So a big shout out to Crave Catering in Brooklyn, NY. Crave (a new Viv Biz Club member) has recently gotten involved with the Vokashi system of accelerated composting.
Vokashi is based on the process of food recycling known as Bokashi. As described at Vokashi.com: “Bokashi in Japanese refers to the process of fermenting organic matter. The method uses anaerobic (without oxygen) fermentation to ‘pickle’ organic matter in an airtight container with a bran that is inoculated with effective microorganisms. Once the matter is matured it can be planted in your garden or added to above ground composting boxes. Within weeks, the fermented matter is decomposed into highly nutrient rich soil ready for use as natural fertilizer or for planting.”
Crave has had food waste fermenting in Vokashi bins for the past 3 months and recently sent me a photo album of their Vokashi Trenching.
If you’re interested in Bokashi or alternative forms of composting, it’s a must see:
Step 1: Build or purchase planters for composting
Step 2: Line planters with chicken wire
Step 3: Add a layer of moss to the planters to prevent soil from dropping through chicken wire
Step 4: Add a layer of soil to the planters
Step 5: Bring out food waste that has been fermenting in Vokashi bins for 3 months (mmm… tasty!)
Step 6: Dig trench in soil and spread a layer of the food waste in the trench
I highly recommend reading the article (including comments) if you want the full scope. (Also, they’re a bit biased, but the Insinkerator folks have a fairly solid video detailing what happens to food waste when it goes down a garbage disposal).
Anyway, here are the key take-aways:
Composting is always the preferred method to dispose of food waste. If you don’t have access to curbside composting or do not want to start & tend a compost pile in your backyard, I’d recommend trying a Naturemill.
Naturemill Indoor Composter: Arul’s brother recently purchased one (good work Bhu!) and I have to say it was pretty awesome. It’s small, fits in your kitchen, and churns / oxidizes food scraps so that they heat up and break down quickly… replicating the conditions of an industrial composting facility (full post on this product coming soon).
If you’re unable to compost (and really most folks who can afford a Naturemill should be able to), then typically, putting food waste down a garbage disposal is your next best option. There are two main benefits from using a garbage disposal as opposed to just placing food waste in the trash, including: 1) energy savings (less trucks hauling trash to landfills) and 2) reduced food waste in landfills (some of the bio-solids that end up in Waste Water Treatment Plants, WWPTs, are turned into fertilizer).
Room for debate: It is important to note however that when food waste breaks down in an anaerobic environment (landfills & WWPTs are typically anaerobic environments), the food waste produces methane gas. There’s a stronger movement amongst landfills (relative to WWPTS) to re-capture that gas and prevent it from entering our atmosphere (where is it 21 times as potent as CO2). If you live in California, where methane re-capture is required for all new landfills, it may be better to have your food waste hauled to a landfill (though again – compost first).
We were tipped off to Seventh Generation’s Science Man recently by @WorldCentric.
The Science Man is 7th Generation’s Director of Product
& Environmental Technology, Martin Wolf, who has 30+ years in environmental product design, evaluation, and analysis (true to name, he also has a pretty fantastic Wolf man ‘stache & beard). He takes eco-related questions from the general public and answers them quite well (with full references).
In a recent question, “Earthy09″ asked the Science Man:
How much water and total energy does the average dishwasher use? Is using a dishwasher more sustainable than washing dishes by hand?
His answer: “According to the U.S. Department of Energy, washing your dishes by hand uses more than twice the amount of energy and water it takes to run an EnergyStar dishwasher when washing full loads. By using an energy efficient dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand you’re saving money and time too!
That said, a lot depends on how you wash your dishes! Most people let the water run continuously as they wash their dishes. If you do this, dishwashers win hands down. However, if you fill a dishpan with water and only run the water to rinse dishes after you have washed all of them, then you can be more water and energy efficient than a dishwasher. The average water consumption of a conventional dishwasher is 6 gallons per cycle, while an energy efficient dishwasher uses 4 gallons per cycle.” See Full Response for energy numbers
4 gallons! Kitchen faucets flow at at bare minimum 1.5 gallons / minute (most are 2 – 3.5 gallons / minute). So, if you’re running your tap >3 minutes (which you almost certainly are are if you’re washing a full load of dishes), then the dishwasher is clearly the way to go.
So there you go.
Keep your eyes peeled for more posts from us down the road highlighting other Science Man answers (e.g., “Are plastic shower curtains bad for the environment of your home?”).
This is one of those – “How has no one thought of that??” ideas.
If you haven’t heard about the ‘Green Box’, it’s really quite brilliant. In short, it’s a 100% recycled pizza box where the top turns into 4 plates and the bottom folds over to create a smaller box for housing your leftover slices.
The crux of why this is so great –> most recycling centers will not accept paper or cardboard products that have been soiled by food (e.g., pizza boxes). And since curbside composting is not available in most of the country, pizza boxes often end up in landfills. The green box allows them to be re-used and allows folks to reduce the amount of food packaging they would have otherwise used (e.g., no need for those paper plates).