Food that we throw in the trash bin ends up either dumped in a landfill or burned in an incinerator, along with all our other garbage. The thing is, these processes produce methane gas and nitrous oxides, greenhouse gases which have 20 and 300 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, respectively.
A more environmentally friendly alternative? Composting. Here, organic waste decomposes in the presence of oxygen and the end product can be used as a natural fertilizer because of its high nutritive value and ability to retain water effectively. While most major Canadian cities have organic waste pick-up projects in place, Montreal is sadly lacking in a compost collection program. The responsibility is left up to the individual, the one producing the waste. So what’s a concerned eater to do?
If convenience is your style…
Want to compost, but don’t want the hassle? Join Compost Montreal, an organization that collects compost from participants at the cost of $5 per week and delivers it to a composting site managed by the Department of Parks and Horticulture. Your very own compost bucket is supplied free of charge, and Compost Montreal collects right from your front porch. This organization also provides members with finished compost in the spring. compostmontreal.com
Get your hands dirty. Household vermicomposting is one of the most convenient and environmentally sound methods of composting because it requires no transport. This method uses earthworms called red wigglers (Eisenia foetida) as well as many other natural microorganisms like bacteria and fungi to decompose organic waste. To make your own vermicomposter, all you need is a container with aeration holes (wood is best because it absorbs some excess moisture, but plastic is less likely to decay), bedding (sawdust or shredded newspaper), and worms.
Worms can be obtained from various places in Montreal. The Concordia R4 program, one of Sustainable Concordia’s initiatives, sells worms as well as any other materials needed to start up your own compost. Start up cost is $25 for 250g of worms. You can recuperate your investment by selling excess worms back to R4 as they grow and multiply in your compost. Some farms near Montreal also sell worms at comparable prices, and Gorilla Composting hopes to have their own worm swap going one day. An even easier option may be to ask a friend who has their own vermicompost if they can spare some of their extra wigglers.
At optimal conditions, red wigglers can eat half their weight in one day. If you have 250g of worms, this means you can add 125g of food per day. The worm population grows quickly, however, so this amount can soon be increased. It is good to have a balanced amount of carbon-rich foods (cardboard, newspaper, plant trimmings) and nitrogen-rich foods (egg shells, fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grinds). Avoid meat, dairy, and oily foods as these can cause unpleasant smells. When taken care of properly, the compost should smell only of soil.
Carry it to campus
You may never have imagined throwing a bucket of waste in your knapsack along with your library books and ipod, but consider it an option. Gorilla Composting, a campus club operating out of Shatner, provides its members with containers to store and transport organic waste. Students can bring their containers full of waste to the drop-off spot in the Shatner sub-basement garbage room. Also, for the membership cost of $5 per year, students receive finished compost for their own use. According to Gorilla Composting coordinator of operations David Gray-Donald, the only downside to the service is that volunteers subsequently transport the waste a considerable distance to a farm where it is processed. Gorilla Composting is working on getting students more involved by holding periodic vermicomposting workshops, and in the future they hope to purchase a composting machine with the goal of composting all waste from the downtown campus. Check out gorilla.mcgill.ca or attend the next meeting on Thursday April 2 at 5:30 in the Organic Corner, 2nd floor Shatner.
We’re including Tournesol Community Composting Center, because you’ve probably passed its stylish black composting cylinders in Jeanne-Mance Park. This service allows residents to drop off their compost free of charge during most of the year at the park. The centre has two high-tech compost mills that are currently handling organic waste from approximately 150 families. Space has been full for as long as we can remember, but check back throughout the season to see if a spot becomes available, or to place your name on a wait-list. ecojm.org/tournesol_communautaire.html