Tag Archives: composting

Green Is Good But Sustainability Is Systemic

8 Apr

I don’t talk about sustainability enough on this blog.  The rub of having your masters in sustainability and opening a green business in a city brimming with eco-stewards is that you get all talked out at a certain point.  When you finally do sit sit down to blog, you want to talk about anything else.  This space has become an outlet for all the stuff I love but don’t get to talk about all day:  running and food!

“I feel like I need to commit more time to talk about green living.”

I hate that I even typed that.  What I mean is: I need to commit more time to talk about going beyond green living, into real sustainability.  By no means am I looking down on people who are into green living or use that phrase.  Green is good…great even.  I wish everyone would embrace green lifestyle choices and for the most part, people are pretty happy to jump on the good karma band wagon.  BUT.  And I don’t want to sound pompous when I say this, BUT…to me, the phrase green living has very little meaning.  The phrase itself doesn’t demand self-awareness.  It seems so passive, almost implying that we simply go through our lives and buy products labeled “green” or “eco-friendly” and recycle when it’s convenient and then bask in the awesomeness of our green living.  Understanding sustainability requires us to look beyond packaging and promotions and marketing and our own behaviors/attitudes; it requires us to consider things like social equity and our waste streams and broader systemic implications than just our purchases.  It requires us to think and ask questions and demand answers and improve.  It requires us to walk the walk.  In that spirit, I plan on having more of those conversations in this space.  🙂


We are smack dab in the middle of what I like to call “crunch time” at the new house.  We’ve got an appraisal coming up so we need to make sure that the remodel is 100% completed by early next week.  It has really been a struggle to find some kind of balance, but with or without balance this train isn’t slowing down!  I have started to think beyond what is happening now, trying to plan how I will tackle my new enormous yard.  I have so many ideas, but it’s challenging for me to figure out which ones are realistic based on my level of experience and the fact that I have 2 oaf-ish dogs.I grew up in a small house nestled smack dab in the middle of an acre of land in the suburbs.  I am used to having air to breathe, trees, and room to wander.  For the last 5 years, I’ve had to leave my house to find any of those things, but that is about to change in a big way (see below)!  I mean, if the zoning requirements were different in this borough I could have an self-sufficient farmette with the yard we are moving into.  They don’t allow that in West Homestead however, and green my thumb is not.


our yard now..

photo 4(2)

our new yard…

Before May, my goal is to have a recycling center set up, an herb garden planted, a vegetable garden prepped, some kind of rain harvesting set up, and I will make a composter.  Ambitious, no?

The sky is really the limit as far as composting options go, but after a series of trails and errors I have a general idea of what I want.

I don’t think I’m ready for something quite this permanent yet, but ideally this is what I would like to work up to once I know how I want the yard set up:

To begin, I think I like the one below because it seems like it would be easy for someone with very little interest in using a shovel, rake, or biceps.

If I’m unable to get any cooperation from Christina, I may end up with something a little less fancy like this:

I’m shocked at how much less garbage we put out each week when our kitchen scraps get diverted to make compost!  It’s a gratifying feeling when you make something productive {fertilizer} from literal garbage without spending much money.  Composting is one of the simplest examples of a feedback loop.  We have an endless supply of food waste, which will eventually become an endless supply of fertilizer, which will eventually become an endless supply of vegetables, which then turn back into food waste.  That simple model is at the core of sustainability:  consider how a system works, analyze factors that effect it, and then find a way to close the loop/act on the process to get a beneficial outcome.


Do you compost?

What kind of system works for you?


Garden Shmarden.

22 May

Around the same time every year, I get the urge to garden.  An all-consuming desire to grow my own food.  There are several problems that seem to arise:

1.  I have three dogs, one of whom loves to urinate on every single thing he can in the yard and sometimes even hoist is back end up to poop ON things.  Like a tree.  Or a bush.  Or the fence.  A few years ago, his favorite yard activity was to sneak behind my compost fence and eat the compost.  The point is that even raised beds aren’t going to cut it. Neither is a screen.

2.  I can’t keep a plant alive to save my life.  I forget to water.  I don’t water at all.  I over water.  I drown.  I bake.  I fry.  I killed aloe.  The only thing plant I’ve kept alive is a cactus for 3 years.  I left it in my closet and never watered it.  Apparently I couldn’t break its spirit.

3.  This is the lazy girl in me talking, but I feel like I don’t have the energy to keep up with it.  With the weeding.  The watering.  The digging.  I don’t even like to get dirty.  Between my business, my rental, my own house, whelping puppies, race training, and my duties with my trade association….really?   Gardening?

Am I just being lazy?  Yes.  Do I need to learn more about keeping plants alive?  Yes. Do I need to plan some dog-proof solutions? Yes.  Am I going to garden this year?  No.  Its the same vicious cycle every year, I swear.  I know that if its something I really want to make happen, I just have to implement some kind of plan for next year.  So, like any Type A personality, I have slowly been crafting a master plan for 2014.

Phase 1:

Get back on the compost wagon.  The sooner we start our compost pile back up, the sooner we will have wonderful organic fertilizer.

Begin the hoarding process of containers.  I think that container gardening might be a partial solution for my dog problems, but right now we don’t have anything to plant in.

Think of awesome project name because….duh.

One day I check my yard every hour to determine when the sun hits at what time of day.  I feel like that will be important at some point.  Also, I need to educate myself on which veggies thrive in what conditions (Certain parts of my yard are in full shade while the other half is full sun.  What is partial shade?).


Easter + Waste Management

2 Apr

I’m officially another year older – the big 2-9.  Needless to say, I see many more 29th birthdays in my future.  I plan on staying this age for…ever.  🙂  My birthday happened to fall on Easter this year, and since I share a birthday with my now 15 year old sister (eeeek!), we decided to get a little more creative than usual with the birthday cake:

Bunny Cake

I adore this cake.  It broke my heart a little to cut into it and end its cute streak, but it was so worth it.  My sister has an artistic streak, so sculpting the fondant was right up her alley.  She was assisted by her little friend (whom she now refers to as her boyfriend) and Brother (because Brother Bakes, duh!).  It was a low key holiday, which I appreciate.  We normally spend our holidays running between 2-3 different places, so it was relaxing just to go to one place and enjoy a meal and then go home!  Also, please take note of my trashtastic, unflattering birthday attire:


While this is un-birthday related, we bought a garbage disposal and she♥ is  installing it.  The timing is too good to pass up, so I am telling everyone I got a garbage disposal for my birthday!  Many people claim that garbage disposals have negative effects on the environment, so I did a little bit of research.


There are pros and cons for garbage disposals, much like every other consumer choice and I believe that you should always do your research and make an informed decision.  That’s really what sustainability is all about – thinking about how each aspect of each choice affects systems.

Less garbage is trucked to landfills each year.
Rotting food waste at landfills creates methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas.  Diverting some of that waste can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Most water treatment plants are equipped to handle small scraps.
Some wastewater treatment facilities are now equipped to capture biogases (like methane) for energy.
Garbage disposals raise the value of your home when its being appraised.
We purchased ours from Kitchen Aide, which claims to use around 7 kWh annually.
Food waste was never meant to be released into our water systems.
Releasing nutrients from food waste en masse into the water system can cause eutrophic algae blooms in local waterways, which can destroy aquatic ecosystems.
People commonly pour grease into garbage disposals, which can cause serious damage to sewage systems and have serious implications on the environment. (This seems more like user error than the fault of the garbage disposal.)

The bottom line is this:  nothing will ever have less environmental impact than composting food waste.  Composting uses no energy, diverts waste from landfills, reduces greenhouse gases, improves soil quality and creates renewable, chemical-free fertilizer all while making soil more drought resistant, and composting improves public sanitation by diverting food waste from dumpster and garbage cans which attract insects and rodents.

These are all factors to take into consideration when you determine what is the right choice for your family.  We truly have very limited kitchen scraps.  I try to waste very little when I am cooking and many of the veg scraps get fed to the dogs.  They love all veggies, in fact Liberty even eats lettuce!  I’ve been really great at portioning things out for just two people and anything leftover normally gets eaten for lunch the next day.  Until I am able to figure out a way to compost without all three of my dogs breaking into the compost area and eating out of it – so disgusting – then we are going to use our garbage disposal sparingly and responsibly.

Do you have a garbage disposal?

Do you compost?

Do your pets eat veggies?  If so, what is their favorite? 


12 May

After not living in our home for one year and having tenants during that time, we lost our backyard.

We looked out the back window and it just wasn’t there anymore.  The brick patio was gone and so was the sidewalk.

Everything completely swallowed up by weeds and grass that had grown higher than my knees.

But the other day, we started the long process of reclaiming it.

We even have 1 horseshoe pit back!

Once we weed-whack the rest of the weeds on the patio, our furniture will get moved back to its rightful place!

I fenced off my little 3x3x3 composting site because the dogs have been chowing down on all my rotting veggies:

And my herbs have found a place in the sun where they seem happy.  Well, two of the five original herb plants are happy:

I just recently used a bit of my flat leaf parsley and I hope it is able to fight its way back to life.  The chives have succumbed.  The basil never had a chance.  Obviously I need to find something that requires mint and cilantro or transplant these beasts to their own containers.

Its going to be a long process before we can enjoy what little back yard we even have, but it is a great start. 🙂

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