If anyone can give a motivational talk on composting, it’s Natasha Duarte of the Composting Association of Vermont (CAV). On April 24, she gave a presentation on composting to transition town folks at the Jericho Town Library.
Natasha is on a one person crusade to transform composting “from a solid waste management issue to something we can all utilize,” as she puts it. A nonprofit, CAV manifests the idea that composting in communities will improve soil health, water quality and resilience to climate change.
Act 148 which passed the Vermont legislature unanimously in 2012, established a timeline of diverting various materials from our landfills, culminating with food scraps which were banned in July 2020. This statewide law is the only one of its kind in the US. Previous to Act 148, food scraps made up about one quarter of the waste stream going into Vermont landfills. Vermonters currently have four options for dealing with food waste:
-Haul the food scraps (a growing field, there are about 45 haulers in Jericho alone)
-Bring to a drop off site
-Compost at home
-Compost in a community group
Home & Community Composting
Of the last two composting options, Natasha says, “the real place of power is to manage it (compost) yourself and/or within your community, and reap the benefits!” She explained that there are less contaminants, a lower carbon footprint (less trucking) and the end product is compost for personal and community usage. With community collaboration, there is a larger volume of food scraps thus making it easier to produce good compost. And while there may be challenges organizationally, you are “building social mycelia,” as Natasha puts it.
Examples of communal composting in Vermont are various community gardens throughout the state, the VNA family room and Champlain Valley co-housing. UVM Extension now offers a Master Composter program and graduates from there can be helpful in organizing community composting efforts. CAV itself offers a free Community Composting self-guided training.
Natasha described compost as a “controlled aerobic (air-loving) biological process”. She provided a simple recipe for making compost: one part greens (food scraps, grass, manure) to three parts browns (wood, leaves, paper, straw). Turning it periodically is optional though generating enough heat is vital, 131 degrees being the ideal. Without too much effort, compost should be ready in 12-18 months. Natasha recommended having two bins to ensure a ready supply, saying the end product should smell like dirt and have the consistency of a damp sponge.
One of the biggest challenges in composting is the vermin challenge (yours truly once encountered a rat when turning her pile!) Natasha recommends following any of these options: covering food scraps with brown materials or soil; wood shavings or a little bit of lime to control odors; one-eighth inch wire mesh under and around the sides of the bin; in general, staying on top of the browns (carbon) in your pile.
Vermont Organics Recycling Summit
CAV hosts a free five-day event from May 1-5 that covers everything from compost co-ops to jumping worms to a compost-to-kitchen tour of Philo Ridge Farm. To find out more about the summit and all things CAV, go to:
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