Composting is a great way to help the environment, while also producing a valuable end product. Yard trimming and food waste together makes up about 27% of the US municipal solid waste stream. Starting a compost pile of your own can significantly cut down the amount of waste your family sends to the landfill. Compost is an organic material that can be used as a soil component or a medium to grow plants and is created by combining organic wastes in proper ratios into piles.
- Reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.
- Promote higher yields of agricultural crops.
- Enable reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by amending contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
- Cost-effectively remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste.
- Remove solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from storm water runoff.
- Capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air.
What to Compost:
- Green (Nitrogenous) Materials:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Grass Clippings
- Fresh Manure (Poultry, Sheep, Horse, Cow and other herbivores)
- Coffee Grounds
- Plants and Plant Cuttings
- Brown (Carbon) Materials:
- Paper and Cardboard
- Tea Bags
- Wood Ashes
- Hair and Fur
- Dryer Lint
- Nut Shells
- Vacuum Bag Waste
What Not to Compost and Why:
- Acidic fruits such as lemons or limes will kill the microorganisms in the pile
- Black walnut tree leaves or twigs may release substances harmful to plants
- Coal or charcoal ash may contain substances harmful to plants
- Dairy products (milk, eggs, butter, sour cream, yogurt, etc.) create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Diseased or insect-ridden plants, the diseases or insects could survive and be transferred back to other plants
- Fats, grease, lard or oils create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Meat, fish, and their scraps and bones create odor problems and attract pests such as rodents and flies
- Weeds with mature seeds and plants with pernicious root systems can be a problem unless the compost pile is hot enough to kill them off
- Pet waste (dog or cat feces, soiled cat litter, etc.) can contain parasites, bacteria, germs, pathogens, and viruses harmful to humans
- Pressure treated wood could release arsenic into the soil
- Yard trimming treated with chemical pesticides might kill beneficial composting organisms
- Other inorganic materials (plastic, metal, glass, ceramics, particle board, plywood, etc.) will not break down into compost
Now that you know what should and shouldn’t go into your compost, we’ll cover tips for successful composting in Part III next week.
— Rachel Blackburn
I’ve been dreaming about the day I could start a garden ever since I moved out of my Dad’s house to go to college, almost 6 years ago. When I was younger and living in New Jersey, my Mom had a huge garden (in my eyes at least) and she also had a compost pile near the back of the yard. I remember saving eggshells and vegetable scraps for her to take to the pile, and I knew that it produced fertilizer for our garden, but I didn’t know how or why.
Now that I finally moved into a house with a back yard, I am excited to learn how to garden and start a compost pile of my own! The first step is to decide what kind of pile you would like – one made from scratch, or one contained in a bin. Luckily, my house came with a basic compost keeper in the backyard, but you can start a compost pile from scratch, without a bin, if you have the proper space for it.
There are a few different options out there for compost bins to purchase:
While compost tumblers and keepers are compact and convenient to use, a well-managed, homemade compost pile can handle a lot more material, and it is less expensive to start. But, they could require more maintenance, and you will want to make sure that you have a good location for it. Here are some tips to keep in mind when selecting an area:
- Choose an area that is fairly level with good drainage, so that the pile does not sit in standing water when it rains.
- Avoid windy areas
- Find a location that is in the shade for half of the day, and in the sun for the other half. If the pile gets too much direct sunlight it could dry out, but if it gets too much shade it might not receive enough rain water, or it might remain over-moist.
- For convenience, keep the pile close to a water source and at a convenient distance from the house. The best case scenario would be to start a pile at a corner or edge of your garden, so that the rainwater that drains from the pile can carry nutrients to the vegetables.
- Keep the pile away from pet areas, as pet waste can contaminate it.
- Do not place the pile near wooden buildings, as the process of decomposition will attack the walls just as it will the materials in the pile.
Once you have selected an area, you will want to build some sort of structure to contain the materials. One suggestion would be to build a small (3-4 feet wide) “cage” from chicken wire, welded wire, or plastic gardening fencing. You don’t want it much bigger than 5’ x 5’ because it will become difficult to turn and maintain.
We’ll discuss what and how to compost in Part II. Stay tuned!
— Rachel Blackburn
In February, Associates III was invited to speak about the interior design profession at KIPP’s Denver Collegiate High School Career Night. Debbie and I volunteered to attend. The 109 national, open-enrollment public schools known as KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) assist kids living in disadvantaged communities by leading them to a successful college career and life. With 87% of its students hailing from low-income families, it’s remarkable to observe that over 90% of KIPP middle school students graduate high school, and more than 80% of their alumni enroll in college. Students, teachers, and parents pledge a Commitment of Excellence with the motto, “Work hard. Be nice.” Love it! Classes are scheduled from 7:25am to 5pm, and all students are required attend class in the summer. KIPP relentlessly tracks the results of their efforts, which prove quite impressive: 96% of KIPP classes outperform their districts and 100% of KIPP senior classes outperform their district-wide average SAT and ACT test scores.
During career night, we had about 7 minutes between the two of us to talk about Associates III to a rotating class of students. Naturally, the entire set of dazzling facts I had prepared flew out of my head before I opened my mouth. Instead of sharing how employment in interior design is expected to grow 19% from 2008 to 2018, faster than the average of all other occupations (National Bureau of Labor Statistics), I scrambled to compact my past, my college career, and my job description into 3.5 minutes. It didn’t sound far from “Thought I’d be an engineer… but found myself sensitive to interior environments…decided interior design…college…green design is good…internship…talk with clients…write specs…school is valuable…stay in it.” Apart from teaching me programs like AutoCAD and how to effectively space plan and think like a designer, school was a great experience that simply rounded me out.
Recently, I was listening to a debate on NPR where the topic was “Too Many Kids Go to College”. One of the debaters for the notion argued that not everyone strives to be a lawyer or doctor and, therefore, they should not have to pay college loans; in addition, specialized trades like carpentry will suffer if everyone chooses college. For me, college wasn’t just a pathway to a career, but an opportunity to acquaint myself with the different topics of the world (microeconomics, history of textiles, animal biology, to name but a few) that I would never have had the patience or time to discover on my own. You might consider college a starter kit to exploring the world! In the end, it was wonderful to see how KIPP pushes their students toward college and opens their minds and hearts to the many wonderful opportunities out there… I hope a little of my rambling helped.
— Agatha Strompolos
Water is fluid, soft and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong. — Lao-Tzu
Do you know about the efforts of GoodWeave?
We’ve been aware of their work in the rug industry for more than ten years. One of the showrooms we turn to for beautiful custom handmade area rugs from all over the world has supported their work and, in turn, has helped Associates III become more conscious of GoodWeave’s efforts to end the illegal use and abuse of young children in the production of rugs.
At the heart of the GoodWeave (GW) certification is the prevention and rehabilitation of child labor. GW works to end child labor in the carpet industry and extend educational opportunities to them. To date, GW has focused its efforts on India and Nepal with extraordinary results; the number of “carpet kids” in South Asia has dropped from an estimated 1 million to 250,000. Now they’re expanding their model to Afghanistan – where a third of all elementary school-aged children are put to work.
Since 1994 GW has focused on its no-child-labor requirement; however, their newly expanded certification standard now adds mandates to protect adults from abusive labor conditions, such as forced, bonded and exploitative labor. It also includes environmental criteria, such as managing run-off from dyeing and washing. The new standard is in response to consumers, industry and weavers who wish to see more benefits associated with one label.
This broader scope of criteria improves GW’s effectiveness in addressing root causes of child labor. The lack of secure income for adults and the exploitation of children are interrelated; fair work for adults translates into families having their own children in school, support for mothers through daycare availability, and can help break the cycle of poverty.
The newly written standard is organized into seven principles:
First, no child labor under 15 years of age is allowed, and under 18’s work must be monitored and recorded to meet legal requirements.
2 through 5 are a set of principles relating to working conditions for adults:
No forced or bonded labor is allowed. Freedom of association and collective bargaining are recognized. No discrimination is practiced. Decent working conditions are respected.
Principle 6 addresses environmental issues: negative environmental impacts of production are to be identified and minimized, as well as potentially harmful chemicals, materials and processes through Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and effluent testing. Each rug producer is required to work with GW to develop a plan for improving environmental impacts over time and, in turn, GW will collaborate with producers to the extent possible to identify appropriate environmental measures for different types and sizes of production facilities.
And last, principle 7 requires transparency and adherence to local regulations in business practices. Rug producers must demonstrate compliance with the standard’s social and environmental criteria by cooperating with GW’s monitoring and inspections system, including registering all production sites, providing necessary documentation during inspections, allowing inspectors access to production sites for unannounced inspections, and allowing them to conduct confidential interviews with workers.
As before, the standard continues to cover rug making processes in factory, cottage industry and home work situations from receipt of raw material until the finished product, including all sub-contracted processes, such as weaving, washing and dyeing.
Next time you contemplate buying an area rug, ask how the rug was made as well as by who and where it was made. While certification programs like Fair Trade ban child labor in their standards, the GW program is the only one offering remediation in the form of rescue, rehabilitation and education for any child being exploited on a loom. And when you hear that 215 million children ages 5-17 are engaged in child labor in Asia alone, you realize how important a need there is to protect young children from losing their childhood and provide them with access to education.
— Debbie Hindman
During my childhood, my mom denied me of two things I envied: white bread and cable. Henceforth, whenever my family stopped at a hotel on one of many of our family road trips, I begged to watch music videos on MTV. Even throughout high school I’d try and film my own music videos. Unlike sitcoms or films, to me, music videos didn’t have to make any sense; they just had to communicate a vision. In this post, I pair music videos with rooms and designs that convey similar elements.
Spider Webs by No Doubt
The great contrast between Gwen Stefani’s anarchical punk style and this ornate, traditional room evokes the spirit of the Sex Pistols’ album cover for God Save the Queen. This idea of “Royal Punk” is now more familiar, but still very fun.
Weapon of Choice by Fatboy Slim
The dated, eighties capitalist glamour décor of this hotel and the “squareness” of Christpher Walkin and his tie make such an odd but humorous combination. The staid color combination of mauve, teal, brass, forest green, and blush pink are re-worked in the room below.
Headlights by Sean Lennon
The combination of dusk and neon go together beautifully in this video. Also, the use of symmetry creates psychedelic but eye catching effects.
— Agatha Strompolos