us) has contracts with private companies so you can take unwanted yard trimmings to a drop off where they will be composted and guess what? It opens this weekend! You can find all the details here.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Confessions of a Soon-To-Be Composter

Guest blog post from future composter, Karli Wood
Prior to starting work at Hamilton County, I had admittedly never composted. From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed confusing and labor-intensive.

After starting to work here, I can safely say that it’s neither.

40% of food in America is tossed in the trash, clogging landfills, not feeding people who need it, and not maximizing the power of food.

When you eat fresh produce, scraps are inevitable. Avocado skins, banana peels, and much more are part of the daily output when you make your own meals.

Separating Food Scraps is Easy
I always felt wasteful throwing these items away, but never realized how simple it was to divert them.

Each day at work, when I have a banana, I save the peel until I return to the lunchroom. Then I simply drop it into our kitchen collector.

When I bring in avocado to top my lunch, I drop the skin into the collector.

When I’m suffering from all-too-common Cincinnati allergies, I toss my tea bag into the collector.

Our Small Actions Create Big Change
These small actions may seem insignificant, but imagine over the course of a year how those everyday items add up.

It’s one thing to throw food scraps into the collector, but I can’t wait until the weather (consistently) warms so I can jump into the composting fun. I want to directly see where my food scraps are going, and what they’re turning into.

Thanks to working at Hamilton County Environmental Services, I can fully see that “small” tasks can have a large impact.

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”
-Vincent Van Gogh