Sunday, August 3, 2008

Another Triathlon, What's Compostable?, Birkenstock Compost Video Part 1

Hi folks,

Yesterday was my big triathlon for the year. It was an olympic distance triathlon: 0.9 mile swim, 28 mile bike, and 6.2 mile run. The bike is my strongest event by a long run, so to speak. I finished in 3 hours and 16 minutes--2 minutes faster this than last year. Next year I'm really psyched to start doing more technical training with a heart rate monitor, etc. Here's how it started...



Here I am pushing through the last mile of the run...























All in all it was a busy day because after the triathlon Alison and I picked wild blueberries, drove all over the back roads of Vermont, and then made this little video of me composting my old birkenstock sandals that were already starting to rot with mildew (because they were very old plus I left them out in the garage for a year!).

The "what's compostable" rule: If it was once alive it'll compost.

So why not leather, rubber, and cork sandals? Check it out...



And speaking of what's compostable, on a previous post I was asked by not drowning waving about large scale versus backyard composting. Here's what was asked:

"hey Holly
do you know much about City composting? Our council here in London (Camden) has just introduced organic waster pick up service - little bins and all.
But they say you can compost things that in my other life as a more rural composter I would never have put into my compost.. and it got me wondering how these things work and maybe you might know??
Perhaps the compost pile of a city is so huge and so hot that anything can be broken down??"

My short answer: you can compost anything in your backyard, including meat, bones, and dairy. The only requirements are that your pile be enclosed (to keep out the critters) and you manage it properly. Managing your compost pile means having the right recipe and turning it regularly. Also, you gotta make sure you have at least 2 bins available for composting. When one bin is full you can start a new batch while letting the 1st one turn into compost (without continually adding more food scraps). And it really doesn't take a huge pile to heat up. That's what I do in my backyard. Of course, I had to design my own bins, which work awesome and look lovely. (These will be for sale on the web in the very near future.) But if you just have an open pile that any dog or raccoon can get into then you might not want to put the meat and bones in. And it's a crying shame to throw these valuable resources away when they could be turned back into fertile soil. Large scale compost facilities are in the business of managing their piles properly. That's why they can take anything. But you can do it too! That's the beauty of it.

Thanks for your compost questions. It's just about my favorite topic.

ciao!
-the compost maven

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12 comments:

not drowning waving said...

Hey! Congratulations on the triathlon and thanks Holly for your reply and some details of the composting science...if it lived, you can compost it....yes, bones, meats, fish leftovers all those things are encouraged in this city composting plan - and over here no Raccoons but plenty of rats and foxes, so let's see what the Camden council does with those.
Thanks again, in it all goes...

Jen said...

Great video Holly,

I was wondering though, aren't the soles on Birks synthetic rubber? If so, should make for an interesting necklace addition...

The City of Toronto green bins also accept things like diapers, sanitary products, plasticated paper (e.g.: ice cream boxes, sugar bags) etc. but they have some fancy pants (eco-friendly so I'm told) way of separating out and then skimming off the plastic from all of the organic papers and cottons. You can also bag stuff in plastic (1 layer only) presumably for the same reason: they skim off the bags.

Cheers, Jen

http://www.toronto.ca/greenbin/

Carol said...

I don't compost meat and bones because of raccoons, rats, possums, etc. Luckily, my city (Berkeley, CA) started a food waste recycling program about a year ago and it is wonderful. We have hardly any garbage anymore. And if the food waste is gonna get too smelly sitting in the green bin all week, I just put all the food scraps in the freezer until garbage pickup day. Hooray for compost!

pam i said...

Looks good but no sound on my copy of the copmost how-to. (I was going to correct that but i like it the way it is.)

pam i said...

Now the sound works ok. Duh?

I though compost bins need closed sides - doesn't that mesh let all the heat out from the edges?

If I ever get custody of the other half of my backyard, my plan is for a copmost bin made from pallets. No fancy american imports here.

Ibster said...

What about methane emissions from the compost heap?

Holly Rae Taylor said...

Thank you all for your comments thus far. A couple quick responses...
Jen, I'm sure you're right about the birkenstock soles. My guess is that we'll eventually find two slabs of foot-shaped synthetic rubber and a handful of buckles. Maybe I can make a wallet out of the soles?? Any ideas?

pam i, the sides don't have to be solid. In fact, I think the contact with air improves the aerobicity of the pile. I think I just made up that word, but basically I'm saying it helps keep it oxygenated. And believe me, my piles are HOT. I can't wait to get my compost thermometer so I can actually show you how hot it is!

And finally, Ibster, good question about the methane. In fact some methane does come off the pile. Carbon release from decomposing organic matter is pretty much inevitable. However, methane release will be negligible in a pile that is well-managed, i.e., good recipe and regularly turned. Even in a poorly managed pile it's a better situation than the methane emitted from landfills. I posted back in March about the greenhouse gas balance of composting. I hope to post about that again soon because I find it fascinating and it's obviously very timely and important.

ciao for niao, and like Carol said, Hooray for compost!

Anonymous said...

I'm all excited to see what will happen!!! Please don't forget to keep us up to date.

Laura said...

WOW!! Congrats on your triathlon and thanks for the compost tips. Just a quick question: why don't you take the buckles away beforehand? I live in a city (we are getting prepared to separate horganic stuff from the rest of the recycling/garbage) and my instinct would be to separate non-horganic parts. But maybe when you are controlling what you do you are free to experiment....

Holly Rae Taylor said...

Thanks Laura. There are two reasons that I didn't remove the buckles (or synthetic rubber soles) beforehand: 1) I completely improvised that whole thing and didn't know I was going to say I would make a necklace out of anything, and 2) you're right, because I'm doing it myself I can go in there and screen stuff out.
But I don't really do that. I generally only put compostable stuff in there. I even remove the little PLU stickers from fruit & veggies because they're plastic.

I'm impressed that your city is starting to compost. Do you know what method of composting they're using?

Laura said...

Any idea how long it will take? Should we start a pool? Winner gets the necklace?

Sonya said...

Holly, that is one kick-ass compost bin. You'd *better* sell them, because I want to buy one! (I will hopefully be buying a house in the next year, and can finally start composting again... I don't think my landlord right now would approve.) I like that it looks like it's all wood and metal--no plastic!

Years ago, I composted a pair of all-hemp sandals (hemp soles and everything) in my parents' compost pile. I did pretty much what you did, just buried them in there and kept using/turning the pile as usual. I remember digging out the buckles about a year later, but at the time I didn't think to save them for a necklace.

And now you've got me all nostalgic for steaming hot compost! I haven't had access to a real garden or compost since I live with my parents, six years ago. That was one of those little details that just slipped my mind, that sometimes the compost would be too hot to touch with my bare hands (a poorly designed gate in the garden fence made it impossible for me to use a wheelbarrow, so I usually ended up carrying the compost into the garden armful by armful).

Sigh. Must buy house. Must start compost pile.