wastebuster-maxiPutting out the rubbish is always one of those contentious jobs in our house. It’s never really been clear whose job it is (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) so the bin gets more and more packed full of decomposing leftovers until emptying is incredibly unpleasant and smelly.

But no more! In our new house we’re going to compost everything that we can, with the ultimate aim of never needing a plastic rubbish bag again. Anything squishy should be being composted. End of story. Once our Aquaponics system is up and running I want to have a Black Soldier Fly composting system which will take everything – including meat, fish, eggs, dairy – and which will also provide larvae to feed to our fish. I’m never one to depend on just one solution or species though, so we’re also going to try out a wormery first. This should get us started, but can’t take all the trickier waste.

Inspired by Compost Awareness Week, I found a whole heap of great links on www.homecomposting.org.uk, so here’s what I now know about wormeries:

  • They use different worms to those you’ll usually find in the ground
  • You can feed the worms to fish 🙂
  • Don’t trust the legs on them – a full wormery can be pretty heavy
  • You’re better off with one that is wider rather than deeper – gets more air to the compost
  • Worms eat loads (up to their body weight each day) 
  • They breed fast, but won’t over populate
  • They don’t need daily attention – they’ll survive a good holiday as long as you feed them properly

You can make your own wormery, and buy the worms separately, but when getting started the best thing to do seems to be to buy a complete kit. There are lots of these available, and a quick look seems to suggest that the Wormcity EcoWormery is the best buy – for  £40. I’ll add it to my shopping list!

Wormery Suppliers

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go_logo50Now this seems like another joke post . . . but it isn’t there really is a Compost Awareness Week. It’s being run by the fantastic bunch over at Garden Organic, who really seem to be at the forefront of all the issues surrounding getting people in Britain growing sustainably. as one of their initiatives they’ve setup a website dedicated to encouraging home composting (www.homecomposting.org.uk) and are busy assembling a national network of Master Composters to help out those of us who never have much luck! This year I think we’ll try out a wormery, and when I get my Aquaponics system up and running I want to try a Black Soldier Fly composting system, which will compost pretty much anything (including meat scraps) and will then produce larvae that can be fed to the fish in the Aquaponics system.

Anyway, don’t miss it 🙂 – Compost Awareness Week is Sunday 3 – Saturday 9 May 2009.  Keep an eye on www.homecomposting.org.uk for details of local events.

I’d been planning to put together a list of aims and achievements since I talked about it back in August. In the great pause between Christmas and New Year it seems appropriate to finally get around to it! So here is my quick brain dump. I’ll expand on this as I achieve some of them:

Food

  • Build up a store of 1 year’s supply of food that we eat. Try to ensure that we are storing the ingredients for food that won’t keep – e.g. store UHT milk to make short-shelf-life dairy products as required, ingredients for bread etc.
    • Work out what we eat in a year
    • DONE! learn to bake bread from base ingredients
    • learn to bake good, light, everyday bread!
    • learn to make basic pastas
    • learn to make and wax hard cheese – cheddar, parmesan and more
    • learn to make soft cheeses that we use – feta (soft and hard), mozzarella,
    • learn to make other dairy products that we use – sour cream, yoghurt
    • learn to preserve and store fresh food that we grow, or that is only seasonally available locally.
    • learn to make jam
  • Find a network of  local producers and suppliers, and use them as much as possible.
    • reduce our dependance on supermarkets to less than 50% of essential food
      • reduce our dependance on supermarkets to less than 10% of essential food
    • reduce our dependance on non-local food – less than 50% of essential food
      • reduce our dependance on non-local food – less than 10% of essential food
        • remove our dependance on non-local food – no essential food from further away than 100 miles, 90% within 50 miles

 Waste

  • get milk (and juice if possible) delivered in reusable bottles
  • shop for a month with no plastic bags
  • compost all kitchen scraps, so that all waste from the house is “dry” and doesn’t need plastic bags
  • halve the packaging we use in year 1
    • reduce it by 10% every year
  • Halve our general refuse in year 1
    • reduce it by 10% every year thereafter
  • put in a compost toilet
  • put in a greywater recycling sytem for all water from bath, shower, washbasin, washing machine

Growing our own food

  • setup our aquaponics system
    • harvest fish from our aquaponics system
      • breed our own fish, thereby closing the cycle
  • harvest winter vegetables from our own plot
  • get an allotment
  • grow 50% of our own fruit and vegetable requirements
    • grow 80% of our own essential fruit and vegetables
  • keep chickens for eggs

 Energy

  • work out how much electricity we use, and try to devise a plan to provide that by renewable means
  • reduce our fossil fuel use by 10% a year
  • store at least a year’s supply of firewood
  • have a heating/hot water system that will work with at least two different fuel sources
  • have a cooking system that will work with at least two different fuel sources
  • don’t buy or use a tumble dryer
  • retire our powered mower
  • provide all our essential power needs on-site, for at least a month
  • provide 50% of non-essential power needs on site

General Resilience

  • provide 100% of essential water requirements on-site for 3 months
  • provide 50% of all water requirements for 3 months.
  • “live” within a bikeable radius (public transport if necessary)
  • learn to sharpen tools

Community

  • Join local allotment / gardening groups
  • Get involved in Manchester FOE
  • Go to Green Drinks
  • Team up with other local growers to ensure that we can have some “cover” if we ever go on holiday.

Blimey, that’s a controversial thought!

Tuesday’s Sydney Morning Herald was trumpeting “the end of cheap food” with world prices rising, and Biofuel production eating into already failing croplands.

98% of me recoils against this idea, but there’s 2% of me that’s listening to WRAP‘s stats on the waste of food in the UK. You can check out the facts at the Love Food Hate Waste website :

  • A third of food in the UK is wasted – just try it at home – bring three bags of shopping in , then take one straight out to the bin again – it’s a SCANDAL.
  • That wasted food is the CO2 equivalent to taking 20% of the cars off the road – that’s right – 1 in 5 cars.
  •  The figures are just ridiculous – 6.7 million tones of food every year, with an estimated cost of £8 billion per year.

So let’s just think about this. We put taxes on petrol to stop people driving, to save the planet. But the CO2 equivalent of 1-in-5 cars is WASTED by us all throwing food away.

So maybe more expensive food is a good thing – it’ll make us value it more, make more people grow their own, and reduce the waste that’s going on?

Of course, that’s in an ideal world . . . in reality, I’m sure that the most waste comes from the wealthiest households, those least affected by the price rises (and by the petrol taxes) so when is somebo0ody going to come up with a solution that is not weath based? That really is the question.

Anyway, while we’re all pondering the big questions of life . . . here are a couple of great links to help make a small difference on our own waste levels. Abby at the Daily Tiffin talking about planning and storage, and Aidan Brooks (an Apprentice Chef) with a whole heap of useful links.

And don’t forget – fill out your own Food Waste Diary to see if the problem begins at home! I’ll have a go with ours, and see how we go.