Taking Out the Compost

This may seem like a bit of  a frivolous post but what I really want to talk about is Seattle’s excellent recycling and composting programs. I decided to do it by showing you our daily walk to the compost bin. I think it makes it more visceral to see how we do it. This is the walk we take several times a day to take out our compost.

These are the views I have as I leave my back door and go out to the compost bins. I walk out the door and look left, at the Contorted filbert, the Greek Laurel, the Irish Yew, the Eucalyptus cinerea, the Pieris “Brookside”, the Red Hot poker plant,  and finally the Blue Surprise Lawson Cypress.

To the right is the Golden Bamboo and the Vine Maple as well as our wonderful cedar picnic table that we use all summer and whenever it’s nice enough out to eat there. Going  straight ahead is a Gotohime Goshiki Japanese Maple and a small Carnation.  The maple is exceptionally beautiful in the fall when it turns bright red and orange.

As I approach the stairs you can see down them a bit to the edge of the Fern Bed with an Alaskan fern and the Mahonia “Charity” in such full and bright yellow blooms. This is the door to the garage as well and the next shot is of the Nandina that lives there. Under it is a small Chamaecyparis pisifera called “Snow”. In front of it is some Black  Mondo Grass.

The next shot is totally down the steps and onto the entry/exit to the garden. I take a moment to gaze at the  Weeping Purple Beech and the Cephalotaxus with its ferns and large leaved Andromeda on the left. Across the walk to the right is the Chirimen Hinoki Cypress and Curlew Rhododendron and a bit of Corsican Mint to tread on and smell its fragrance….

As I go thru the gate I see the Maupin Glow Incense Cedar with its ferns around it at the end of the path and the bins on the way. The last shot is of the bins themselves. I didn’t bother showing you what’s inside. It’s pretty gross what with all we can put in the bins. We can put in all our yard trimmings and waste of course but we can also put in all our food scraps. Yuk!

So that’s the trip. Short but sweet. I always stop and look at the plantings on my way and enjoy them. Of course we have a small garden on the deck as I’ve shown so we can see plants out of the kitchen windows. It’s nice to bring the plants a bit closer to the house this way. And we get to enjoy more plants that we don’t have room to grow in the ground too! It’s a fun walk…

We used to have compost bins ourselves but it was hard to produce enough compost for our garden and it took up a lot of space. So we looked into the City’s programs and found that we’d be better off just adding our compost to the city’s and buying it back as finished compost from the company that does its work, Cedar Grove Recycling: http://cedar-grove.com/residential/recycle-your-organic-waste.

Seattleites have been recycling for many years and have one of the best programs in the country. http://www.sustainablecitynetwork.com/topic_channels/policy/article_ad6287d2-7491-11e3-9c23-001a4bcf6878.html. We have 3 bins at our house that we put all our recycling and compost in as well as the little bit of real garbage we create.

One bin is strictly for recycling – paper, yogurt containers, newspaper, glass bottles, cans, all the usual stuff. They’re understandably uptight about people using this correctly. One bad article in a bin and it has to be tossed out or gone thru by hand and that’s a lot of work. So we all try to be good and only put in what’s approved.

The other bin is about 1/3 of  yard and it’s for our yard waste and composting. We can put all our yard waste and our food scraps, including meat and bone and other things you wouldn’t think would be compostable in it. We try to cut up all our wood pieces to manageable sizes and if we have more we can tie up bundles of sticks 4′ or less in length and leave them by the bin. We’ve put a whole tree in this bin on occasion.

The little black bin is just for regular garbage and we don’t use it much except once a week for the few things we just can’t recycle. I’ve read that the rates of people recycling in Seattle are very high. I couldn’t find the latest numbers but just a few years ago we were at 47% and it’s gone much higher since then. It’s a model program that many other cities are looking to for inspiration and advice.

I’ve been recycling for about as long as I can remember -at least since my college days in the 60’s. I lived in Berkeley for awhile and they had recycling going on even then, tho it was in its infancy. I remember taking our recycling to a center and it was like a party with every one being so proud of the good work we were doing to help save the planet.

Of course it’s not really the planet we’re worried about tho is it? It’s our own survival that’s at stake. The planet will survive and make it OK but humanity might not if we don’t get our act together. One of the things they do with the compost here is to make methane gas from it to use in fueling vehicles for the city and other uses. That’s gas that won’t come into the atmosphere as air pollution, which reduces our chances of survival.

A bit of a side note here – I think many people are worried about Climate Change and the effects on the planet and they should be. But I think it’s really the fear of the loss of our civilization we’re worried about. The Earth will go on without us if we don’t get it together. If we don’t recycle and compost and change our ways of emitting gasses into the air, our great grandchildren might find a very inhospitable world.

So if you’re worried about this don’t just focus on the earth, focus on yourself and what you can do to alleviate the problem. We all have a chance to make the world better by our efforts in doing this important work. I’m very lucky to live in a place that values the earth as much as it does. We’re a pretty liberal city here and it’s no surprise to hear that we have these programs here. It’s a part of the Seattle psyche to recycle now, it’s so pervasive.

I hope other cities will look at us and see what we’re doing here and try it for themselves. As far as big cities go we’re in the top 10 or so of places that have a large percentage of household recycling including the composting organizations that get rid of so much. I find I don’t know what to do when I visit friends that don’t have recycling or composting. It seems like such a waste of material.

So I hope you’ll consider joining me on my walks to the compost bin and encourage your community to start or increase your own recycling and composting programs. It’s a good thing to do and as gardeners we should be at the forefront of this work. We all know that compost is proven good stuff, and we know how it’s made. If we have a program that can help us so much the better. We all benefit from programs like these.

Happy Recycling and Composting!

Steve

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13 responses to this post.

  1. I kinda skipped pass this as taking out the garbage is my husband’s job. 🙂

    If you have time…could you give me the links to your posts that show the vegetable gardens. We might be interested in starting something worthwhile in our backyard. I take that back. HE might be interested. 🙂

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    • Well I’m glad you came back to look at it then.. 😉 As far as veggies go I’d suggest you check my page titled “Veggies” on the top menu bar. Otherwise I haven’t really written much about them. I don’t consider myself that great as a veggie gardener but someone like Robbie at the Urban Pottager might be of help to you. Check her out at: http://palmraeurbanpotager.com/. She’s great with veggies and has created a wonderful garden.
      Good luck in your (Hubbie’s) new venture!!
      Steve

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  2. How fun joining you in your little walk – and the plants! Extraordinary! So many beautiful containers and grounds. We take our own recyclables to the dump ourselves. That’s how we have always done it – in three states now. I think we can PAY extra for recyclable pick up but we don’t even have trash pick up and besides, I actually like going to our dump. I get all sorts of branches there for my rustic trellis structures, and chipped mulch for pathways. I still compost all winter long but this winter has been tough with the ice. I’ve cut way back. My compost “piles” are huge but it amazes me how quickly they shrink. Come spring (soon I hope), I will dig from the bottom of the piles as I prepare my vegetable beds and if there’s more, spread it around the perennials. I can’t wait!

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    • Thanks for joining me on my walk… 😉 I think it’s great that you take your recyclables to the dump. I’ve done that in many places where I’ve lived too. It’s a great way to find useful things isn’t it? I hate these new transfer stations where you just dump and run. No fun browsing the other folks’ selections of what they think is “trash”. So much is reusable it always makes me upset what people throw away. It’s cool you re-use so many things. I’m a scrounge myself from way back and built a whole cabin out of scavenged materials. I wish we had room for compost piles but we just don’t so we do the city thing. Your system sounds great and I hope you have good luck with your gardens this year. I can’t wait either!
      Thanks a lot for your visit!
      Steve

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  3. Thanks so much for this post, and excellent reminder for 2014!

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  4. Steve, as always, how enjoyable when you give me–us–a tour. Thanks! 🙂

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