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Celebrating International Compost Awareness Week

By Larraine Roulston:

Help compost councils celebrate International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW), May 5-11. The ICAW was createdin Canada in1995, while the UK Composting Association and the U.S. Composting Council were established in 2001. Although composting is promoted year-round, the strength of their message during ICAW is enhanced through their designated annual week of events. Activities include compost demonstrations, workshops, compost giveaways, displays, compost facility tours, poster contests and other educational fun activities.

Each year a theme is chosen. Teri Sorg-McManamon, ICAW Committee chair explained, “The meaning behind this year’s theme is that there are many ways to help reduce our carbon footprint and reduce climate change — adding compost to the soil is one such tool and is key to soil health and mitigating climate change.”

This year, the United States chose a poster emphasizing “Cool the Climate —Compost.” Canadas poster illustrates “Recycle your Organics — Return Life to our Soils.” Australia’s message remains the same: “Better Soil, Better Life, Better Future!”

The ultimate aim is to reduce the use of fertilizers and pesticides, which in turn will improve water quality. Their plan is to raise public awareness through composting, to teach how to create quality soil that will nurture healthy plants. Each year the week’s activities continue to expand as citizens recognize the importance and connection between healthy soil and our climate.

For a greener garden, the humus created by composting can be spread over topsoil. It will improve soil’s texture, water retention and air flow. What’s more, it is both easy to do and free. Its success lies in layering kitchen peelings, coffee grounds and eggshells that are discarded every day with yard trimmings. These biodegradable materials, along with air and water, break down into a magnificent soil conditioner. The entire process of decomposition is complex but natural. In the food web, each organism, which includes insects, slugs, bacteria and fungi, has a job to do in turning food scraps into rich, crumbly, dark compost. While you need to check that the pile remains moist (not soggy), basically you can sit back and let nature take its course.

If you have not already joined the Green Wave of Recycling, your composter should be located in an airy, sunny area away from standing water. Add a base layer of leaves or brush to facilitate air flow. With a small kitchen container to collect your food cores and peelings, you are ready to begin. Continue to layer your kitchen food scraps (which provide the nitrogen) followed by a handful of dry grass, leaves, sawdust from untreated wood, twigs, brush or bits of ripped brown cardboard (which provide the carbon) that are necessary for the process. Soil should be added occasionally, as it acts as an odor suppressor and introduces more microorganisms to speed up the decomposition.

Susan Antler, Executive Director of the Compost Council of Canada states, “Whether at home, work or play, in the garden or at places where you eat, shop and gather, organic materials should never be sent for burial in a landfill. There, they waste space, dirty our waters and create methane gas, which contributes to Global Warming. It’s not good and not what Nature intended.”

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 Larraine Roulston authors the children’s Pee Wee at Castle Compost book series. www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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