- Author: Deborah Schnur
I couldn't believe it when I heard that COMPOST2023, billed as “the world's largest composting event”, was going to be held in Ontario, California in January. What were the odds that a composting enthusiast such as myself would be so close to the action? I'm so glad I was able to attend as a volunteer! This year's theme was “Capturing Carbon Renewing Soil”, emphasizing the importance of composting in reducing carbon emissions and enhancing soil health.
COMPOST2023 ran from Monday, January 23rd to Friday, January 27th, starting with two days of pre-conference activities. On the first day, I attended the Cultivating Community Composting Forum at the Ontario Convention Center. The second day was a Field Day with bus tours of local composting sites. I attended conference sessions at the Convention Center on Wednesday and Thursday and volunteered for Demo Day at One Stop Landscape Supply on Friday. It was a lot to absorb in such a short time.
The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) coordinated the Cultivating Community Composting Forum and related Field Day activities. ISLR's Composting for Community Initiative works to advance “local composting to create jobs, enhance soils, protect the climate, and reduce waste through advocacy, training, research, demonstration sites, and coalition building”. The goals of the forum were to share best practices and build support for small-scale, community-based composting.
After a short break, the forum attendees reconvened for two peer-to-peer chat sessions on topics including scaling up, business and mission planning, funding and financing, and communications. I attended the sessions on community building and composting methods and best practices. These chats gave me the opportunity to share experiences with composters from across the country–from Peels & Wheels Composting in New Haven, Connecticut to ReMark Composting Solutions in Detroit to Hart's Worm Farm in Irvine.
The afternoon agenda consisted of two concurrent presentation sessions followed by two panels. One of the most memorable presentations was “Generating Excitement About Community Composting in an Urban, Chronically Marginalized Community” by Marvin Hayes and Kenny Moss of the Baltimore Compost Collective. Marvin is the Executive Director of the Collective which collects food scraps from residences and composts them at the Filbert Street Community Garden. Kenny, a student leader in the youth entrepreneurship program, helps manage the composting operations. In a catchy poem, Marvin described the role of composting this way: “Learn so we don't have to burn. Starve the incinerator. Feed the soil. Feed the Community! Clean air for Baltimore.” In 2022, the Baltimore Compost Collective served over 300 customers and increased its waste diversion by 40%.
Kourtnii Brown told the story of how the California Alliance for Community Composting (CACC) launched 120 community composting hubs with a $1.54M Community Composting for Green Spaces grant from CalRecycle. The network of composting sites spanned the state in 6 regions: the Bay Area, Fresno & Central California, the Inland Empire, Greater Los Angeles, Sacramento & Northern California, and Greater San Diego. CACC provided on-site support with skilled staff, infrastructure, community building, and program development. In the summer of 2021, CACC held a Soil Stewardship Training retreat (also called “Soil Summer Camp”) at Amy's Farm to train the trainers at the composting sites. Training recordings are available for public view on YouTube. Since 2020, the sites have diverted millions of organic waste from landfills and produced thousands of cubic yards of compost. The first round of CalRecycle funding just ended in January, and organizations have submitted applications for a second round.
Of the two afternoon composting site tours, I opted for the one that included Temple Beth Israel in Pomona, Claremont Friends Meeting, and the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation in San Dimas. Temple Beth Israel was the newest composting site we visited. There are an impressive number of raised beds on the property (around 20 from what I remember), where onions, herbs, greens, and other vegetables are grown in partnership with Uncommon Good. Ten small businesses provide food waste for composting next to the planting beds.
If you want to learn more about composting, check out our UCCE San Bernardino YouTube channel or contact the Master Gardener Helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org or (909) 387-2182.
Have you enjoyed reading this blog? Do you have questions? Need help with school gardens or environmental education? Feel free to contact me at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you.
Did you know? All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti?
This class will focus on the non-spiny succulent plants that can be grown in our area, especially those that use less water - and there are a lot to choose from! During class you'll learn the names of common succulent plants, their sun and water requirements, and how to care for them. Classes last approximately 90 minutes.
Stanislaus County Libraries – Gardening with Succulents Classes
Tuesday, October 4, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. – Salida Library
Saturday, October 15, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. – Riverbank Library
Monday, October 10, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. – Ceres Library
Tuesday, October 18, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. – Oakdale Library
Monday, October 24, 2022 at 6:15 p.m. – Modesto Library
Wednesday, October 26, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. – Turlock Library
Stanislaus County Agricultural Center, Harvest Hall, Gardening with Succulents Workshop
Space is limited, register now at https://ucanr.edu/succulent/workshop/2022
Turlock Community Gardens – Drip Irrigation
Saturday, October 15, 2022 from 9:00-10:30 a.m.
Want to know more about how drip irrigation works? Come learn from our Master Gardener who will give you an overview. Bring your questions!
Patterson Library – Composting Basics
Wednesday, October 12, 2022 at 2:30 p.m.
If you missed our composting classes held at other libraries, you still have a chance to take this one! Learn the basics of composting, including the difference between “greens” and “browns,” what you can and can't compost, and simple tricks for being successful. Plus, one lucky person will take home a free compost bin!
*no need to register for Stanislaus County Library or Turlock Community Garden Classes. Just come. We look forward to meeting you!
Does growing a vegetable garden sound like something you'd like to do, but you don't feel equipped? So, here's the deal. Find some dirt, and then plant. It's that simple. If you want to grow food, the first step is to find some dirt. Consider the usable ground you have. Take a look around. Maybe it's that patch of front lawn that you're tired of mowing, or haven't mowed at all. Could it be the bare spot in the back where the dog likes to poop? Step One is to find some dirt, and don't be judgy about the dirt you have. Your dirt is full of potential.
Your objective is to give your dirt some tender loving care, and your soil will return the favor by giving you healthier plants and better produce. Your soil's mineral composition is what it is, but one element we can be altered is organic material. No matter what kind of dirt you have, adding organic matter will make it better. Organic materials include grass clippings, fallen leaves, straw, wood chips and bark, hulls, plant clippings (chopped small) and everyone's favorite...manure. Now, here's an important point: it takes time for the organic materials to break down and start to enrich the soil, to become usable to plants. So, what's the best and quickest way to get those things into your soil? Compost. Compost is already mostly decomposed organic matter, so it mixes into the soil and continues to decompose slowly, releasing nutrients to plants and improving soil texture. Compost costs money, but you can also make your own in as little as 2 to 3 weeks at little or no cost. This article has a complete description of DIY compost: Compost in a Hurry (UC ANR Publication 8037).
Think of mulching as another method of composting that involves placing a thick layer of organic matter on top of the soil and letting it decompose very slowly. It's even better to put a layer of newspaper or cardboard on the ground first, wet it, and then spread out the organic material on top, about 4 inches thick. The organic matter and the paper or cardboard underneath will break down over the next 6 to 10 months. To add plants, push aside the mulch, expose the paper or cardboard, and cut an "X" large enough to accommodate your plant. Fold back the flaps, dig a hole, and add your plant. When done, lay the flaps back in place and re-cover with mulch. Remember that front lawn that you're thinking could be a vegetable garden? This method of sheet mulching is one way you get rid of the grass! Cover it, mulch it, forget about it. If you want to learn more about lawn removal, here's an article containing complete instructions: Lawn Removal: Do It Right.
UC Master Gardeners of Butte County are part of the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) system. To learn more about us and our upcoming events, and for help with gardening in our area, visit our website. If you have a gardening question or problem, email the Hotline at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a phone message on our Hotline at (530) 538-7201. To speak to a Master Gardener about a gardening issue, or to drop by the MG office during Hotline hours, see the most current information on our Ask Us Hotline webpage.
Stanislaus County Library Composting Classes
Tuesday, September 6, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. – Salida Library
Saturday, September 10, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. – Riverbank Library
Monday, September 12, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. – Ceres Library
Tuesday, September 20, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. – Oakdale Library
Monday, September 26, 2022 at 6:15 p.m. – Modesto Library
Wednesday, September 28, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. – Turlock Library
Stanislaus County Agricultural Center, Harvest Hall Composting Class
Tuesday, September 27, 2022 at 6:00 p.m. rooms D&E
Turlock Community Gardens
We taught composting at this location in spring, so this month we are offering vermicomposting, the fun and easy way to compost kitchen scraps using red wiggler worms. Children are welcome!
Saturday, September 17, 2022 at 9:00 a.m.
We are offering a Fall Vegetable Gardening Class at the Patterson Library, in case you missed this class last month at other locations. Class is Wednesday, September 14, 2022 at 2:00 p.m. Composting will be taught at the Patterson Library on October 12 at 2:00 p.m.
Never miss a class, bookmark our online calendar: https://ucanr.edu/sites/stancountymg/Calendar//h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>
- Author: Deborah Schnur
Ever since Senate Bill 1383 took effect earlier this year, local governments and organizations across California have been scrambling to develop strategies to recycle organic waste. Schools are no exception. As I discussed in my February blog, SB 1383 requires our state to reduce organic waste disposal by 75% and increase edible food recovery by 20% by 2025 (relative to 2014 levels). California schools and universities generate over 560,000 tons of waste per year according to CalRecycle. While implementing programs to reduce and recycle waste, schools are in a unique position to teach youth about a wide variety of environmental topics including resource conservation, composting, and food rescue.
A good way for schools to start developing a waste handling strategy is to conduct a waste audit. The main goal is to characterize the type, quantity, and source of materials being discarded. An audit is often part of a more comprehensive assessment to evaluate school district policies and procedures that affect waste generation. In 2014, CalRecycle performed a waste characterization study using 45 samples from K-12 schools. The study showed that the largest components of the waste stream were organics (50.8%), paper (31.4%), and plastic (12.7%). The organics category included food, plant material, and some textiles.
I recently helped Cassidy Furnari, the Upland School District Farm to School Program Manager, conduct a lunchtime cafeteria waste audit at Upland High School. The Farm to School Program is part of the Nutrition Services Department, which is concerned about food waste and cost. Cassidy and I recruited members of the school garden club, GRO (Grow Recycle Organize), to participate in the audit to empower them to promote change on campus. The students are currently preparing to present their results at an upcoming Board of Education meeting.
The first step we took in planning our waste audit was to write a brief project plan. To keep the project manageable, we decided to perform an audit during a typical 30-minute lunch period. Upland High School has over 3000 students who all eat at the same time. Only seniors are allowed to leave campus during lunch.
To avoid influencing student behavior, we didn't make any major changes to the meal service or trash disposal. Rather than asking students to sort their own waste, we placed distinctive purple liners inside existing trash containers shortly before the lunch period. The week before the audit we counted over 90 trash containers in the areas where students eat lunch.
During the planning process, we informed and consulted with the school administration, cafeteria staff, custodial staff, and parents of the garden club members. We also asked for help from our friends at the Community Composting for Green Spaces Grant Program to tap into their experience with waste audits.
To design our data collection sheets, we considered what questions we wanted to answer. What is the total weight of the waste? How much of the waste is food, paper, plastic, aluminum, and glass? How much can be composted or recycled? How much uneaten cafeteria food can be recovered? By answering these questions and others, we can help the Nutrition Services Department make more sustainable and economical food purchasing and packaging decisions.
After a month of planning, the big day of the waste audit finally arrived on March 9th. Our team consisted of nine people from Upland Farm to School and Community Composting for Green Spaces. Our first tasks were placing purple bags in the trash receptacles and setting up a staging area to sort the waste. Before we knew it, the lunch period had come and gone, and the hard work of collecting the bags and sorting the waste began. Sorting was much messier and more tedious than I had expected, especially since we had over 30 waste categories. The garden club members joined us after school to help count, weigh, and record the items in different waste categories. We eventually finished tallying the results and cleaning up six hours after we started. It was a long day!
What did we learn from our waste audit? Although we're still analyzing the results, we've already answered our initial questions. The total waste generated in a single lunch period was 370 lbs. The two largest types of waste material by weight were food (63%) and paper (19%), and more than 80% of the waste was compostable or recyclable. Students threw away over 200 pieces of uneaten whole fruit and 40 unopened cartons of milk, which potentially could have been recovered. Every question we answer gives rise to new questions and new ways to examine the data. We're already thinking about performing a waste audit at an elementary school to see how the waste profile compares.
I hope this story inspires you to support waste reduction, recycling, and recovery efforts in your local schools. Stay tuned for an update on my journey into school waste auditing in a future blog!
 CalRecycle. School Waste Reduction Programs. https://calrecycle.ca.gov/recycle/schools
 CalRecycle. School Waste Composition. https://calrecycle.ca.gov/recycle/schools/composition