Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Today I’m going to join Jan at Thanks For Today who has invited us all to join her in promoting Earth Day and sustainable gardening practice.

Jan has asked anyone who would like to join to promote Earth Day on the 22nd of April 2010 by coming up with an appropriate post based, of course, on what we can do as gardeners to help the environment and live sustainably. She is even giving away some very lovely prizes, but I’m joining in just for the fun of it! You can read more about Earth Day on Jan’s wonderful blog.

My compost bin which I ovehauled yesterday...but that's another story!

My aim for Earth Day is to prevent anything from my home or garden that is compostable from entering the waste stream. Of course not just on Earth Day, but every day!

I also want to share what I’ve found out about compost and why it is good for much more than your garden.

If you’ve got composting right, you are actually helping to reduce greenhouse gases.

If you are putting compostable material in the rubbish bin, you are probably helping to create methane gas at the local tip, which is not great news…

Approximately 60% of the rubbish Australians put in the everyday mixed-waste ‘garbage bin’ could be put to better use in the garden as compost and mulch or could be returned to agricultural land to improve soil quality.

Alarmingly, such a huge amount of organically-active material buried ‘anaerobically’ (without air) in landfill causes over 3% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions annually by producing methane: a gas with 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide! If properly composted instead, this same organic waste could help to abate climate change in yet another way: by sinking or ‘sequestering’ carbon back into the soil.

The above information is from Waste Management Association of Australia’s Compost Week promotion in 2009.

My ducks about to clean up some slugs and convert them to garden food!

Gardening Australia also has some very easy to digest information about composting. The article notes that in 2008 less Australian were composting than 10 years earlier, which I think is probably a trend that is sadly continuing.

Just imagine, in Australia alone 3% of greenhouse gases could be reduced just by composting your garden and vege scraps! We could be putting up to 60 % less waste in the bin. I think those numbers are probably repeated give or take around the world and set us an achievable challenge for Earth Day and every day!

Any little bit of composting helps, but I’ve set myself the challenge of making sure it all goes to compost and beneficial re-use. I’m going to be using three things to help achieve that aim:

  1. The worm farm. The worms will get the pick of the compost crop as they put it to good use producing vermacasts and worm wee for the garden.
  2. The compost bin. Pretty much all the rest of the kitchen scraps and a lot of the garden waste. Coffee grounds, vacuum cleaner dust, anything made of natural fabric too far gone for the op shop, leaves, small prunings, shredded newspaper etc.
  3. The council ‘green bin’. The garden waste that I don’t want to risk surviving the compost bin and re-introducing to the garden goes in here. Blackberries, couch grass that’s gone to seed and ivy will go in along with some small branches too big for the compost. The council has a process for completely ‘cooking’ compost so even the nastiest weeds can’t re-produce, so I’ll leave the real pains to them.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

Well, the worm farm is under way and the green bin is a wonderful service that eventually ends up as commercial mulch, but the compost bin…that needed a bit of ‘tweaking’ and I’ll tell you more about it in the next day or two!

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Comments on: "The Compost Challenge – Can You Help Reduce Greenhouse Gases?" (24)

  1. I like that council green bin idea. I usually take my diseased pest ridden stuff to the dump to get it out of my garden and I’ve never heard of this. How fantastic. Composting is such a good thing so great you do it for the earth and for you.

    • Hi Tina and thanks for your comments!

      I think we take our local councils a bit for granted here in Australia. Many do great environmental work and ours does quite a lot to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill using a three bin system. You’ve inspired me to post more on what they do a bit later down the track :)

  2. I love your composting tips and useful links. If Australia can impact greenhouse gases by 3%, imagine what the US can do? It sounds like your community has a great resource in helping to take away that which you aren’t going to compost yourself and doing it instead. I plan on posting a composting post next week and may link to your site if that is okay…

    • I agree Noelle, if everyone was composting in the US that would have to have a huge impact!

      I think the local councils here have been very responsible by trying to divert all that they can from landfill by providing not only an option for disposing of garden nightmares, but an option for people who don’t want to/can’t manage their own compost system too.

      I’m looking forward to reading your upcoming compost post as I’m still working on getting mine functioning as effectively as possible and could do with some tips! Of course you can link to me – you’ve made me blush by even thinking of doing so :)

  3. I’m so glad that you participated and shared your excellent practices of sustainable living with us! We don’t have anything remotely similar to a ‘green bin’ in our area, so that is a completely new, and interesting concept to me! I’m very impressed by your determination to use everything you can in your compost bin and not unnecessarily add it to your trash bin. I did not realize that even material that is ‘organic’ in nature will produce unwanted methane gases when buried underground with no oxygen. You have spelled it out (at least for me) more clearly than many articles I’ve read or advertisements I’ve seen! Thank you so much for contributing a terrific post to this cause. Jan

  4. Oh Jan, your lovely comments have made me really blush!

    I didn’t fully understand the impact of organic waste in landfill until I started researching how to get my compost working properly. I had just ‘heard somewhere’ that organics in the bin was something to be seriously avoided!

    I’m surprised that so far no one who has popped in from the US has reported having access to a green bin system. That’s been a surprise for me!

    Thanks again for the chance to share sustainable practices with other garden bloggers as part of Earth Day, I’m about to go and check out the other new posts linked to your site :)

  5. I’m a wee bit jealous of your access to a local ‘green bin’. We compost here, and I have a tiny bucket of red worms indoors for the experience later. But we’ll have to stop composting soon — because we could be leaving anytime starting in August, and the landlord won’t be too happy if we leave behind undigested food waste. :( We’ve always managed to put general yard trimmings back into the brushy area on the edge of the forest. Diseased bits of plants or invasive weeds, however, went into the trash… I would feel guilty putting it into the forest.

    Our town should really have access to a green bin for those of us who are impermanent or can’t compost, for whatever reason. But, this being rural America, they’re just barely getting into the idea of recycling here: most of my neighbors still don’t have bins, and one of them has it but complains that it’s too much trouble to use. Sigh.

    Great, informative article. I hope more people take up the cause.

  6. Hi Meredith, I see what you mean about leaving your landlord undigested organics – I guess not eveyone would see that as a gift :D
    Hopefully your local council type body will see the wisdom of having a green bin system one day soon. I guess it’s an expensive system to introduce, but dealing with a lot of landfill can’t be cheap either!

  7. Great post about composting and I love your ducks! I would really like to put one on the side of our house. Good info to know!

  8. Great information and links!I love you ducks! So there’s a way to deal with slugs!! Do your ducks waddle about your garden … do any damage to flowers and plants? Veggies?

  9. Hello Amy and Carol and thanks for your lovely comments!

    The ducks are a good low maintenance pest control, they waddle about and eat snails, slugs and other bugs (we do feed them layer pellets as well).

    They tend to leave plants alone, except for the important exception of seedlings, which they may pull out…to get at the worms underneath! So if you can protect your little seedlings until they settle in, ducks are a wonderful addition to the garden!

  10. It is great to know what you are doing as contribution towards Earth Day. Using ducks for pest control is an excellent idea too.

  11. Hi Autumn Belle and thanks for popping in :)
    I might post a bit more about the ducks later, they are great little garden helpers, even if not particularly friendly ones!

  12. The greenbin is an excellent idea. I too compost every organic thing from my kitchen and the garden, but sometimes the pruned tree branches are a problem.

    • Hello Lotusleaf – I somehow mised coming back to your comment – sorry! The bin works well for smallish branches, but I must admit I’ve still got to come up with a good solution for the bigger ones.

  13. I really enjoyed your post. I’m a great fan of composting, too, but didn’t know about the benefit of reducing methane gas – so another good reason! Do you really empty your vacuum cleaner into the compost? That sounds a little scary! I’m so envious of your ducks that eat the slugs. There’s no way to keep any in our allotment, unfortunately. Barbara

    • Hello Barbara and thanks for visiting :)

      I have just started to compost the contents of my vacuum cleaner, so I’ll have to report back later as to how successful it has been. The contents of the vacuum are quite fine (apart from the occasional small peice of lego ;) ) so I’m hoping it will break down very quickly once the microbes set to work and I’ve read recently that things like hair is very good for the garden, but it can take a long time to break down and provide their nutrients (plus you’d need a lot of hair for any significant benefit!) so we’ll see how it goes.

      You know, I’m even experimenting with composting an old pair of badly worn jeans – they’re cotton after all. I’m working on making it a real ‘hot’ composting bin and adding old ‘duck water’, so I’m hopeful that I can keep things cooking along!

      What a shame you have no room for ducks – they are a real bonus for keeping the slugs and snails under control – but I still find them hiding under pots every now and then!

      • Very cool about the jeans. I read a nonfiction book called Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate that described a compost pile so hot that they’d toss chicken carcasses into it. (They were Buddhists and vegetarians and so raised the chickens for eggs, but that’s how they disposed of their bodies when they died.)

  14. Great post! Yes I suppose we are lucky in Australia to have recycling etc made so easy for us. We dont have green bins here, but you can take garden waste to the dump yourself. A pity though that so many people still dont see the benefits. I have a compost bin like yours, and mine gets really hot – how often do you “stir” it up? I find that really helps a lot. Some expert gardeners say that if you keep adding to your compost it can never be a hot compost, but I am really happy with how mine turns out. I have another bin that I am not adding to, to see if that works differently.

  15. Hello Gillian and thanks for popping by :)
    Yes, I guess it isn’t going to be a true ‘hot compost’ pile, but it’s not really a cold compost pile in the true sense either, so maybe Ishould have said ‘warm compost’ ;) I’ve not long re-started it and give it a bit of a stir when i think of it and it seems to be moving along ok (I did keep some material from the old bin to kick start it a bit)
    I’m also hoping to get another bin soon so I can leave one to do it’s thing while filing the next – I’d be interested to hear how your second one turns out.

  16. Great stats about how helpful composting is!

    We’ve had an indoor worm bin for 5 or 6 years. But I’ve never been too successful with the outdoor compost bin, mainly because it’s so dry here in Colorado. I’ve heard the suggestion to use drip irrigation to keep it moist and will be sure to try that the next time I attempt one.

    • Hi Wendy and thanks for your great comments :) It is pretty hot and dry at this time of year here too (but not all year round) and that’s one of my biggest problems with keeping the compost going at the moment. But I’m finding that puring in some water from my ducks’s bath is helping. Drip irrigation sounds likea good solution too, I’d be interested to hear if you start one up using that method!

  17. Since I’ve added a rain barrel as a new gift, I had to get more specific about instructions, because I was getting such a variety of things from bloggers. In order to be consistent, would you mind adding the ‘badge’ to your post or sidebar? Thanks;-) Jan

    • Hi Jan – I’ll try and get it fixed tonight – I’ve tried a few times but can’t seem to get the image to show (still pretty new to all this) If I can’t work it out I might have to ask for some help!

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