Tag Archives: Compost

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!

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    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.

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.

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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 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.

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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 BiG Stink: Organic vs. Conventional, Round 3 – Energy Use

By Faith Miller
Operations Manager at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Welcome back to the BiG Stink and thanks for joining me for Round 3 of the great conventional vs. organic farming inquisition! Here’s a rapid recap: So far in this debate I, your trusty guide Faith, have defined organic and conventional agriculture; explored the impacts of both methods on soil health; and examined the ins and outs of land use efficiency. Today’s agenda? Diving into emissions and energy inputs for conventional and organic farming.

For my purposes, energy inputs for crop production are fossil fuels needed for equipment and transport of materials, fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides. The largest energy sucker for organic farming was diesel fuel. Diesel fuel is needed to keep on-site machinery rolling and to bring in supplies such as seeds and natural soil amendments like compost and fertilizers like manure.

When assessing conventional agriculture, though, diesel fuel use was in the number two slot. The single largest energy sink in modern agriculture was the production and distribution of nitrogen fertilizers. To let that soak in, consider that the production and distribution of one ton of synthetic fertilizer was estimated to consume the equivalent of one and a half tons of gasoline! One study found that nitrogen fertilizer accounted for a whopping 41% of total energy input. Compared to fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides were miniscule, accounting for a measly 10% of inputs for conventional farming. Though it varied from study to study, organic agriculture inputs overall were found to be 28-32% less than those of conventional methods.

“Organic farms were superior energy misers than their conventional counterparts and were found to require nearly a third less energy inputs.”

Much like inputs, greenhouse gas emissions were dominated by nitrogen. The single largest contributor to emissions in conventional and organic farming was nitrous oxide (N20). Both methods spew a fair amount of the potent greenhouse gas during farming. Agriculture (be it conventional or organic) is the largest source of N20 and accounts for 79% of U.S. emissions of nitrous oxide. Where is all this nitrogen coming from? As mentioned while dissecting inputs, conventional farming relies heavily on synthetic fertilizers and nitrous oxide is a byproduct created during the manufacture of the synthetic fertilizers.

What about organic agriculture? Since most synthetic nitrogen fertilizers are off limits for organic methods, farmers rely upon the use of compost and manure for nitrogen.  N20 is a naturally occurring compound and a normal byproduct of the nitrogen cycle. Nitrous oxide is emitted when microbes break down the various forms of nitrogen (nitrate, nitrite, nitrogen dioxide – I’ll stop now) found in manure and compost.

Naturally occurring or not, organic and conventional agriculture have the same major greenhouse gas emitter, N20. That does not mean the farming methods have the same overall emissions! According to the Rodale Farming Systems Trial (FST), conventional agriculture oozes out nearly 40% more greenhouse gas emissions per pound of crop, largely owing to the manufacture, production,and application of synthetic fertilizers.

Interestingly, in my previous post on land use I pointed out that conventional agriculture puts out more crop per acre. However, now I know organic farms were superior energy misers than their conventional counterparts and were found to require nearly a third less energy inputs. The “organic advantage” means greater crop output relative to energy inputs and fewer emissions per pound of crop. Or in other words: more bang per energy buck. And less gassy.
And so with that, we’re three quarters of the way through this series and the end is nigh! Please stay tuned, keep your eyes peeled, and keep an ear out for the final round of the conventional vs. organic debate, where we’ll explore the uplifting subject of chemical and pesticide leaching.

The Wicked Green: Mealworms to the Rescue!

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

It happens to us all: you’re in the market for a new TV, maybe one that’s energy efficient with a really crisp HD picture. You save up all your money and finally pull the trigger to buy it. You take it home and unwrap it and it’s padded in styrofoam. You’re bummed because even though styrofoam is technically “recyclable,” you don’t have anywhere to recycle it, so you’re forced to put it out with your curbside landfill pickup.

Well, have I got news for you! It turns out that mealworms, those little wiggly buggers, can eat styrofoam with no negative repercussions, effectively turning it into a nutritious soil amendment. It’s the same process that happens when red wiggler worms feed on your food scraps in your home compost bin. Researchers in a collaborative study between Stanford University and Beihang University published their findings in September, 2015 and our joyful squeals haven’t stopped ever since.

mealworm

Here’s the catch: one hundred mealworms can only consume between 35 and 39 milligrams of styrofoam per day, which means we have a long way to go before that floating-Texas-sized trash patch in the ocean gets cleaned up by our little friends. For comparison, the average adult housefly weighs approximately 21.4 milligrams. Nonetheless, the discovery is an important one, because it gives scientists a clue as to one way they can start to tackle the problem at hand. Of course, we could also be making an effort to reduce our production and consumption of those products in the first place, but that won’t reduce the issue we already have.

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What are your thoughts? Questions? Comments? Disbeliefs? Concerns? Favorite beetles? Please add them to the comments below.

Also, due to Saturn’s low density, it would float in water (the only planet in our solar system that would do so).

The Wicked Green: How Mushrooms Will Save The World

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Whatever your culinary preferences are regarding mushrooms, it turns out that there are some seriously green uses with fungi outside of the kitchen. Indeed, there are good, hardworking folks throughout the world concocting unique ideas and products with mushrooms that may just help save the planet.

Back in February, I found out about Coeio, a company that produces the Infinity Burial Suit. What’s so special about it? It’s completely biodegradable and made from mushrooms and other microorganisms. Bodies buried in the suits eventually break down and aid the earth. Heck, they even make suits for pets to be buried in! You can read more about the Infinity Suit over at Grist.

As beautiful as some caskets may be, they also act to slow the process of decomposition. Thus, each and every body that is buried in a casket acts more like a personalized underground landfill rather than a compost pile that returns the body back to the earth. Couple this with the fact that populations continue to rise and age, solutions for alternative burials will become increasingly important over the coming decades.

Humans are one thing, but what about all that pesky plastic we are creating and throwing away? Plastic can survive over 150 years in a landfill- that’s bad news for Mother Earth. But it turns out that mushrooms can help us tackle that issue, too. We’ve known since 2012 that fungi can break down plastic, but no one has really figured out a great way to harness that power and use it to our advantage – until now. A joint effort between Livin Studio and Utrecht University led to the development of the Fungi Mutarium, which not only breaks down plastic, but leaves an edible product in its wake!

It works like this: pods of agar (an algae-based type of gelatin) are loaded up with plastic waste and fungi, which feeds on the waste and leaves a puffy mushroom-like food product within a few weeks. The plastic is completely broken down and not incorporated into the fungal matter so the end product is non-toxic and 100% edible for human consumption. These pods might be hard to come by today, but with more funding and research, we could all have plastic-fighting fungi in our kitchens in a few short years.

Whew! Like wild mushrooms in a damp forest, we covered a lot of ground here. Please feel free to add comments, questions, concerns, tiny hair-like fibers, your opinions on mushrooms, and other thoughts in the comment section below. Happy digesting!

Also, the human body consists of more bacterial cells (~39 trillion) than actual human cells (~30 trillion).

 

The Wicked Green: Baldor Eliminates Food Waste

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

If you’ve been following Bootstrap Compost (@compostboston) on Twitter, you’ll know that every Wednesday, I post an article (or sometimes video!) related to sustainability and “green” innovation. If you didn’t already know that, now you do! You can track those articles with the hashtag #WickedWednesday. While Twitter is a great way to spread ideas, it doesn’t really allow for much in-depth discussion. I whole-heartedly believe that discussion is integral in propelling us forward, both as individuals and as a society, so we at Boot HQ decided to formally turn those Wicked Wednesday posts into a blog series. Without further ado, I present to you “The Wicked Green,” and invite you, dear readers, to participate in a weekly forum discussion.

At Bootstrap, we frequently talk about food waste as it’s near and dear to our hearts. Every so often we hear of other local businesses working to eliminate food waste in one way or another, and it’s almost always on our radar. So, when I caught wind of Baldor’s lofty goal of eliminating 100% of their food waste, I was interested, to say the least. How are they doing this? What’s their process? Where is the food waste going? What about the “other stuff” involved with produce distribution: the pallets, boxes, plastic, the list goes on.

Garlic Scapes

Garlic Scapes at Baldor Boston. Credit: Wendy Maeda/ Boston Globe Staff

The short answer is that Baldor has developed a multi-faceted strategy for dealing with food waste. The first preference is for any edible food to go to people who could consume the food. This is akin to grocery stores selling “ugly produce” at a discount, and it goes a long way toward eliminating waste. If the scraps aren’t suitable as is for human consumption, they’re dehydrated, blended, and turned into a powder that chefs can use in their foods or beverages. Other items, like pits and peels, are sent away at a rate of 16,000 lbs per week to a farm in upstate New York where they are consumed by pigs, who will later feed your bacon craze. The last resort? Scraps are composted, where they’ll turn into a rich soil amendment and will go back into the food production cycle.

“Something on this scale wouldn’t work without a team effort,” [McQuillan] notes. “It is so cool how we all have a stake in this.”

I love that Baldor is taking so many steps toward eliminating their food waste, and also making an effort to eliminate other waste around their entire process as well. It speaks volumes as to the type of rockstars these folks are, and it sets an important example for other produce and food distributors around New England, the United States, and globally. Cutting food waste at home is great, but it will only go so far if the big cats aren’t also making an effort. I have to wonder: who will be next to hop aboard?

I invite you: please add comments, questions, concerns, burps, and other thoughts in the comment section below. Happy digesting!

Also, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

Bootstrap Grows: 8 Tips for a Healthy Garden

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

With the weather heating up and your seedlings firmly planted in your garden beds, we’re ready to share some tips on how to keep your garden healthy. If you haven’t started growing yet, don’t worry, we’ve got your back with “7 Tips to Sprout your Garden“.  We’ll continue to share more as the season continues, but for now, here are 8 tips to keep your garden happy and healthy. 

1.) Don’t overcrowd your herbs: cilantro, chives, dill, and parsley each need 1 square foot between plants; basil, thyme, and tarragon each need 2 square feet; rosemary, sage, mint, and oregano each need 3-4 square feet.

2.) Fruits and veggies also need plenty of space, but you can save space by growing vertically, either on a wall or in a container.

3.) Young plants need a lot of attention! Water them frequently, and don’t forget to trim any dead or yellowing leaves.

4.) You don’t need chemical pesticides to ward off predators. You can steep onion, garlic, and hot pepper in hot water for several days to make a natural spray.

kale bucket

Back at the Boot, we’re growing. More info and pricing on our self-contained bucket gardens coming soon.

5.) Similarly, a solution of water and powdered kelp will keep Japanese beetles and aphids at bay.

6.) One last spray: a spoonful of canola oil + a few drops of soap in water will kill mites and aphids. But don’t use it in hot, sunny, weather, as the soap will cause leaves to burn.

7.) Not all bugs are foes: ladybugs will eat harmful insects. You can attract them by planting herbs like dill, fennel, and cilantro, or flowers like dandelions and geraniums.

8.) Got rabbits? Plant marigolds or garlic around your plants, and eliminate tall weeds and other hiding spots to keep the bunnies out.

Client Q&A: Southie Simmons

By Emma Brown
Creative Marketing at Bootstrap Compost, Inc.

Ahh, Southie. Home to many young professional implants and native Bostonians alike. 11-4-2015 11-10-12 AMAnd while it isn’t the largest community of Bootstrappers, their excitement for composting is second to none. We could casually mention an article from Caught in Southie featuring us and longtime subscriber Mari, or we could drop the ever-growing list of businesses earning their green keep. Instead, today we’ll focus on Katherine “Southie” Simmons, another longtime subscriber, home cook, and young professional living in Southie. We couldn’t do it without you, Katherine!

southie monument

A beautiful day at Dorchester Heights in Southie

1. How long have you been a client of Bootstrap Compost?
For almost two years, since August of 2014.

2. How did you hear about us?
Honestly, I forget, but I heard long before I signed up. I had always kept Bootstrap in my mind and when I moved I had a much better location for pick ups/drop offs and storing my bucket.

3. Why did you sign up for Bootstrap?
I cook and always have a lot of scraps.  It seemed like such a waste that I was using my garbage disposal so much – or even worse, stinking my trash out.

4. In what other ways do you recycle, conserve and stay environmentally sound?
I do recycle and try to buy locally grown food when possible.  I’m also a member of Boston Organics.

5. How are you enjoying the service so far?
I love it!  And when I have a busy week, it always amazes me how much I can stuff in my bucket!  Just this week, I had some dead plants, cut flowers, and food scraps of all kinds – coffee grinds and banana peels are usually the most frequent fliers in my bucket.

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Taking a green bucket to a whole new level!