Archive | July, 2015

Invest in “Black Gold” by Composting

Compost, or “black gold” as gardeners sometimes call it, is a decayed mixture of plant waste that is used to improve soil. You can make compost from yard waste, food waste or both. As a natural fertilizer, it is one of the best investments you can make for the health and beauty of your yard and garden. It’s also a great way to reduce food and yard waste, which comprise approximately 20–30 percent of your household waste stream.

Compost has many benefits:

  • It enriches the soil, helping retain moisture and suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Composting waste instead of throwing it in the trash reduces methane emissions from landfills.
  • It lowers our carbon footprint.
  • It encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material.

food waste turns to compost

Your compost investment strategy

Option A: Set up a backyard compost bin

If you have a yard, select a dry, shady, or partly shady spot near a water source and preferably out of neighbors’ sight. Ideally, the compost area should be at least one cubic yard in size. A pile works great for just leaves and grass clippings, but if you want to incorporate food waste, you’ll need to use a bin to prevent rodents and pets from invading.

You can build your own bin or purchase one online or at retail locations. You’ll also need a small kitchen compost bin where you can collect and store food waste before taking it to your backyard pile.

There are four types of ingredients needed to make great compost: browns for carbon, greens for nitrogen, air for organisms, and water for moisture. Visit What is composting? for a list of items you can and can’t compost and tips for mixing it right.

Option B: Set up an indoor compost bin

If you don’t have a yard, or would prefer not to set up an outdoor bin, there are two options for indoor composting: vermicomposting and bokashi composting. Vermicomposting uses earthworms to convert food waste into compost. Bokashi composting involves fermenting food waste. If you don’t have an outdoor space to use your compost, use it for houseplants, give it to friends and family members, or contact a nearby community garden.

Option C: Mulch your grass and leaves

The best food for your lawn is grass clippings and leaves. When you mow your yard, mulch the grass clippings and leaves instead of collecting them for disposal. When done properly, the mulch will quickly decompose and return nutrients to the soil naturally. Visit What is composting? for mulching tips.

Option D: Send it off-site

If you suffer from the “ick factor,” you can take your food scraps to Kansas City’s Residential Composting Program at URBAVORE and they’ll compost it for you.

You can take lawn and garden refuse to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer residents opportunities to buy mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.

A number of communities offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services. Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city is one of them (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, look for a private company that collects and manages lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers; contact them to inquire about costs and procedures.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot, the Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

 

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Road trips and air tips: breathe easy on the open road

It’s the heart of summer and time to take a vacation. If you’re vacationing somewhere in the Midwest, you’re probably considering a family road trip. Piling into the car and cranking up the tunes can be great for your family, but bad driving can hurt your fuel economy which also hurts our air quality.

Here are some good driving habits to improve both fuel economy and air quality:

  • Drive friendly. Speeding lowers your gas mileage 5 percent in the city and 33 percent on the highway. Rapid acceleration and sudden braking also use more fuel. Driving the speed limit and anticipating stops will help you reduce the amount of money leaving your wallet and the pollutants coming from your vehicle.
  • Go cruising. On any extended trip, cruise control is your best friend. It gives your leg a rest from pressing on the pedal and keeps you from getting a speeding ticket. It can also save you money at the pump by improving your miles per gallon.
  • Dump the junk. The more weight your car has, the more gasoline is needed to move it. Before going on your trip, be sure to remove everything you won’t need. Every extra 100 pounds of stuff in your car reduces your gas mileage by up to 2 percent.
  • Keep baggage off the roof. Once you’re certain you’ve only packed the necessities, make sure it all fits inside the car. Putting luggage in a rooftop cargo rack can greatly reduce your fuel economy — by as much as 25 percent on the interstate.
  • Always service your vehicle.When your car isn’t operating at its best it costs you money. Filters, fluids and tire pressure are all quick maintenance checks that you can do on your own. If they aren’t in top shape, it could cost you around 4 percentof your total gas mileage each year.

Road trips provide a fun atmosphere for family bonding. With a little help from travelers, our air doesn’t have to suffer the consequences of bad driving habits. And when you fill up before you head out, don’t forget to stop at the click when filling up your gas tank!

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