Green Trash Haulers Tangled in Red Tape

Columbia News Service prominently featured the work of the Compostadores last week in “Green Trash Haulers Tangled in Red Tape.”

It was very encouraging to read about the work of our fellow bike composters around the country to keep pedaling on, despite the wheel-spinning frustration of bureaucracy. The Compostadores are still waiting for our official go-ahead from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for our year-long bike demonstration pilot program in partnership with the MN Pollution Control Agency.  We hope to start on bike within the next month.

Other bike groups have struggled with manifold regulations, too, many of which were historically imposed to fight illegal agreements between haulers and illicit activities.  As it turns out, the certification and legality of something as seemingly simple as hauling compost harkens back to the mob’s control of the trash business.  In Manhattan, obtaining a bike permit for a small scale bike start-up is extremely costly – $5,000 – and requires additional $600 background checks for each biker.

Many of these problems stem from the fact that these small-scale grassroots projects are getting amassed in the same category as giant commercial composting sites, when in reality they’re a whole separate approach. The localization of our projects, the absence of meat and dairy products, and the small fleets of cyclists make them more akin to a network of well-orchestrated  backyard bins than to giant landfills.

Happy first day of spring! We’re starting on our bin builds this week – contact us if you’d like to help.

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The Compostadores have had a bustling fall. In the past month, Patsy and Rebecca both had the opportunity to see the hard work of fellow composters and urban farms on the East Coast through the WhyHunger grant that the group received this Spring.

Patsy worked with the  Nuestras Raices in Holyoke, MA and Pedal Coop in Philadelphia on compost bin-builds, improvising to make an assortment of materials and oddly-sized pallets function structurally and elegantly to hold compost.  The three groups also discussed developing youth curriculum in the compost realm, working to build a more comprehensive and in-depth understanding of composting and garden operations for young adults who are interested in the future of soils and waste reduction.

Rebecca spent a long and rainy day in Philadelphia with Amy, waking up before sunrise to do bike rounds with the Pedal Coop, doing bread deliveries for a local bakery.   The Compostadores had the opportunity to check out Pedal Coop’s new bike space, located in a great tool lending library.   Later that afternoon, still dripping from the rain, they picked up compost from homes and businesses, which they delivered to a nearby garden (featured in the slideshow).  The Coop’s operation dabbles in food, trash, recycling, and compost from residences and businesses.   The work of the Pedal Coop helped fuel dreams for the Compostadores to pick up from residents someday in the near future.  These partnerships were a great tool – we left feeling inspired and motivated.

Closing the Loop

Last week, the compostadores built a spiffy new compost bin at the Little Kitchen Food Shelf at the Grace Center in NE Minneapolis.  The weather was fantastic – blue skies and late summer sunshine smiled upon us as we built a bin in the lot out back.  The Grace Center is working over the next two years to convert a tremendous parking lot into a beautiful permeable surface, complete with a garden and play area.

Little Kitchen Food Shelf — along with Waite House in S. Minneapolis — recently received an award by the Emergency Food Shelf Network (EFN) for their highly innovative ideas and hard work.  This year, the two food shelves have been working with Gardening Matters, EFN and a taskforce of other dedicated members to work on the Garden Gleaning Project, to increase donations of healthy produce from community gardens.  This is an effort to bolster nutritional foods in  food shelves and to get the community engaged to combat hunger issues.   The project has been a wonderful success — to date, Little Kitchen has received about 1700 lbs of donated produce.

There’s one important step to the process of receiving food donations that is critical, especially from large-scale sources, such as farmers markets or grocery stores, which often tends to be neglected.  You probably can guess it — composting!  Of course, the vast majority of the produce donated is distributed to guests of the food shelf.  However, when acquiring a huge load of produce, much of which may be nearly expired or  just on the cusp of ripeness, on occasion some products will not “move” fast enough.  Compost helps cycle those nutrients right back into the garden,  so that in springtime, they can be put to good use rather than landfilled, ultimately “closing the loop” on food waste.  The new compost bin will help Little Kitchen utilize 2,000 lbs of compost to fuel the growth of their garden next spring for food shelf guests.

Star Tribune: “Called to Compost”

The Compostadores received some fantastic coverage on August 17th in the Star Tribune on the front page of the Variety section!  Kim Palmer wrote about our work to build a community-based compost infrastructure in the Twin Cities, complete with some wonderful photos of a recent bin-build workshop.

Click here to read “Called to Compost” in the Star Tribune.

Community bin builds

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The Compostadores have been having a rotten (in the decomposing sense – it’s a good thing!) and packed season of compost bin-builds in community gardens this spring. We’ve been pounding, snipping, drilling, wrapping, and hammering out beautiful bins as fast as we can, and simultaneously filling up others with healthy compost.

Yesterday evening’s blue skies bestowed upon us fabulous circumstances for soil-making.  We headed over to the Edgerton Community garden in Maplewood to meet a crew in need of a bin.  Though we got off to a slow start, we had a whole host of helpers of all ages enthusiastically join us as the evening progressed.  We flew through the bin build, making near-record time under a beautiful sunset and refulgent silvery moon.  Fortunately, we finished before dark — we didn’t even need to use our cell phones to light our paths as we cleared out. (You may think that was a joke, but it has happened before…)

The Edgerton coordinator, Oakley, adapted her colorful talent for the event — blowing up twisty balloons (also now known as “compost hats”) — an added perk for many of the neighboring kids to learn the joys of composting and the fun of manual labor.

The evening exemplified what we want our bin builds to be all about!  We worked together with some wonderful neighbors, munched on carrots, and had some excellent discussions with folks with who were genuinely curious about composting, gardening, and the whole works.  Some of the young ones knew about compost, some knew how to use a staple gun, and others were excited just to dump sloppy coffee grounds into the bin.  Whatever the motivation for partaking, bin builders left with smiles on their faces — we did, too.

We have several more bin builds ahead of us, and there are always more opportunities to get involved! We’re looking forward to two more bin builds in the next week: Shalom Community garden today and Crossroads in Brooklyn park on next Wednesday.

Growing Power

The Compostadores had a fabulous trip to Growing Power in Milwaukee in May.  As part of the Growing Food Justice for All Initiative and the WhyHunger grant, the group was able to see Will Allen’s multifaceted, creative, and community-based approaches to urban farming.  Will Allen validated much of the work of the Compostadores by stressing the necessity of healthy, nutrient-rich soil in urban agriculture efforts.  “What do you have without soil?” he asked the audience rhetorically, “Nothing.”  We agree, Will!

The whole operation of Growing Power relies heavily on compost and worm castings, from almost the entirety of the soil in the hoop houses, to the aquaponics  system in the green houses.   The greenhouses are even partially heated by compost, which exudes natural high temperatures to keep the place warm and steamy (don’t worry – it was odor-free!).  The plants in this photo are growing in soils composed of pure compost.

The training also included the Dismantling Racism workshop, a meaningful look into structural inequalities that are manifested in the food system.  It was particularly inspiring to meet so many folks who are doing such important work in tackling these issues around the country.

We also finally got to meet our partners from the Pedal Co-op in Philadelphia, who shared some great bike-delivery strategies with us.  We’re looking forward to heading east to see what they’re doing there!

Congratulations, Compostadores

The Compostadores are thrilled to announce that they were recently awarded the Community Learning Project for Food Justice.  The grant will allow The Compostadores to partner with two innovative and successful organizations on the east coast.  The new partners are Pedal Co-op, a worker-run, pedal-powered waste hauling service that picks up compost in Philadelphia, PA, and Nuestras Raices, a grass-roots organization that promotes economic, human and community development in Holyoke, Massachusetts through projects relating to food, agriculture, and the environment. 

The project grant, awarded by WhyHunger and Growing Power, will allow The Compostadores to visit these organizations, improve partnerships with community-based composting groups, and learn about innovative community action.

This spring, The Compostadores are working on developing neighborhood cycle-powered pick-up routes for compost! In addition to leading more bin-building workshops, the group is working to acquire bikes, construct trailers, and build routes to reduce their carbon footprint and further a strong compost infrastructure in the Twin Cities.

For more information, contact Rebecca.gardeningmatters@gmail.com.