4) “Food waste that goes to the landfill breaks down anaerobically and produces methane; methane is 21 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.” (Environmental Protection Agency) from End Food Waste Now
9) “Around 100 million tonnes in the EU. If nothing is done, food waste could rise to over 120 million tonnes by 2020.” Another source Reported: “Each year, 22 million tonnes of food is wasted in the European Union, according to a new study, of which 80 per cent is avoidable.” (Both studies are reported. I do not know how to account for the discrepancy in numbers.)
10) “With an estimated 70 billion pounds (~32 million tons) of food waste in America each year, we must work together to capture more of this valuable resource for the nearly 48 million people in the United States who feel the effects of food insecurity.” Feeding America
Not wasting food has long been a value of mine but I am far from perfect about it. It will be a life goal I think.
I am lucky to live in a city, Seattle, where recycling and composting of food and yard waste has been available for years. Nowadays, if city residents put food or recyclables in their trash cans, they may be fined. The city’s food and yard waste is sent to Cedar Groves where it is turned into garden compost.
I also compost some of my food waste in two worm bins. One is a big outdoor wooden bin, and the other is a Worm Factory bin that can stay inside my house or on my back deck. Vermi-composting creates high quality fertilizer.
In 2012, the National Resources Defense Council of the U.S. concluded that Americans waste 40% of their food. Food is wasted at the farm level, between harvest and sale, during processing, during distribution, in grocery stores, in restaurants and in our homes. The study also reported that American’s throw out 25% of the food and beverages they buy. You can learn more about these statistics at: Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill
Many children in my generation grew up with parents who demanded that they eat their food because of the starving kids in China. As a result, many of us learned to tune out that message and disregard the fact that there is some truth to that way of thinking. I believe it is important for us to become responsible citizens of the world.
That does not mean we should force ourselves or our children to eat when we/they aren’t hungry. It is also not about shaming people into cleaning their plates. Instead, I think we should focus on how much food we buy, how much we cook, and how much we put on our plates. Children will be more likely to finish eating their food if they are given small portions. They can always ask for more if they are still hungry after they finish the original serving. That is true for adults as well.
While these are U.S. statistics and may be higher than those in other countries, I doubt we are the only country with the problem. This week, for 1, 2, 3 days or longer focus on not wasting food.
Sometime during the week, write a post about some aspect of this topic or about experiences you had when you focused on ending food waste. Feel free to use whatever form you desire: i.e., prose, story, poem, photograph, etc. (If you don’t have a blog, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.)
General Prompt Information:
New prompts will be posted at 5 a.m. (PST) every Wednesday.
Since it is easier to make behavioral changes if we focus on them one day at a time, each of the weekly challenges will start with “Today, I focus on…….” It will be up to you to decide how long you want to focus on a particular challenge— one, two, three days or even longer. At some point during the week, publish a post that relates in some way to the subject of the week.
Link your post back to this prompt post. If the pingback doesn’t work, then leave the link to your post in the comment section below. Be sure to include “Challenge for Growth Prompts” as one of your tags.
Throughout the week, I will publish the links for the posts that were created as the result of this prompt. I will also post the links from those who participated the previous week. That way they will be seen by anyone who comes to this page.
Amma has made recycling and composting a major priority for the ashram. Every resident and visitor sorts their trash into separate bins labeled for paper, soft plastic, hard plastic, yard waste, food waste, sharps, sanitary, cloth, dust and hair. Last year there were 16 recycling stations, such as the one in the photo above, scattered throughout the ashram grounds. Since so many more flats have been built since then, I imagine the number of recycling stations have increased as well.
The yard and food waste from these bins plus the leftover food from the various kitchens and dining areas are taken to the composting center and the rest of the items go to the recycling center. Think about how much waste 5000-15,000 residents and visitors might produce in a day and you will get a sense of the scope of these projects.
Once the bins arrive at the recycling center they are re-sorted by volunteers. Items that were placed in the wrong bin are removed and put in the appropriate bin. Once that process is completed, the items are sorted for a third time, in a much more detailed way. For example, items in the paper bin are divided into 10 different subcategories.
The recycled items are sold and help to fund Amma’s humanitarian projects.
The food and yard waste bins are taken to the composting center. The food is put on a metal table and volunteers take out any non-food items such as plastic bags, spoons, etc. Then large food items are cut. Next, items such as fresh cow dung from the ashram cows, egg shells, shredded yard waste as well as wood chips and sawdust from the carpentry shop are added to the food in order to increase the bacterial culture and nitrogen or to make the mix drier. Once the food waste has been processed, it is formed into piles. The piles are covered with more shredded wood and yard waste. As the food composts, the piles can become very hot. You can even see steam rising from them. Volunteers aerate the compost by turning it with pitchforks. (This year I saw signs asking for volunteers to turn the compost at 2 a.m.!) The piles stay at the composting center for two to three weeks and then go to a farm or to the vermi-composting center to finish the composting process.
The yard waste is being processed at the same time as the food waste. The yard waste consists of materials that are gathered when the ashram grounds are swept each morning, along with other garden waste. The waste is put into a container that has a metal grate on the bottom. The grate allows the sand, pebbles and dust to fall through. Next, rocks, seeds, plastic and other items that shouldn’t be part of the compost are removed. What is left is the usable yard waste. That yard waste is then put into a shredder. Once shredded, it may be added directly into the food waste as described above, or it may be spread on the surface of the compost piles.
For years, the composting center has been located on the main ashram grounds. When I arrived at the ashram in November, I discovered it had moved. Now it is near Kuzhitura Farm, a 20 minute walk from the ashram. Pick-up trucks take the food and yard waste to the new center and the volunteers who work there generally ride bicycles. The new center is about three times the size of the original one.
Working with the food waste
The Red Worm Composting blog states that “Worm composting (also known as vermi-composting) involves the breakdown of organic wastes via the joint action of worms and microorganisms (although there are often other critters that lend a hand).” That process creates some of the highest quality fertilizer that exists. Red worms are the type of worms used for vermi-composting.
In the vermi-composting center, worm beds are formed from the food and yard waste compost. When the beds are ready, the worms are then added to the piles. Each day, a “slurpee” made from cow dung and water is poured on the top of the beds. The worms rise to the surface and feast. It takes about three months for the worms to turn the compost into fertilizer.
The ashram’s vermi-composting project moved to the Kuzhitura Farm location over a year ago. When I visited the new center last year, there were eight to ten worm beds. This year there were only the two shown below. I asked one of the people in the food composting center about the change and he told me they had discovered they were using way too much bedding material for the number of worms they had. Taking care of two big beds would certainly decrease the amount of time it took to maintain the beds!
There was another big change this year. In the past, when the fertilized compost was ready, volunteers separated the worms from the compost by hand. It took many volunteers and a lot of time to accomplish that process. (That was a job I loved to do!) The worms are now separated from the compost with a machine that is like a sifter. There was no staff present when I visited so I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to anyone about it, but I did take some pictures of the sifter.
The fertilized compost produced at Amritapuri has always been dark in color and very light weight. I’ve been jealous because it is so much nicer than what my vermi-composting system in Seattle produces. One of the people from the food composting center showed me some of the compost that is created using the new shifting process. It was even darker than it has been in the past…. and was so light-weight. I hope to learn more about these changes the next time I visit Amritapuri.
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”-William Shakespeare