The idea was important, and bold.
On April 22 — the 50th anniversary of Earth Day — Sustainable Westport was planning to kick off the “Zero Food Waste Challenge.” The goal: Decrease residential food waste by at least 25%.
The group would point out that over 20% of Connecticut’s residential garbage is food waste. It’s costly to haul to the incinerator in Bridgeport, and does not burn well.
There would be a Zero Food Waste Proclamation from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, and the inauguration of Westport’s free food scraps recycling drop-off area at the transfer station.
Of course, the coronavirus has put both the kickoff and transfer station opening are on hold.
But other aspects of the Challenge are ready for action. In fact, says Sustainable Westport member Pippa Bell Ader, what better time than during self-isolation to think about the food we waste, how we can change that, and what to do with those inedible food scraps.
Jen Tooker already knows how. The 2nd selectman’s family of 5 have been composting for more than 10 years, since they first moved to town.
They are committed to keeping trash to 1 bag a week, follow an aggressive leftover meal plan, and compost all inedible food (though no animal-based products such as cheese, bones or meat).
The Tookers collect food scraps in a lidded container in the kitchen, keeping smells and bugs at bay. When the container is full — usually once a week — it is brought outside to a 3-section composting system, and dumped into the fresh food scraps section.
Once that section is full the scraps are transferred to the second section, where composting really begins. Eventually the pile is moved to the third section, where it becomes rich compost.
The process takes about 6 months, and requires a bit of lifting. But the Tookers would not have it any other way. They find great satisfaction in taking the time and effort to compost excess food.
There are easier ways to manage food scraps, for sure. But composting has become a part of the Tookers’ lives.
Their system is actually one of the most complex. People new to composting can start smaller and simpler. Sustainable Westport’s website includes many options.
For example: Fill one side of the composter with food scraps and some “browns” (leaves, strips of newspaper, etc.). Once that side is full, fill the other side. By the time you have filled the second side, the first should be full of compost material.
Or consider purchasing a compost bin that sits directly on the ground. Place food scraps in the container, and wait. Several months later, compost comes out the bottom of the container. Because food scraps break down over time, containers seldom get completely full.
You can even make your own enclosure to hold food scraps. Animals might enjoy some of the contents. At least you’re keeping food scraps out of the waste stream.
At this extraordinary time — as we think more than usual about how we get ouor food, and how to make the most of what we have — Sustainable Westport’s social media platforms (website, Facebook and Instagram) provide helpful suggestions.
They can’t celebrate Earth Day with a huge composting celebration. But Sustainable Westport is offer a webinar. On Wednesday, writer/activist Lori Fontanes leads a discussion on “Feeding People in a Time of Climate Change and COVID-19.” It’s co-sponsored by Earthplace and the Westport LIbrary, and limited to 100 people.
Click here to register — and join the heap!
(For more information on Sustainable Westport and composting, click here.)