Upcoming Composting Workshops: Learn How Composting Can Make the World Healthier

Composting a Backyard in Newark.jpg
Composting a Backyard in Newark

Did you know home composting reduces methane emissions and helps sequester carbon—all in the space of your own back yard?  And you can create a home-grown soil amendment, which will make your soil, your garden, and the rest of your landscape environmentally healthier.  This session explains how to compost vegetable and fruit waste from your kitchen, along with other organic waste.  We will discuss compost “recipes,” how to choose or build a composter, and how to troubleshoot any challenges that arise.  A counter top collection container and easy to use take home handouts with reminders from the session and a resource list for further reading will be provided.

Whether you have never composted or are currently composting, THIS WORKSHOP IS FOR YOU!

NON-COMPOSTER:  Are you thinking, “It would be too hard to compost at my house.  I don’t have time, I don’t have a yard or I am afraid that my neighbors will think my compost pile is stinky.  Why should I come to this workshop?”

  • Learn how you can be a “lazy-composter” like me, minimizing work but still getting the best soil feeding food ever.
  • Learn how to avoid odors.
  • Learn how to compost even on a balcony, in your garage or in your kitchen.

ALREADY COMPOSTING AT HOME:  Are you thinking, “I already compost at my home, so I don’t need to learn how to compost.  Why should I come to this workshop?”

  • Learn about the soil foodweb that makes soil able to support optimal plant growth while also cleaning up pollutants out of the air and water.
  • Learn a better way of applying compost to your garden, to help reduce weeds and also reduce the soil nutrient losses that occur with standard compost adding and even standard gardening practices.
  • Learn how composting can help reduce harmful volatization/gasification of carbon.

Composting Workshop Dates and Locations:

  • February 15 , 2017: Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Pennington, 7-9 p.m. $20/$15 (includes free counter top collection container and “Rottwheeler”)  See: http://www.njriverfriendly.org/resident (scroll down for workshops)
  • February 22, 2017: Fairview Farm Wildlife Preserve, Bedminster, 7-9 p.m. $20/$15 (includes free counter top collection container and “Rottwheeler”)  See: http://www.njriverfriendly.org/resident (scroll down for workshops)
Simple Pallet Composter.jpg
Simple Pallet Composter With a Leaf Corral for Carbon Sourcing



The Commons and the Conscience

By:  Lindsay Sementelli

As you may already know, in my last two posts, I have been thinking about ways for people to change their way of thinking about our relationship to the natural world.  Once again, as Philip Loring wrote, we are not intrinsically at odds with nature even though many other great minds have paved the way for us to have this type of attitude.  In his article “It’s Time for a New Story of Humanity’s Place in the World,” Loring mentioned the late Garrett Hardin, a professor of biology at University of California, Santa Barbara who published the influential “Tragedy of the Commons” in 1968.  The tragedy of the commons is an elaborate metaphor and philosophy Hardin uses to demonstrate how we humans are exhausting the earth and to suggest how we can, either for the better or worse of our personal freedoms, make a big change.  Ultimately, this is our own choice.

So, what are these “commons” that Hardin is speaking of?  Imagine the commons as an enormous stretch of open farmland.  A farmer may start out putting a small herd of cows (their own personal resource) onto this vast pasture (a resource that must be shared).  This person will eventually come to realize that they will benefit from adding more cows to their herd.  As they add the animals one by one, they will have more meat and milk for themselves or cows to sell or trade for other resources.  How will adding just a small amount of cows, or even just one more cow to the herd make a real impact?  An impact is made because this particular farmer is not the only one expanding their herd.  If every farmer puts just one more cow out into the pasture while only thinking about how they will benefit from the animal, the pasture will inevitably become too crowded.

Many problems will come along with this overcrowding.  Since this pasture is a shared public resource, all cows and all farmers will be affected.  The pasture will become overgrazed, so all people will not have an equal chance to use the land and expand their own herds.  Such farmers will be pushed out of the land and given less opportunity to support themselves because there is simply not enough space.  Now, let’s step back and look at how this harms the natural world and not just the humans.  If the cows eat up all of the grass in the pasture, the land is destroyed and cannot replenish itself quickly enough to sustain the cows.  Our overzealous actions in this scenario cause a domino effect that will only hurt us in the end by depleting our personal property and supplies of important resources.  (This is just my own, as brief as possible interpretation of this metaphor!  Read “Tragedy of the Commons” in full at http://www.garretthardinsociety.org/articles/art_tragedy_of_the_commons.html)

This is how an important topic of debate today falls into place—the issue of how such a small percentage of people seemingly end up with a large percentage of wealth, resources and opportunities.  Hardin explains how many other currently relevant topics are affected by the idea of the commons as well.  We think that if we choose to do whatever we want with land because we own it or if we have many children because we can currently afford to support them, it is not anyone’s business to interfere.  The truth, Hardin fears, is that we do not think of the long-term consequences of our own choices or how they will impact future generations.  According to him, the solutions to human actions that deplete the earth (like pollution and overpopulation) are to either take personal accountability for our actions out of our own free will or governmental measures may have to be put into place to ensure a better future for humans and non-human living things alike.

This second option surely seems bleak to many people.  It brings to mind many questions like, who can tell us how many children we can have, how much land we can own and whether or not we destroy that land if we so choose?  Why does this matter to anyone else if these things are our own?  It matters because our choices always have consequences—if not on ourselves, then on future generations, on those less fortunate than ourselves and on all of those voiceless but nonetheless, breathing and living things in this world.  This is where the shift in thinking that Loring writes of comes into play.  Aspects of Hardin’s view seem like an ominous vision of the world to come, but things do not need to go that far.  We do not need to fear the loss of our freedoms if we can learn to adapt to living in a more sustainable way.  We need to realize that small actions do make a difference and can add up to a way of life that helps us exist more harmoniously with our world, each other and even our own consciences.

For more real world examples of the tragedy of the commons, check out http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/ten-reallife-examples-of-the-tragedy-of-the-common.html.

Democracy Bucket List

By:  Priscilla Hayes

I think that there should be a participatory democracy bucket list of trips every citizen has to take at least once so they begin to understand how our society and culture work within the context of the bigger and “real” world.  By real world, I don’t mean our financial system, which to me, at least, has always seemed to place value on things more derivative and uncertain than real—futures, predictions of stock values.  The real world is our planet, the world that includes us and all our human created systems, as well as all the natural resources and systems, which we and other organisms depend on for food, water, air, shelter—the basics for every living thing.

What’s on this bucket list?  Being the “trashy” person I am, the first tours I would recommend would be 1) a landfill, 2) a facility where recyclables are sorted (otherwise known as a Materials Recovery Facility or MRF, and the subject of an entire post to itself), 3) a sewerage plant, and 4) maybe a drinking water treatment plant.  This would lay bare the apparent Star Trek-like magic that whisks away our waste to somewhere where it will never trouble us again.  Hopefully, in particular, it would give the viewer the motivation to learn exactly how not to waste and what should be recycled, and, perhaps more importantly, the motivation to be consistent about both avoiding waste and recycling wherever they are—not just at home. MRF PICTURE_copy for bucket list

The sewerage plant and drinking water plant would hopefully impart a bit more respect for the system that delivers water straight into all of our buildings with little to no effort and labor on our part (except for those cases of bottled water), and just as easily, zips “wastewater,”  aka sewage, out and away.

What’s next?  Everyone should do some food system field trips.  Arrange to visit your local farm, and see what it takes to create the food that none of us could live without.  Luckily, in my part of the country, we are blessed by a number of local family farms that grow delicious produce and raise animals for meat on a scale that doesn’t seem to merit the word “factory” in a scornful way.  Some of these farms sell “agro-tourism” along with the produce, so you can take the family here to see some chickens, a few horses or cows. CORN PACKING_copy The fact that the farmer is providing you with some entertainment shouldn’t distract you from the serious business of farming, so just look a little closer.  Look at the crops pushing up through the earth, maybe try to time your visit to a time when some picking, either by hand, or with a machine is being done.  You could even ask the farmer, if you can find him or her free from chores, about the hours they keep and when was the last time they enjoyed a vacation.

Finally, I also think everyone should have to visit a prison.  During my first year of law school, my criminal law class took a field trip.  We visitors were afraid to look at these people in cages, either because they were scary or because it had the feel of a zoo, except there were people locked up.  Like a zoo, it will inspire mixed feelings about what has led to so many living things locked away.

Any of these visits can help inspire you to step back and think about how the choices we make for ourselves project onto the world around us even if we don’t realize it, and how we always have room to improve.