Another Reason to Compost: Reducing Landfill Dependency

While many people compost to help their gardens thrive, composting minimizes the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. According the the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we dispose of more than 250 million tons of trash a year. Of those, only 34.1 percent of it was recycled or composted, a figure which could be much higher if we make an effort to lessen the burden on landfills

Landfills Are Filling Up

The number of usable landfills in the United States has sharply declined in the past few decades. In a 2005 report on municipal solid waste generation, the EPA noted that there were 7,924 landfills in 1988, yet only 1,654 in 2005. One of the most-notable landfill closures was Fresh Kills in New York. Once the world’s largest landfill, it was closed in 2001 after being filled with 53 years worth of garbage from the largest U.S. city, according to the Staten Island Advance.

While many landfills are closed when they are full, others are expanded. In Delaware, an expansion of the Cherry Island landfill was recently completed, adding 20.7 million cubic yards in capacity, as noted in a press release from Sevenson Environmental, the environmental remediation company that completed the expansion. The expansion “extended the life of the landfill by about 20 years,” according to the CEO of Sevenson Environmental, Michael Elia.

landfillThe EPA estimates that each American generates around 4.43 pounds of municipal solid waste per day. The agency defines municipal solid waste as any of the everyday items you routinely throw away, including everything from grass clippings and food scraps to clothing, newspapers, bottles and paint. Given the ever-growing U.S. population, we must look to alternative methods to dispose of waste instead of tossing everything in landfills.

Is Composting the Answer?

San Francisco residents have proven that composting can be the answer, especially when paired with recycling. A recent PBS interview with San Francisco mayor Ed Lee explained how the city has been able to divert more than 80 percent of their trash from landfills by legally requiring residents and businesses to compost and recycle. We could dramatically reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills each year if we adopted similar habits as a nation.

How It Works

The U.S. Composting Council defines compost as the resulting product of the controlled biological decomposition of organic matter. Produced by microorganisms that feed off of oxygen, the decomposing waste matter used in composting provides the ideal environment for these micronutrients to flourish and aid in the breakdown of waste to nutrient-rich organic matter. According to the U.S. Composting Council, composting is beneficial in the following ways:

  • Offers plants a variety of micro and macronutrients
  • Controls soil-borne pathogens that threaten plants
  • Balances pH of soil
  • Degrades environmental pollutants

For more information about composting and how you can get started go to:
http://www.blueplanetgreenliving.com/2011/07/22/the-complete-idiot%E2%80%99s-guide-to-composting-by-chris-mclaughlin/

Best Green Colleges Around

College campuses are usually on the forefront of progressive ideas and programs, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to protecting the environment. Let’s take a look at the 10 greenest college campuses in the United States.

American University

Where: Washington, D.C.
Educational opportunities: Green Teaching Certification Program rewards professors for incorporating sustainability content into curriculum
Waste reduction: Recycling programs include diverting 13% of paper waste from landfills by composting paper towels
Renewable energy: 2,150 solar photovoltaic modules on six buildings (largest solar power system in the District of Columbia), 174 solar thermal energy panels added to four buildings provide showers to more than 2,000 campus residents and hot water to the university’s largest dining hall
Facilities and vehicles: Pilot program to certify 25 buildings under LEED system
Other programs: 36% of food purchased meets organic, fair trade or other sustainability measure

College of the Atlantic

Where: Bar Harbor, Maine
Educational opportunities: Major areas of study focus on sustainability and ecology (all students study under what the university calls a system of human ecology)
Waste reduction: All food waste is composted
Renewable energy: Student-led projects have resulted in solar panels and wind turbines on campus
Facilities and vehicles: College has its own organic farm 12 miles from campus that supplies the cafeteria with produce and two livestock farms, Electric van with solar panels provides transportation between the farms and campus
Other programs: In 2007, CoA became the country’s first carbon-neutral college

University of California Los Angeles

Where: Los Angeles, California
Educational opportunities: 200 courses that focus on sustainability
Waste reduction
69% of waste diverted from landfills; 100% by 2020
Renewable energy
Photovoltaic solar panels help power massive student union building
Facilities and vehicles
38% of vehicles run on alternative fuel
Other programs
All computers are Energy Star-rated

Cornell University

Where: Ithaca, New York
Educational opportunities: 300 courses and 28 majors to study sustainability
Waste reduction: 63% of waste is recycled or composted, including 823 tons of food from dining halls
Renewable energy: $46 million investment in energy conservation
Facilities and vehicles: Free bus passes to freshmen and staff and other incentives to use car and bike share programs, vanpools and public transportation, 3,500 acres of biologically diverse natural land on and around campus, 1 LEED Platinum and 8 LEED Gold buildings
Other programs: Carbon neutral by 2050, 25% reduction in carbon emissions by not using coal

Georgia Tech

Where: Atlanta, Georgia
Educational opportunities: 264 courses on sustainability
Waste reduction: Composting programs help divert 900 tons of waste a year
Renewable energy: 1,400,000-gallon cistern collects rain and condensation for flushing and irrigation; the system is the largest on a U.S. college campus
Tech also has one of world’s largest grid-attached rooftop photovoltaic solar systems
Facilities and vehicles: Tech has the largest university residence hall in the world to achieve LEED Gold for existing buildings
Other programs: 40% of produce is locally sourced

Green Mountain College

Where: Poultney, Vermont
Educational opportunities: 46% of grads pursue careers in green jobs
Waste reduction: During 2013 spring move-out, students diverted more than 5,300 pounds of waste from landfills
Renewable energy: 100% renewable energy by 2020.
Facilities and vehicles: Biomass facility allows for campus to be heated by woodchips
Other programs: Only second climate-neutral campus in the U.S.

Stanford University

Where: Stanford, California
Educational opportunities
Sustainability research and teaching is done at all seven schools and key institutes
Waste reduction: Recycling program diverts 65% of solid waste from landfills, University composts about 1,300 tons of food waste each year
Renewable energy: Energy retrofits of older buildings saves 176 million kilowatt hours
Facilities and vehicles: Free bus system powered by biodiesel and diesel-electric hybrids, commute club, free passes on public transit
Other programs: 40% of produce is organic or regionally grown
10,000 gallons of waste oil from dining halls converted to biodiesel fuel

University of California Irvine

Where: Irvine, California
Educational opportunities: 350 sustainability-related classes offered
Waste reduction: Food waste reduced by 58%
Renewable energy: Solar power system that will produce 24 million kilowatt hours over 20 years; equivalent to offsetting 25.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide
Facilities and vehicles: 8 buildings have LEED Gold, 2 have LEED Platinum
Reduces more than 39 million vehicle miles and 19,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually

University of Massachusetts Amherst

Where: Amherst, Massachusetts
Educational opportunities: 25 of 90 undergrad majors are sustainability-related, 250 courses offer some sustainability emphasis
Waste reduction: Recycling and composting divert 53% of waste from landfills
Renewable energy: Award-winning central heating plant provides 100% of heating and 73% of electrical needs on campus
Facilities and vehicles: 13 LEED-registered projects underway
Other programs: 28% of food produced locally

University of Washington

Where: Seattle, Washington
Educational opportunities: 550 courses related to the environment or sustainability
Waste reduction: Recycling and composting divert 57% of waste from landfills
Renewable energy: Energy conservation efforts saving $50 million over 10 years
Facilities and vehicles: More than 300 alternative fuel vehicles
Other programs: Replaced 1,800 old toilets, saving 50 million gallons of water a year, 53% of food served is organic, local or fair trade

Sources:

http://www.american.edu

http://www.coa.edu

http://www.stewardship.gatech.edu

http://sustainability.greenmtn.edu

http://sustainable.stanford.edu

http://www.sustain.ucla.edu

http://f2.washington.edu

http://www.princetonreview.com

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How to Make Your Home More Sustainable

Every day the California state government and business community are working hard to make the state’s cities and businesses more sustainable.

Recent agreements have helped reduce the prices for implementing solar energy for small and medium sized companies who might not have been able to previously afford those upgrades.

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At the state level, California has put plans in place to improve both Groundwater sustainability and to improve sustainability for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program. They are also working to improve the sustainability of their freight industry.

But what about at the residential level? While many residents have opted into renewable power sources for their electrical supply, are there any changes being made to help residents make their homes more sustainable and green? As the severity of the California drought has increased, there have been measures to place restrictions and regulations on residential use of the state’s groundwater supply and Cal Recycle has a list of work being done to improve air quality and other issues facing residents of the Golden State.

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But what about residents who want to take matters into their own hands? If you live in California, here are some of the things that you can do to make your home more sustainable and green up your lifestyle.

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Recycling rainwater can still get great lawns

Recycle Rainwater: This is a biggie. Because of the drought, water is in short supply these days and the quickest way to turn your neighbors into enemies is to try to run your sprinkler or water your lawn. That doesn’t mean, though, that you have to resign yourself to letting your landscaping die or to having a terribly dusty car, etc. Rain is still falling from the sky every now and again (and will likely pour down upon us over the winter as El Nino rears it’s rainy head. Instead of simply letting that water seep into the ground, why not save as much of it as you can? Installing rain barrels is easy and cheap and grey water has a lot of uses (like watering that lawn, washing the car or your clothing, etc). Rainwater harvesting also prevents erosion and other issues that can dramatically affect the supply and quantity of a home (and city)’s water supply.

Use the Sun: Installing solar panels is a great way to reduce your home’s carbon footprint (and your dependency on the municipal power grid). While most residents refrain from going completely solar powered, many have found that even the installation of a couple of panels drastically reduces the amount of municipal energy they consume. Even better, in some cities, like San Diego, opting in to net metering can also help offset a city’s dependence on fossil fuels as well. Solare Energy, one of the more widely used San Diego solar companies, has a fantastic blog post that explains how net metering works.

In addition to solar paneling, many people are opting to purchase solar device chargers now as well. Travelers, in particular, have found solar device chargers save them a lot of time and hassle (airports never have enough outlets).

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Composting: There are a lot of reasons to switch to composting, but chief among them is that it reduces the amount of waste produced by your home. According to SF Gate, more than half of the municipal solid waste collected in 2009 was compostable. Imagine how much room will be saved in landfills by composting your organic materials instead of simply chucking them in the trash bin! In addition to reducing the amount of waste you throw away, composting is a natural way to re-introduce and replenish soil’s nutrients. This reduces the amount of money you spend on fertilizers and artificial nutrients for your garden as well as the number of trips you need to make to the garden and lawn supply store to get those materials.

If you live in an apartment that won’t allow you to compost, don’t fret! You can simply give your organic waste to friends who do compost or you can donate it at local composting centers (Findacomposter.com is a great resource for finding the best place to donate near you).

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Switch to Non-Toxic Cleaning Supplies: Chemical based cleansers release lots of harmful chemicals into the air when you use them. Instead of opting for whatever looks cheapest (and smells best) at the grocery store, why not make your own? Making your own cleansers out of natural products is cheap, easy and will dramatically improve the air quality of your home.

There are a lot of ways to improve your home’s sustainability. Some of them are structural, but many of them are simple habit changes, like starting a compost pile and using natural cleansers. With some practice your home can be completely green!

NuTerra Breaks Ground on State-of-the-Art Haines City Organics Recycling Facility

First aerated static pile (ASP) facility in Florida provides most economical approach

JACKSONVILLE and HAINES CITY, Fla.—NuTerra, a trusted project and service delivery partner to the wastewater and biosolids management industry, today announced the groundbreaking of a new organics recycling facility that initiates the second phase of Haines City’s plan to produce a high-quality compost product to be offered to residents and surrounding communities for lawns, athletic fields, golf courses and agriculture. In his remarks at the groundbreaking, NuTerra CEO Aaron Zahn credited Haines City for its environmental leadership.

“As one of the few municipalities with state-of-the-art wastewater treatment and composting facilities, Haines City is demonstrating its environmental leadership. The new facility will be the first of its kind in Florida, providing the most economical and environmentally friendly approach to organics recycling.”

Using NuTerra’s proprietary process control system, the facility continuously monitors and automates the composting process. This streamlined approach eliminates the need to reposition probes and avoids disruption of the process from exposure to rain, humidity, and other factors that impact the active composting and curing processes. NuTerra’s facility design ensures a high-quality end product and minimal odor nuisances for nearby neighbors.

NuTerra Haines City Organics Recycling Facility groundbreaking in Haines City Fl. Thursday May 14, 2015. Ernst Peters/The Ledger.
NuTerra Haines City Organics Recycling Facility groundbreaking in Haines City Fl. Thursday May 14, 2015. Ernst Peters/The Ledger.

Haines City Utility Director Mike Stripling said, “NuTerra is making it economically possible to live up to our States’s high environmental standards. By recycling and reusing biosolids, yard waste, and other organic waste, we’re reducing disposition costs with far fewer trips to the landfill and mitigating nutrient and ground water pollution. The facility will provide surrounding communities an economically and environmentally advantageous outlet for their organics waste. In addition, offsetting the use of commercial fertilizers with compost by our local athletic fields will result in superior water retention properties and allow for the slow release of beneficial nutrients.”

NuTerra designed the new facility and will build, operate, and maintain it at the wastewater treatment plant’s property site.

The Benefits of Peat Free Compost

When purchasing compost, do you ever think about whether it’s peat or peat free compost? Peat is a finite resource and our earth and wildlife depends on it. We’re extracting peat at the rate of 220 times faster than it takes for it to form. It Forms at 1mm per year and we’re extracting 22cm per year. If peat extraction continues at this rate then we’ll soon have no peatland left. Peat bogs help keep emissions from the atmosphere, provide a habitat for rare plants and are a lifeline for our wildlife.

The infographic below highlights the effects of peat extraction, it details how we can do our bit by considering alternative methods.

The infographic comes from compost specialists Compost Direct suppliers of a wide range of peat-free solutions including mulch and soil conditioner.

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