Tag Archives: composting

urban composting

9 Jan

photo-1What image comes to mind when you think of composting?

For many of you, composting goes hand in hand with open spaces, farms, and backyards.

So what about those folks living in urban settings, where backyards are virtually non-existant and open spaces are confined to city parks and stretches of concrete? Are they compost-exempt?

A recent article in the New York Times graciously lists some city friendly composting devices that will help connect urban dwellers with newfound composting routines, as they make strides in reducing their food waste.

A quick summary:

  • Blanco, a sleek bin embedded into your kitchen counter
  • NatureMill, “compost made easy”
  • Worm Factory 360, if you are comfortable with worms in your apartment, this ones for you!
  • Envirocycle Mini, if you do have access to outdoor space, this could be a great option
  • Vokashi, a compost pick up and drop off service

Inspired?

Check out our food & garden summer camp where we collaborate with master-composters to teach our campers the fundamentals of composting.

Rooftop gardens growing throughout NYC public schools

3 Dec

4127236249_d2d5b01d43All over New York City, farms and gardens are sprouting up on public school roofs, backyard lots and even in their front yards!

Educators and lawmakers alike are beginning to put into practice what many supporters of an edible education have been advocating for years: giving kids an opportunity to plant, grow and harvest during the school day.

In a city where most blocks are lined with a few trees or the occasional flowerbed, schoolyard gardens provide urban students firsthand contact with nature, teaching them how food grows. By getting their hands dirty, they cultivate a more evolved knowledge of what constitutes healthy, natural eating, stressing the importance of fresh produce and the lifecycle of food. The importance of garden-based learning can also be viewed as a potential interactive solution to the ongoing obesity challenge that our country faces.

According to GreenThumb, the number of school-based gardens increased exponentially in the span of two years, from 40 to over 230! GreenThumb has been an excellent source for these initiatives, providing community gardens throughout the city with programming and technical support.

On Avenue B and 5th Street in the East Village, a brand new 2,400-square-foot garden opened at the beginning of the school year. Sitting atop a red-brick building that is home to three separate public schools, the Earth School, Public School 64 and Tompkins Square Middle School, this giant rooftop educational farm was designed by Michael Arad. Arad, also the architect behind the National September 11 Memorial further downtown, was inspired to create the Fifth Street Farm after learning that his own children (former students of the school) were in awe that their crisp and juicy apples once were plucked from trees.

The Horticultural Society of New York has been working with over two dozen schools since 1980, helping them with the design, construction, and education curriculum. The Hort’s mission “is to sustain the vital connection between people and plants” as they help out with the Earth School as well as more recently with four public schools in Queens.

At P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village, the school’s newly opened 15,000-square foot garden is more than a source of fresh produce for lunch, but has really become an outdoor classroom. By teaching kids about art, science, and math through the lens of gardening, their school-day routine becomes more of a hands-on experience.

This summer, for our third year, Butter Beans will be holding our Food & Garden Camp. With a similar mindset as these schools, our goal is to give your children a unique farm-to-table experience. From July to August, we will be covering the gamut of the food cycle from sprouting seeds and harvesting fresh food from rooftop gardens, to writing our very own cookbooks. Visit our website for more information.

For another great examples of greening schools, check out this edible schoolyard in East London, where lots of growing is taking place each day (check out their “lessons in loaf” pictures, they are wonderful!), and get to know Leave It Better, an organization that is accomplishing great feats in greening our local school communities as well.

Photos courtesy of kthread and growtolearn.org

Food Waste: From “Farm to Fork to Landfill”

2 Oct

2878997800_c13c7ac94dHave you ever thought twice about throwing out last week’s leftovers? Turns out, you’re not alone! According to the fifth annual Eco Pulse survey, 39% of Americans feel the most “green guilt” for wasting food.

A recent issue paper from the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC), “Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill,” established a framework about U.S. food waste, summarizing the opportunities available to reduce wasted food. Here are some of the paper’s major findings:

  • Americans trash 40% of our food supply every year (that’s around $165 billion)
  • The average American family of four ends up throwing away the equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food
  • Food waste is the single largest component of solid waste in U.S. landfills
  • Just a 15% reduction in losses in the U.S. food supply would save enough food to feed 25 million Americans annually

Dana Gunders, a NRDC project scientist and the issue paper’s author states, “With the price of food continuing to grow, and drought jeopardizing farmers nationwide, now is the time to embrace all the tremendous untapped opportunities to get more out of our food system.”

Jonathan Bloom, author of “American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half its Food (And What We Can do About It),” attributes the main reasons as to why Americans waste so much food to abundance, beauty, and cost. He says,“In terms of beauty, we have reached the point where appearance trumps taste with our food. Anything that doesn’t meet those requirements — whether in the store or in the home — often ends up being thrown out.”

Yet, according to the USDA 1 in 6 Americans don’t have enough to eat.

In order to increase the efficiency of the American food system, the NRDC believes that we must collectively work together by involving decision-makers at every level of the supply chain. Dana Gunders and project scientists hold true that this type of multi-pronged response is needed to prevent this alarming issue from getting worse. They believe that the key decision-makers are the federal government, state and local governments, businesses both large and small, and of course, the individual American citizen.

Here are some tips to reduce your family’s food waste footprint today:

  • Grocery shop more frequently, to minimize the potential for wasting perishable produce.
  • At the grocery store or farmers market, bring reusable bags with you to save on throw away plastic.
  • Create a detailed shopping list to help curb costly and unnecessary add-ons.
  • Freeze any leftovers that you know will not be eaten within a few days, and reuse those leftovers from dinner to pack for lunch the next day.
  • Organize your fridge, and keep tabs on what it holds. Knowing your inventory helps reduce food waste. Keep half used items in plain sight so you feel inspired to use them up first.
  • Make an everything dish that uses up ingredients that need to be cooked, like a frittata, vegetable soup, quick breads or casseroles.
  • Compost: if you don’t have space for a compost bin, you can keep a sturdy freezer bag of your food scraps and store in your freezer. Freezing your compost will help cut out any smells. Many farmers markets take household compost, like GrowNYC. Just bring it on over, and your food scraps will be turned into fertile soil for use in urban farming and gardening projects.

Becoming informed of the waste that we contribute to is just the first step. Check out how some people have started to tackle the waste, and try finding a better home for your food than the landfill. For inspiring examples of food waste solutions, take a look at what City Harvest and the Food Bank for New York City are up to. Let us know what steps you are taking to help curb your food waste at home.

Photo courtesy of Loopzilla

first day of our food & garden summer camp!

2 Jul

We are excited to kick off our inaugural day of our food & garden summer camp this morning! We have a fun-filled week planned with trips to the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, Bowling Green Farmer’s Market, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Union Square Farmer’s Market. We will be picnicking, cooking up a storm, learning about growing food, composting, farming, and seasonal balanced eating. It’s going to be an amazing adventure for all, and we look forward to keeping you updated on all of our summer fun!

Community composting in action + The Lower East Side Ecology Center

23 Jun

Community composting is great for so many reasons. Turning your food scraps into soil, is magical. And meeting your neighbors at the park, with your weeks supply of food waste in hand is inspiring. The more people are out and about on their way to contribute their compostable waste, the more conversations happen about it, and more and more composting happens. Composting is one of those things, like picking up after your dog and sweeping the sidewalk in front of your home, that especially when done in community, makes you feel like a great citizen.

Did you know that 17% of NYC’s waste stream is food waste? When this material is sent to a landfill it contributes to NYC’s disposal costs and can create greenhouse gas emissions. When composted, food scraps and other organic waste become a useful product that adds nutrients and improves the quality of soil for street trees, gardens and more.

The above image of a growing pile of compost shows how quickly the composting initiatives are growing in NYC this spring and summer. This is a part of a 4 month pilot program to see what happens when community composting programs are initiated in our city. Thanks to City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and the New York City Council and Action Carting Environmental Services, and to community composting partners at the Lower East Side Ecology Center, Ft. Greene Compost Project and the Western Queens Compost Initiative – the compost pile is growing, and our collective consciousness of our waste habits, is also growing alongside the pile.

We are excited to spend time with the Lower East Side Ecology Center’s master composters this summer during our Food & Garden camp. The Ecology center has been offering a community composting program since 1990 at their community garden on East 7th Street, between Avenues B and C.  We will be getting our hands dirty and learning all there is to learn about composting in gardens, and in our communities. If you are interested in learning more, they offer classes to the public and even offer a 6 week Master Composters certification course.

May we all become experts in separating out our spoils to make soil.