In the carpark garden

24th February 2011 by

Last May when we moved offices everyone got very excited about the courtyard we face onto. The letting agents think it’s a carpark, but we maintain that it’s a courtyard. And everyone knows that a courtyard needs two things: bike racks and greenery.

Said letting agents did actually get some extra bike racks installed for the cycling behemoth that is Otesha. They have frowned a bit about the greenery, but we have persisted. So much so that even in February we’ve been eating carpark garden grown salad in our lunches.

Together with our officemates My Bnk and Foodcycle we’ve begged, borrowed and found-in-skips enough pots and planters to meet our growing needs. We filled them with compost from Spitalfields City Farm and from our very own wormcafe. We scattered some seeds, sat back at our desks and watched them grow. Over the summer we ate our own tomatoes, chives, chillies, mint, green beans, basil, rosemary, nasturtium, rocket and mizuna. The wormery takes care of all food waste and teabags (the teabags far outweigh the food waste, either we’re not very wasteful or we drink too much tea).

We haven’t yet decided what to plant this year. The mizuna just keeps on coming, the chives are just popping their heads up through the soil and we’ve got a coriander sprouting in preparation on the desk. There’s talk of trying potatoes and strawberries, one of the interns wants to make strawberry mash!

Monthly challenge: Catch the compost fever…

8th February 2011 by

This month we challenge you to start composting. Where there’s a will – there’s a way and we’ve got a wheelbarrow full of different ways to do it.

Why compost you ask?

The UK sends more waste to landfill than any other European county, with more than 27 million tonnes of waste going to landfill each year. This has earned the UK the title of the ‘dustbin of Europe’. More than a third of this household rubbish is kitchen or garden waste. Green waste in landfills does not break down through natural composting and instead gives off methane, a greenhouse gas which is around 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide and since the 1960s has increased in the air 1% per year (twice as fast as the build up of CO2). Organic substances need the proper environment to biodegrade and landfills aren’t one of them. Most landfills are too tightly packed, and there’s a possibility of industrial processing which skews the biodegradation process. Quite aside of the issue of wasting all that food, the environmental benefits of keeping green waste out of landfills are pretty clear!

If you need even more reasons on why to compost, read on:

1. Economic Benefits: Using compost can reduce the need for water, fertilizers, and pesticides. It serves as a marketable commodity and is a low-cost alternative to standard landfill cover and artificial soil amendments. It can also aid the government to cut disposal costs for waste and spend it on other social services.

2. Garden and Soil Improvement: Compost can improve soil texture, nutritional quality and can help regenerate poor soils. It has also been shown to suppress plant diseases and pests, promote high yields of agricultural crops, prevent erosion and silting on embankments parallel to creeks, lakes, and rivers, and prevents erosion and turf loss on roadsides, hillsides, and playing fields.

3. Helping Biodiversity: Currently, peat bogs are being destroyed to make potting compost. When making your own compost, you can avoid purchasing it from the shops at the same time as encouraging worms and keeping birds happy.

One of the most obvious ways of keeping green waste out of landfill is not to throw away so much in the first place. Some amount of food waste is going to be inevitable, so home composting your peelings and egg-shells along with greenery from your garden can be a big help. Even if you have almost no wastage and a tiny garden, home composting can still make a worthwhile contribution to solving the bigger problem.

And in the future, perhaps the government could turn it into eco fuel.

Make Your Own:

If you’ve got some outdoor space, creating your own compost is easy in a bought compost bin, a homemade bin or a big pile. Earth Friends have loads of advice on all three options and some advanced composting tips.

If you’re feeling adventurous go all out a build your own wormery.

If you’re short on space make your own mini composter.

Or find out if your local authority is subsidising compost bins (and water butts and all sorts of other garden goodies).

Get your food waste collected:

If you don’t have an outside area to create your own compost, you still have plenty of other alternatives.

1. Home collection for garden and kitchen waste
Many local authorities and community organisations will collect waste from your home for composting. Many of them compost this waste and sell it for use at home. Green waste collections are often free but some councils charge a small fee.
To find your local council website that deals with disposing of garden waste click here.

2. Taking garden waste to a recycling centre
You can also take garden waste to your local household waste and recycling centre (civic amenity site). You will find skips for garden waste that will be composted, and the compost sold or used locally. Your council looks after local waste and recycling centres and can advise you on opening times and locations. To find more information in your borough, click here.

3. Community composting
Contact an organisation like the Community Composting Network to get involved in composting projects and for other examples of Centralised Community Composting Schemes around the UK, click here.

Pester your local authority:

Council collections of food waste are on the up, but not all of us have access to them yet. So let your council know that you’d like them to collect your food waste that you very much and encourage your neighbours to do the same.

We’ve even made you a template letter/ email to get you started:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am concerned about the millions of tons of rubbish going to landfill each year in the UK and the greenhouse effect of methane caused by green waste and food waste in landfill sites. I think I can reduce my household waste by at least 30% by recycling food waste, but I have no way to do it myself. I would like the council to help me by providing a doorstep food recycling scheme, or by advising other ways that I can recycle my food waste.

Thank you in advance for your assistance,

Yours sincerely,
[insert name here]

[insert address here]

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