Thursday, July 18, 2013
Compost instructions Duuhhh
Step one: Do nothing.
Step two: Repeat step one.
Step three (optional): Scratch your head and say, "Why the hell are so many people making such a big deal out of this; nature has been handling this fine on it's own for millions of years?"
Whenever there is an effort to do anything that used to be simple there now seems to be an enormous amount of advertisements or in some cases information presented at what appears to be the grass roots level to convince people they can accomplish their goals if only they buy this that or any other thing; and in many cases it is accompanied by something to make it appear sincere.
As far as I can tell in many cases including activities for composting it is a crock of shit although I suspect that some of it might be from people that unwittingly repeated some of these ideas or became accustomed to thinking that they have to buy more of something every time they accomplish something.
For at least two decades I lived in two houses where composting, at least for leaves and small branches, was routine; however we didn't even think of it as composting; we just raked the leaves over a small cliff at the first location and when they were fresh we jumped off the cliff into the leaf pile for fun. Although if we weren't careful and did it before we raked up to many leaves from the latest year we found out what was growing in the leaves from the previous year. at the second location it simply involved picking a spot in the yard that was out of the way for the leaves to compost eventually and we never thought twice about it.
Now there seem to be a lot more talk about it and the vast majority of the recommendations seem to turn it into something more complicated than it has to be. They usually involve building boxes with materials that cost money and don't seem to be necessary although the people selling them make profits off it even if it doesn't do the composter much good; and some of the copmposters seem to be openly admitting that after going to all this trouble they aren't getting good compost at least not quickly. Some of the recommendations seem to imply that you can get compost in four to six months which might be true if you go to a lot of trouble but it hardly seems to be worth it when the alternative uses little or no resources or work and it still happens in a couple of years.
However there might be exceptions, especially if it involved composting trash that would otherwise go into landfills or be burnt. This would presumably include natural items like potato peels, egg shells, coffee grounds or other items to compost or avoid from Compost 101.
When it comes to the most effective ways of cutting down on waste or composting it, many people might think it is only something those "radical tree hugging fringe environmentalists" might consider. However if we continue destroying the environment all over the world without fully acknowledging the extent of it we may all have to become "radical tree hugging fringe environmentalists" when it can no longer be ignored and kept out of sight. When this happens it might not seem like such a bad idea and many people might wonder why we didn't do it before. Many of us live in areas where our trash is being hauled away or the worst of the environmental destruction isn't taking place but if you check with alternative news outlets or live in one of the areas that are being destroyed as a result of globalization it might be clear that the damage is building up much faster than the mass media and the political establishment is letting on and it won't be hidden much longer for most people.
In most cases it would be easier to do either if you live in area with a fair amount of land or do it as a community and keep it as simple as possible. There are already plenty of advise blogs on this on the internet but as I indicated most of them seem to involve complicated activities including turning the compost, watering it down or buying worms to help speed up the process. In most cases all of this can be done without work and by doing this you avoid using extra resources for the compost. One of the major concerns about environmentalists is people who use scarce water for their lawn; if it is a problem to grow their lawn why would you want to use the water which might be scarce either now or after people start doing this on a larger scale for their compost?
One of the best exceptions might actually be, well, a crock of shit!
The most important thing that could and perhaps should be composted might be animal waste including human waste and it doesn't appear as if it is necessary to do this in a primitive or unsanitary manner as some people might think. And I suspect that in the long run this might also be more cost effective than many of the things we have already become accustomed to since it might save money on plumbing and maintenance as well as water. I first encountered this years ago without even fully realizing that I was using a composting toilet in a rural campground and it was perfectly sanitary although it wasn't in an area that received an enormous amount of traffic. Ironically on several occasions I've seen at least a couple other areas where they were much more crowded and they had more traditional toilets that were much less sanitary due to over use and improper maintenance.
The simplest versions of Composting toilets probably require semi-regular removal of the compost but this might not be much if any more complicated than the maintenance that we need for regular toilets; and there already appears to be quite a few of these being experimented with around the world although they have received very little attention by most high profile sources. Frankly many of the best ideas aren't being covered by the high profile media or traditional political establishment since they're far more concerned with maximizing profit than giving the vast majority of us good ideas.
At least in the short term, this might turn out to be more popular in places like India where they haven't become accustomed to modern toilets. It they receive their resources to develop these then they could set a good example for the rest of the world; although this would require the political will to stop exploiting third world countries.
There seem to be mixed messages about composting pet waste and no doubt many people are still a little queasy about composting human waste as well but with time and a rational review of the more productive methods of accomplishing this I suspect that more people will realize that they're mostly based on prejudicial ideas. Farms have been using cow manure for fertilizer for decades if not thousands of years and it ahs been working just fine, unlike some of their attempts to genetically modify crops. In this case it involves replicating what nature has been doing for thousands of years so I see no reason why other animal or human waste can't be converted to a practical use as well. Some ideas that seem like they might be worth checking out include suggestions on Pet Waste Composting and even a study by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Alaska on composting dog waste; ironically when they do things that might actually be worthwhile it doesn't seem to get much attention; although that could change if we had election reform. Jennifer "Quirky Momma" also came up with some good reporting on Composting Toilets - Not Such a Crappy Idea!
In many cases the most effective composite projects might be when communities work together and do it on a medium scale where it might be more efficient than a small backyard composting effort or a large one that could be too bureaucratic. Many promoters of privatization might not like this but their primary concern is making profit for themselves not doing things in the most efficient manner for local communities so if the control stays local it is much more likely that they might respond to local people. This might include community composting efforts that have done so openly and subjected their work to scrutiny like in Portland Oregon where Friends of Trees toured a community compost pile, "From leaves to compost – and beyond."
If these community compost piles become more common they might not always be able to "turn" it all quite so often, especially if they compost a growing portion of the items that previously went to landfills but that would just mean that the compost would take a little more time and unlike land fills they won't require permanent growth which can't be done indefinitely without converting a growing percentage of the planet into landfills. Once a compost pile starts producing as much fertilizer as they take in it stops growing; if there is a surplus then it can simple be returned to it's natural state repairing the damage to nature that ahs been building up for decades.
If a variety of different communities try slightly different variations around the country with the control at the local even and they exchange their results openly then it would be much easier to find out which one works best and replicate it more often. If some of these community efforts make major mistakes at least it will only be at the local level while if the decisions are made by a far off corporation that privatizes everything then these mistakes could be much larger and if their primary concern is returning profit to the corporation the mistakes may be more likely since they might have conflicting motives.
Wikipedia: Composting toilet
El Polin Composting toilet