INTERNal Dialogue: Josh the Intern Geeks Out at Home Depot, Talks Social Media Appreciation, Tests Soil Quality

By Joshua Michael
Intern at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Wow! It’s been quite an adventure at Bootstrap over the last few days. I watched the garage door break, I took part in a very “social” and inspiring social media meeting, Emma and I had a moment bonding over garbage receptacles, and I was given a task to research the soil quality of Bootstrap’s compost. And I painted a wall. All in a week’s work, so let’s get right to it.

Hi my name is Josh and I’m your official Bootstrap Intern

If you own a small business or know anyone who operates a small business, especially a small business that relies on vehicles, then you understand that having your garage door malfunction is a pretty big deal. While Andy, Igor and Faith scrambled to find a quick and effective solution, the Boot remarkably did not lose a step throughout, continuing to serve all clients amid a minor crisis, everyone working together for the collective good. It was impressive to watch the teamwork and camaraderie that keeps Bootstrap succeeding, day in and day out.

“It’s cool to see Bootstrap use social media as a resource to push for causes that need attention or are under attack by government or otherwise. As much as this company is about having a positive impacting on the environment and the community through the service, everyone here is also focused on giving the public access to information, serving as a voice for individuals and inspiring others to make a difference.”

On the topic of camaraderie, I’ve been sitting in on weekly social media strategy meetings with Emma, Andy, and Igor. To say that the meetings are entertaining would be an understatement. Every Monday morning, we engage in a healthy discussion and a few healthy laughs as the company prepares its weekly messaging. It’s a time to share ideas, opinions and maybe a joke or two. From planning a Twitter campaign aimed at providing info on soil science, to pondering over Bill Nye as an option for Bootstrap’s Famous Friday feature (but ultimately arriving at the Great American Chuck Norris, no offense, Bill), everyone does their best to keep a smile on everyone’s face and a huge part of that is through Bootstrap’s creative and open approach toward social media. For Bootstrap, social media is a space to give shout outs to movements, agencies, companies, and individuals that partner with the company. It’s also a time to figure out what Bootstrap is all about from a social responsibility perspective: what message are we spreading & what message should we be spreading?

Chuck Norris appears on Bootstrap’s “Famous Friday” Instagram campaign

I appreciate the social media meetings because it is a brief hour to unwind and discuss what is important locally, historically, and environmentally. As the intern, I’m usually tasked with collecting information for the company’s Twitter feed. It’s cool to see Bootstrap use social media as a resource to push for causes that need attention or are under attack by government or otherwise. As much as this company is about having a positive impacting on the environment and the community through the service, everyone here is also focused on giving the public access to information, serving as a voice for individuals and inspiring others to make a difference.

A Bootstrap SimpleHuman compost receptacle, provided to our office accounts.

Now for the most important part of my week. Emma and I took off to Home Depot to buy receptacles for new commercial accounts. It was here that we learned how intrigued we both are by the variety of garbage can designs, shapes, colors and options, especially ones of the SimpleHuman variety that Bootstrap buys. More importantly, during our travels, Emma and I discussed the impacts of compost, the courses available to better understand composting, and what types of ideas help Bootstrap function more efficiently on a day to day basis. Thanks to Emma, I got a crash course in business development and soil science!

Speaking of soil science, my last task for the week was to collect samples of Bootstrap’s compost to test the composition of the soil. Essentially the process was collecting three separate compost samples from the farm, putting them into a zip lock bag and sending them over the labs at UMass Boston. Why does Bootstrap do test its compost? Well, the samples are taken to gauge nutrient density, check pH levels, the cation exchange capacity (the ability of soil to hang on to essential nutrients as a way to buffer acidification) and to screen for toxic heavy metals. Clearly, the test is super important when you’re in the business of distributing healthy and happy soil amendment back to the community. I will keep you posted on what we find out.

Oh wait, there’s more. In my downtime, I also painted a wall in the office and jumped on a conference call with our insurance agent. So yea, just another week in the life of an intern at the Boot!

INTERNal Dialogue: Josh the Intern Visits Farm, Talks Compost Appreciation

By Joshua Michael
Intern at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

To help understand a little about why it is that I am interning at Bootstrap, it is only appropriate that I share with you some minute details about myself. My name is Joshua Michael, and I was born and raised in Chicago. I am 22 years old and I will be receiving my Bachelors in Environmental Studies & Anthropology in May of 2017. I attend Wheelock College in the Fenway area.

Hi my name is Josh and I intern at Bootstrap!

Hi my name is Josh and I’m your official Bootstrap Intern

My goal, as an environmentalist with an interest in the Anthropocene, is to find unique perspectives on how we can reshape our understanding of waste management in order to benefit ourselves & more importantly the earth. I am very passionate about the environment, which may seem obvious due to the degree, and I am somewhat of a sustainability aficionado, self-proclaimed of course. I would be quite the pessimist, which there are more than enough of in the world of environmentalism, if I did not believe that we are still in a position to change our anthropological impacts on the environment. However, we must act with a sense of urgency as a general population – not just wait and hope for change from our world leaders.

All of this sums up why I ended up at Bootstrap. So what have I been up to? For the last month, I have been working hands on with almost all of the tasks that make Bootstrap function with relative ease. The first week at Bootstrap I was processing residential food scraps, which would later be driven to the farm to be composted. We even received some finished compost in return. Later in the week I would learn how to prep each of the buckets that we send back to customers (so if they looked a little lopsided, I apologize in advance!).

“Going to the farm, dumping food scraps, and watching the bulldozer pick up finished compost and dump it into the truck bed is a beautiful closed-loop process that all people should be exposed to.”

In my second week I would learn a great deal more about Bootstrap by getting to meet and spent time with cofounders Andy Brooks and Igor Kharitonenkov and marketing and customer service whiz Emma Brown. This is where I was introduced to the company’s humble beginnings in a tiny backyard in the JP area and how it eventually came to grow and scale to meet the needs of 2000+ clients!

From the archives: Bootstrap food scraps arrive at Rocky HIll, circa 2014

Bootstrap food scraps arrive at Rocky Hill, patiently waiting to be turned into compost!

The second week was exciting because, going about my work in the warehouse, I got to eavesdrop on a presentation Andy was giving to a tour group from MIT, and I learned about the chemical make-up of compost and the macro nutrients that help feed soil. I try my best to eavesdrop all things science. Additionally, I was able to work hands on with the compost that Bootstrap receives from their farms by unloading it from the pickup truck and then sifting it – making sure to take out large sticks and rocks so customers receive the best and fluffiest compost in return.

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From the archives: Loading up compost at Rocky Hill (ca. 2013)

Honestly though, the most amazing experience so far has been seeing the process that the food scraps go through on the farm. Rocky Hill Farm in Saugus is one of the farms that Bootstrap teams up with. Along with Emma, I got to watch large industrial machines process the last bit of waste and catch anything that may not be compostable. Seeing this kind of a large-scale operation helped me realize that this is something that can be replicated on a much larger level all over the country and the world – and indeed should be in order to better the environment. Going to the farm, dumping food scraps, and watching the bulldozer pick up finished compost and dump it into the truck bed is a beautiful closed-loop process that all people should be exposed to. It was in that moment that I began to truly appreciate composting. The process itself warrants respect and notice because it is labor intensive – a tough job that requires a delicate nature to produce the best soil amendment for our soils. All while keeping food waste out of landfills.

That’s it for now. But stay tuned, I will continue with a regular posts until my internship is complete in early June! Thanks for reading! Until next time.

The Wicked Green: Seven Tips to Put Your Black Gold to Good Use

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Here at Bootstrap, we’re basking in the glow of another successful Compost Week! – our triannual mega giveaway of soil amendment back to the community. Some of us are celebrating with a ski trip to Vermont, others are taking in Big Sky in Montana, and surely, we’re all happy that the long hours of our successful effort are behind us so we can enjoy a nice, warm meal. As we salute our largest Compost Week! effort ever, we take pride in its monumental impact: the distribution of a whopping three tons (6,396 lbs) of compost back to the Greater Boston community, a feat only made possible by the hardworking, hard-core individuals that make up Team Bootstrap (who weathered not one, but two snow storms this time around!) White outs or not, black gold was delivered to over 1000+ households and businesses. And we recognize that some of you are new and may not be fully in the know on how to use your finished compost, so here’s a quick rundown on how (and why) to put your soil amendment to good use. But first, a little breakdown by neighborhood:

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How much black gold did your neighborhood receive?

Alright, let’s talk compost! Here are seven tips to get you started:

1) Soil loses nutrients through erosion, over-cultivation, and culling of organic matter. Compost infuses nutrients back into soil. But what kind of nutrients?

2) Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the most important elements for healthy plants. Luckily, these macronutrients can be found in abundance in healthy compost, thus serving to revitalize depleted soils and frustrated flora. But what, exactly, DO they DO? In short, this:
Nitrogen is essential for photosynthesis.
Phosphorus helps plants develop new tissue.
Potassium is essential for the movement of water.

3) Compost also helps soil retain moisture. Not sure where to start? If you have any house plants, add a healthy 1/4 – 1/2 inch layer of compost to the base of your plants.

4) If you’re doing any re-potting, be sure to mix compost into your soil. Up to 1/3 of the mixture can be compost, but no more than that! Over-saturation of compost can actually be detrimental to the health of the plant (let’s call it nutrient overload).

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Emma gets compost ready to sift + pack!

5) Compost can benefit all types of soils. Is your soil sandy and loose? Compost will help bind it together, giving your plants more stability. Is your soil more clay-like? Compost will help increase its porosity, giving roots a chance to breathe.

6) You can also use finished compost as a mulch. If you spread it around the base of your outdoor plants, trees, and shrubs, it’ll help shade and protect the underlying soil, as well as increase water retention. Plus, the nutrients will sink into the soil over time!

7) Finally, you can use finished compost to make compost tea, which is a potent, nutrient-dense solution you can spray plants with. How do you make compost tea? Place your compost into a porous fabric bag (burlap or cheesecloth, for example), and steep in water for 24 hours. Use the resulting solution to spray plants, no more than once per week.

There you have it! Do you have any other uses of compost that I forgot? Feel free to post them, as well as questions, comments, concerns, dirty fingernails, etc in the comment section! And find us on Twitter under hashtag #bscgrows for more gardening and composting tips!

Also, 574 degrees Fahrenheit and 574 Kelvin are the same temperature.

The Wicked Green: 8 Tips to be Green in 2017

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Every year in early January, folks across the world make resolutions of all sorts: exercise more, eat healthier, spend more time with family and friends, call that aunt you barely know. If you’re looking for some ideas to set your sights on this year, look no further! Here are 8 tips that will make your life a little more sustainable in the coming year.

  1. Buy less, and buy more often: unless you’re buying for a large family or a big meal, chances are you can get away with buying fewer ingredients. The trick here is to shop more often. That way, you always have the freshest produce, and you’re less likely to waste food (50% of all produce in the United States is thrown away!)
  2. Buy locally: if and when you can, buy from local growers. It’s a no-brainer that your items will be fresher and more nutritious! You’ll also be supporting your own community and leaving a smaller carbon footprint. Just think, an average meal travels 1500+ miles from farm to plate! And don’t forget, buying locally applies to art and music, too.
  3. Grow your own: if you have any sort of green thumb, try growing your own herbs and veggies this year. Basil, mint, garlic, and tomatoes are all easy plants to take care of, and you can grow them in a variety of spaces. See our Twitter hashtag #BSCgrows or read our “Bootstrap Grows” blog posts for tips and tricks!

    unnamed-2

    Meet Tom, my tomato plant. This guy was grown in a 5-gallon bucket on my back porch. Shoot me a comment and I can tell you more!

  4. Walk, bike, or take public transit: do what you can to reduce your dependence on your own motor vehicle. Did you know that one gallon of gasoline produces ~20 pounds of carbon dioxide? So ask yourself, do you need to drive to the grocery store for milk, or can you walk there? Do you live in a city with public transport options? Some companies offer incentives for using public transport – explore what your employer has to offer. Or hop on your bike and get a workout in! Just please, wear a helmet.
  5. Ditch the gym membership: we all join with great intentions, but unless you use it regularly and you just CAN’T stand running in the cold (personally, I’m in this boat), you can save time, money, and energy by exercising outside near your home or work.
  6. Only print what you need to: we live in a digital age, and frequently there’s no reason for printed materials anymore. Do you need a hard statement of your credit card bill mailed to you? Do you need to print directions to your child’s basketball game? If the answer is no, do yourself (and the planet) a favor and save these items to your computer or cell phone. You’ll save ink, trees, and water too!
  7. Compost: Whether you want to try out a worm bin, build a compost pile in your back yard, or sign up for a subscription service, give composting a try! Your trash will smell way less, you reduce your contribution to landfills – methane emitting powerhouses, and in return, you’ll get a great soil amendment at the end of the process.

    peace-love

    Wishing you peace, love & compost in 2017

  8. Consider alternative energyif you own your home, check out your options for alternative energy! Federal tax credits and state incentives offer price breaks for installing solar panels, and you can sleep easier knowing that you aren’t relying on an archaic, heavily polluting technology. Massachusetts and other states also allow you to subscribe to programs that source local and renewable energy to your home.

Bootstrap co-founder Igor couldn’t help but chime in: “Carry a reusable bag, replace your incandescent bulbs to CFLs and LEDs, and use your own water bottle!” So there you have it, folks. A list of easy ways to be a more eco-sustainable you this upcoming year!

What are your suggestions? What will you try, or what doesn’t work for you? Please share ideas, questions, comments, seedlings, and the like!

Also, the first enzyme to be discovered was amylase, which catalyses the hydrolysis of starch into sugars. In humans, it’s found in the saliva and is responsible for the beginning the chemical process of digestion.

2016: The Year Bootstrap Kicked it into Overdrive

By Igor Kharitonenkov and Andrew Brooks
Co-founders of Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

For Team Bootstrap, another year of compost hijinks is nearly in the books. It’s hard to believe that 2016 represents our sixth consecutive year of battling climate change by collecting and transforming food scraps into a useful commodity. That’s nearly 315 straight weeks of making Boston a better place, but who’s counting? Actually, we are and we’d like to sincerely thank the 1,800 plus families, individuals, households, restaurants, cafes, places of worship, yoga studios, offices and shoe companies that keep the Boot running week after week and day after day. This past year alone, we welcomed 830 residential accounts to go along with 46 new commercial accounts. Amazingly, over the past 12 months our community of Bootstrappers helped us keep 665,298 pounds of food scraps out of landfills. Since our founding in 2011, we’ve diverted over 1,701,800 pounds of organics and compostables from the traditional waste stream while offsetting 1,225,319 pounds of GHGs. To put that last figure into perspective, consider that it’s the equivalent of:

  • Planting 15,871 trees
  • Creating 580 acres of forest land
  • Preventing 653,953 pounds of coal from being burned
  • Keeping 69,022 gallons of gasoline from being consumed

We’ve also created 850,916 pounds of compost. But we don’t keep the dirt, we dish it. This year, we were happy to distribute 1,700 shares of Compost Week! rations amounting to more than 11,000 pounds of black gold that ensured the nourishment of many a subscriber’s plants. Additionally, Bootstrap donated 330 pounds of compost to the following local schools and gardens: Glen Park Community Garden in Somerville, which received 90 pounds; the Cambridge Community Center and the Malden Community Garden, both of which received 60 lbs; Urban Edge in Roxbury, which accepted 30 pounds; and Chelsea Public Schools, which benefited from a 90-pound share of Bootstrap’s locally-engineered compost.

bootcollagedec16

2016: the Boot covered some ground, from hanging with Buckethead to Michael Pollan

That’s not the only thing we gave out. As a token of appreciation, over 30 of our most veteran clients received handmade Bootstrap t-shirts. See our merch here. And while we stayed mighty busy composting for our subscribers, we also managed to squeeze in a variety of weekend and evening events too, including weddings, festivals and bat/bar mitzvahs. Among this year’s feats: We collected 475 pounds of compostables from the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival (our biggest event to date with over 10,000 attendees) and 206 pounds from Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp event. If you’re having an event in 2017, by golly hit us up.

Central to our mission, we also dished out loads of new information, online and in the flesh. For starters, we completely revamped and launched a new website in October, featuring easy-to-use forms for enrollment and our most straightforward payment system to date. Meanwhile, our social media platforms — where we tout the merits of composting — received a healthy boost as well, thanks largely to the launch of two green-minded series, The BiG Stink and The Wicked Green, both of which premiered on our blog. Notably, the BiG Stink recently wrapped up an in-depth four-part series comparing organic and conventional farming. (Give it a read, it’s good stuff, rivaling content from, well, anywhere.) Our Instagram presence continued to blossom, thanks in part to our FamousFriday feature, wherein we pair — often to ridiculous effect — a notable human with a Bootstrap bucket. (Hey, you got to do something to get through the week.) Additionally, our Facebook and Twitter profiles helped us spread awareness about composting, the environment and other sustainable causes and ventures. Outside of our online community, Team Bootstrap attended and spoke at various events and happenings throughout Greater Boston, including the Northeast Recycling Council conference in Portsmouth, N.H. (where Andy sat on a panel about community composting) and student discussions at Newton High School and Milton Academy, among other places of learning. Bootstrap also hosted a group of young summer campers from Land’s Sake in Weston; a delegation of high school entrepreneurs from Taiwan; and three sustainable professionals from Indonesia (an event organized by the U.S. State Department!). All this in addition to conducting dozens of our patented “Welcome to Bootstrap” presentations. This is where we preach the merits and best practices of composting to staffers at new commercial accounts. Through this practice, Bootstrap has championed composting to thousands of Bostonians.

And while we worked hard, we still managed to have a bit of fun. We celebrated our five-year anniversary at our holiday party in January. In July, the team took its annual (paid) beers and beach retreat and most recently we held our inaugural Halloween costume contest (it was a three-way tie between Kurt Cobain, a mad scientist, and a dinosaur; hey, whatever gets you through the year). Staff wise, we were thrilled to welcome and work with 15 new employees and interns and partnered with leading nonprofit Triangle, Inc. to provide work opportunities to people with disabilities. And to accommodate our growing staff and their personal lives, we condensed our work week to Monday through Friday (we worked on Saturdays for years). Somehow, with all this stuff going on, several members of the Boot gang found time to continue their education! Andy and Emma received certification as Master Compost Technicians through the prestigious Maine Compost School; Igor wrapped up a year-long holistic nutrition program; Wesly is studying for the GMAT exam and Matt received licensed clinical social worker certification; and a number of us are actively enrolled in a variety of coursework. Others of us played rock n’ roll shows, visited National Parks across the country, hiked mountains in the Northeast, went swimming, traveled abroad and not one, but two drivers quit mid shift. What can we say? This work is not for everyone, but for individuals who like to play hard and work hard (because it’s hard work) Bootstrap is the perfect fit. And doing our part to salvage organic resources while taking on climate change in our own little way is tremendously rewarding. We appreciate our subscribers for giving us the opportunity to do that. Thank you for a wonderful 2016. We’ll keep the buckets coming in 2017.

The Wicked Green: Thanksgiving Food Waste

By: Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Spoiler alert: nothing I’m about to say is particularly revolutionary. However, with Thanksgiving and the winter holidays upon us, many folks are wondering how to tackle the age-old question of food waste. The short answer is – and Faith can back me up here – try to cut back on waste as much as possible this year. While some waste is inevitable (I’m looking at you, onion skins), there’s no need for an 18 lb turkey, three potato dishes, five pies, two styles of cranberries (does anyone really eat those, anyway?), stuffing, green beans, and whatever else – all to feed a family of 4. Believe me, I love Thanksgiving as much as anyone. When else can you have a beer at 10am in the name of gratitude?! However, I am an advocate of only buying and making what I need. And if you have a surplus, perhaps consider donating food, time, or money to a local food bank or family in need.

img_1419

Waste not, want not? Some food we collect is still edible, as you can see above. Collected on 11/21/2016.

As for those pesky scraps that you can’t eat or donate, the next best thing you can do is compost! If you have a backyard compost pile, that’s great! Be sure to add plenty of carbon sources (check back to my previous post about yard waste if you need some ideas) so that your compost pile is balanced and nutritious. If you live in a city and can’t compost outside, you can try vermicomposting or a pickup service (like us!)

If composting isn’t an option for you, or if you have oils, fats, and bones you need to deal with, it’s important to research the best way to dispose of those items. Are they appropriate for the sink disposal? What kind of septic system do you have? Are they better suited for the landfill? Ultimately, the answer to that question depends on where you live and how your municipality deals with waste. If you’re in Massachusetts, the MassDEP is a great place to start your research. Finally, you can read more about handling food waste over at Grist, including some of the energy costs and benefits for your potential options!

Please add questions, comments, onion skins, concerns, and all other thoughts in the comment section below!

Also, below a certain temperature, helium has the ability to become a superfluid, meaning it can flow without friction. In this state it is able to do things like climb up the sides of glass containers.

The BiG Stink: Organic vs. Conventional, Round 4 – Pollution

By Faith Miller
Operations Manager at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Let’s get this party started. Today will be the fourth and final round (at least for this blog series) of the organic vs. conventional agriculture debate. Before the grand finale, a quick review of the previous posts. In round one I defined conventional and organic farming and explored their impacts on soil health. I found soils subjected to organic methods were less susceptible to erosion, exhibited better water holding capacity, and overall were more healthful in the long term. Round two explored the finer points of land use and crop yields. Currently, organic yields per acre lag behind conventional ones and if organic farming is to compete for a better grasp of soil health, nutrient availability and plant growth is needed. Round three was all about energy- inputs and emissions. Organic methods produced greater crop output relative to energy inputs, as well as fewer emissions per pound of crop compared to conventional farming. So now we are going to unveil our last chapter on the organic versus conventional face-off!  And through what fun prism are we going to examine the debate this time? Pollution.

“Agriculture, be it organic or conventional, is guilty of terrible unintended consequences and crimes against nature. Agricultural pollution is the leading cause of impaired water quality in the US according to the EPA.”

First a preface. This post was supposed to be all about chemical and pesticide runoff from agriculture. However, as I went to research down the internet rabbit hole one thing became clear: agriculture — be it organic or conventional — is guilty of a host of environmental sins in addition to chemical runoff. A quick perusal of the data revealed that runoff from pesticides, sediment, nutrients, metals, bacteria, and pathogens are among agriculture’s crimes against nature. Thus, I broadened my scope and will not only cover chemical pollution, but several types of agricultural pollution with an emphasis on water pollution. Why water pollution? Because agricultural pollution is the leading cause of impaired water quality in the US according to the EPA. America’s 915 million acres of agricultural land (41% of all US land!) are having a massive impact on water quality.

Agriculture often pollutes water by using more water, of all things. During irrigation or rainfall, excess water can wash away sediments into nearby water bodies. A little dirt won’t hurt though, right? Turns out runaway soil wreaks havoc on aquatic life. It can cloud the water, block the sun from aquatic plants, clog the gills of fish, and smother insect larvae. Finally, displaced soil particles can contain traces of pesticides and fertilizers used on croplands.

Before we go any further, let me remind everyone organic does not mean chemical free. Let that sink in. Organic farming has a whole list of USDA approved chemicals for use on crops and I even wrote a whole post about it! Thus, organic agriculture can be just as guilty of chemical runoff as its conventional counterpart. I’m not going to dwell on all the impacts of pesticides in the water supply, but here’s a few noteworthy effects on wildlife: mutations, hormonal imbalances, cancers, sterilization, and lesions. Yikes! All that from something used to kill a bug munching on corn stalks.

faith-apple

Conventional or organic, the biggest difference you can make is changing your eating habits. How about them apples? 

Speaking of corn stalks, fertilizer used to grow those stalks also make their way into the water system. Again, organic does not mean pesticide, chemical or fertilizer free. The manure used on organic farms and the synthetic fertilizers used on conventional systems can be washed into nearby water bodies. The excess nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilizers fuel algal blooms. Algal blooms (no, that’s not an indie rock band) are actually beneficial in most cases. In fact, they are a crucial component of and basis for food webs. On the flip side, algal blooms gone wild can release toxins and promote the growth of harmful bacteria. These toxins and bacteria can kill fish, shellfish, as well as any birds or mammals that come in contact with any affected water bodies.

Algal blooms don’t just kill with toxins. Large blooms deplete oxygen in the water and create massive “dead zones” where no sea life or fish can survive. Nationwide there are 166 documented dead zones. The most infamous and largest of these dead zones is in the Gulf of Mexico where a piece of the ocean the size of New Jersey is lifeless. On second thought, maybe algal blooms might actually be a death metal band.

So there you have it. Agriculture, be it organic or conventional, is guilty of terrible unintended consequences and crimes against nature. Keep in mind I focused on water pollution. I didn’t touch air pollution or even acid rain. Besides pollution, other environmental impacts of agriculture include deforestation, effects on climate, depleted aquifers and probably a bunch of things I have never heard of. Thus, it’s not fair to call either farming method a “winner” in this series. I think the better term might be “less awful.”

But let’s not heap all the environmental woes on agriculture. Take a step back from agriculture’s crimes against nature and think about the big picture. More than 40% of food grown in the US is never eaten. It’s lost during harvest, transportation, and packaging. It gets trashed at restaurants and supermarkets or gets thrown out by households. The environment is being degraded as 60% of the food that hard-working farmers grew using all those acres, fertilizers, and pesticides is tossed.

So what’s hurting the environment more: organic agriculture, conventional agriculture or consumers driving the expansion of agriculture to sustain their wasteful habits? You want to prevent food waste? Eat local and in season so food doesn’t rot before it reaches its destination. You want to preserve natural resources? Eat less meat and dairy. They’re resource intensive. You want to stop landfill expansion? Eat less processed and packaged foods with disposable wrappers. You want to preserve the environment? Start by reforming your eating habits.

The Wicked Green: The Grass Ain’t Always Greener

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

It’s officially fall in New England, and that means it’s time to rake leaves, and rake again, and then rake some more. But wait! Last year, I learned that your lawn can actually benefit greatly from the leaves that fall every year. You can fertilize your grass (for free!) by mulching the leaves and leaving them in place over the winter. In turn, your yard will be supporting a healthier ecosystem, which means you’ll have better soil for trees, shrubs, flowers, and yes, even grass.

Here’s the thing, though. Traditional lawns are a huge resource drain as they mostly sit empty and unused. Instead, homeowners would be wise to plant perennial flowers, shrubs, trees, or even a vegetable garden. Why? Home vegetable gardens can reduce your carbon footprint – up to two pounds of carbon emissions can be prevented for each pound of homegrown vegetables consumed. In Florida, a start-up called Fleet Farming will come help you plant a vegetable garden, help you care for it, and help you harvest it.  In some places, there are financial incentives for ripping out your lawn, and specifically your automatic watering system, where drought is common and water is scarce. In Long Beach, California, residents can apply to receive financial credit to turn their lawn into a landscape that fits Southern California’s semi-arid climate.

hopkintonhouse

Don’t be this guy.

Ultimately, what you plant and what you grow will depend on where you live. The point is to work with your local ecosystem and not against it. It can be more harmful to plant vegetables at home and not care for them than if you had never planted them in the first place. But if you know what to plant, not only will you be helping the environment, you’ll be helping your stomach and your wallet. Now, isn’t that something to feast on?

Also, there are typically 3 different types of membrane proteins: 1) integral membrane proteins (embedded in the lipid bilayer); 2) lipid-anchored membrane proteins (attach to fatty acids that are attached to the lipid bilayer); and 3) peripheral membrane proteins (bind to integral membrane proteins and never come in contact with the lipid bilayer).

 

The Wicked Green: The French Revolution

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

This week, France became the first country in the world to ban single-use plastic cups and dishes. This year, the French have been leading the way in banning needless waste and creating more environmentally friendly infrastructure. In February, the country’s Parliament voted to ban supermarket waste. In March, a ban on plastic bags went into effect. In July, Paris opened the first section of a 28-mile bicycle “super highway.” At least in France, the United Nations’ Paris Agreement is being taken to heart. After all, home is where the heart is.

fullsizerender-3

In France, say no to plastic, or non au plastique

Businesses in France must comply with the plastic cup ban by January 1, 2020, though I hope many move to comply much sooner. Each year, more than 4.7 billing cups are wasted and few are recycled. To comply, businesses must use cups that are compostable and at least partially made of bio-sourced materials. Alternatively, businesses can use re-usable cups and dishes, of course.

What I’m not sure about is the availability of commercial composting facilities in France that will be able to process all of these additional bio-plastics. I suspect that many will need to be built around the country. And while compostable plastics are more appealing than traditional plastics, I’m not sure that their benefit is all that great and may only continue to fuel a throwaway culture. But that’s an argument for a different day.

Please add questions, comments, concerns, compostable forks, etc. in the comment section below!

Also, in astrophysics, it can take a photon 40,000 years to travel from the core of the sun to its surface, but only eight minutes to travel the rest of the way to Earth.

The Wicked Green: Trash 2 Treasure

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Ah, September 1, or as the college kids say, “Allston Christmas.” Every year, the end of August and beginning of September brings a frenzy of moving vans, bad traffic and displaced household items scattered around the city of Boston, particularly in areas densely populated by college students. But unlike December 25th, Allston Christmas looks more like an apocalypse, due to the mounds of displaced furniture lining the streets. Save for a relatively small batch of treasures that lucky passers-by’s have collected, most of the furniture is hauled off to the landfill.

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Allston Christmas in all its glory. Credit: Olga Khvan/ Boston Magazine

Allston Christmas or not, a lot of salvageable furniture hiding on these streets goes unnoticed. On top of that, adding to landfills creates more greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane, and costs the community a lot of money through disposal fees. The problem is – not surprisingly – particularly bad around college towns, which is why a former student from the University of New Hampshire, Alex Fried, founded Trash 2 Treasure (T2T). Trash 2 Treasure is an entirely student-led group that collects unwanted items, stores them in a safe place, and resells them at the beginning of each fall semester. In doing this, the group has saved thousands of dollars for the University and hundreds of thousands of tons of would-be waste from landfills.

Okay, a quick disclaimer. I attended UNH and I’ve personally donated items in the spring and purchased items in the fall. I love it. There are a lot of fantastic things about T2T. It’s entirely free and extremely simple for students to donate unwanted items. Volunteers set up donation zones in dorms and other central campus locations, then haul, sort, and resell the items. All of the profits from the sales go back into operating costs.

“On a fundamental level, waste is just resources in the wrong place.”

-Alex Freid, founder, Post-Landfill Action Network

Programs like Trash 2 Treasure, and its parent nonprofit the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) demonstrate that recycling can be cost effective, work well, and reduce your carbon footprint. Since 2010, T2T has expanded to over 40 schools across the country, and it only continues to grow. So, you students at MIT, Northeastern, and Clark, check out your alternative options on or off campus before you toss that old chair on the side of the road. You never know who might want it.

Please add questions, comments, concerns, sofas, etc. to the comment section below!

Also, in quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that the momentum and position of a particle cannot be measured at the same time. If this were possible, it is theorized that the entire past and present of the particle could be calculated.