Composting at Camp!

With the launch of our successful composting drop off program last March, the 14th Street Y has discovered how willing people are to participate in composting when given the opportunity to do so. Composting is a great eco educational tool for kids, and it’s never had more room to shine than right now, at our New Country Day Camp. Today we’re sharing a blog written by Aneta, New Country’s very own Greening Coordinator! .

Kids learn about composting at New Country Day Camp!
Kids learn about composting at New Country Day Camp!

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We are very excited to introduce to you our Composting and Gardening program at New Country Day Camp in summer 2013 where campers and staff have been busy playing, smiling, and composting!

Our environmental program exposed 600+ children, from ages 4-12, and 100+ staff to the environmental advantages of composting and Jewish values that are associated with environmental advocacy. The program consisted of a diverse exposure not only to composting, but to gardening, environmental interconnectedness and our responsibility as members and leaders in this world. Campers were introduced to our worm bins, our metal can compost bins, our sensory/Havdalah garden and lead through activities on the "what, how and why" of compost. Our sensory garden featured plants that stimulated different senses: basil and stevia for taste, spearmint, peppermint and English lavender for smell, sunflowers for sight, dusty miller and lemongrass for touch and echinacea for sound because of its attraction to songbirds. It was also entitled a Havdalah garden because it reminds children of the ceremony we have after Shabbat, in which we use our senses to taste the wine, smell the herbs and see the candle.

At lunch, and after every Sustainable snack, children were reminded to throw their food scraps into our green composting bins filled with our compostable bio-bags. A "Yay or Nay" sign supplemented the reminder by showing children what could be (hence the yay!) and what could not be (nay) composted.

Every Wednesday and Friday, the bio-bags were collected and brought onto the Manhattan buses to be brought back to the Y, where it was compiled with the Y's compost. This acted as a zero-carbon footprint method because our children were already traveling on the buses back and forth from camp and the net worth of our compost collection was greater because of the variety of items the Y accepted for composting. On average, NCDC diverted about 130 pounds of food scraps away from landfills and into nutritious soil a week. At the end of Week 5, NCDC has composted 685 pounds of compost and is expected to produce over a thousand pounds in one camp season! That's a whole lot of soil that then is used for local farms upstate.

As for programming, campers how to create seed globes, which are small balls of organic compost, water, red art clay and seeds that act as micro-environments for plants to grow almost anywhere, and exposed campers to Jewish values such as Bal Taschit (avoiding waste), L'avdah u'leshamrah (protecting the environment), Manhigut (leadership) and Arevut (mutual responsibility).

We illustrated the values of composting by creating educational and experiential opportunities for the campers to engage in throughout the day in their age and subject based units. As Greening Coordinator, I designed programming that intertwined environmental education along with each unit. For example, we set up our compost bins, built our sensory/Havdalah garden and made mint lemonade from our garden with CCP, our Cooking, Camping and Pioneering Unit. With Gymnastics, we discussed the importance of a closed cycle and brainstormed other cycles that exist in our lives, such as the cycles of the moon and sun, the planets, and the life cycles of plants and animals. We manifested these ideas through body movements in a show during Shabbat. For Arts and Crafts, we built recycled scarecrows for our garden made out of toilet paper rolls, milk jugs and old clothing. With Science and Technology, we did soil testing, used this information to decide upon the location for next year's planter box and planted sunflowers as an activity for teaching phytoremediation. For Performing Arts, we created stop-motion films that both promoted and educated composting and environmental work to campers and you! the parents.

We couldn't have done it without your campers! To continue your camper's composting efforts and help bring the habit home, below are a few links on how to deal with the food waste that your home produces:

1. A worm bin is a great way to do indoor composting. Worm bins can be purchased through the Lower East Side Ecology Center: http://www.lesecologycenter.org/index.php/composting.html. They even have a compost hotline!

2. Outdoor compost bins are also an option for any outdoor space.

3. GreenMarkets accept compost collections, and other forms of recycling such as textile recycling, from homes at varying times and locations in NYC: http://www.grownyc.org/greenmarket/ourmarkets. An excellent way to keep food scraps in your home in between visits is to freeze your compost!

4. Last but not least, the Y is happy to accept any and all of your compost. Click here to learn about the Y’s Composting Program!

Join our campers in our composting efforts and keep on composting!

Aneta Bujno, our Greening Coordinator, has worked at NCDC for five summers. Aneta learned how to teach environmental education by volunteering at Bushwick City Farm, a grassroots community organization in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

Happy Earth Day!

“New York is the greenest community in the United States. The most devastating damage that humans have done to the environment has arisen from the burning of fossil fuels, a category in which New Yorkers are practically prehistoric by comparison with other Americans.”
David Owen, Green Metropolis: Why Living Smaller, Living Closer, and Driving Less are the Keys to Sustainability                        

Let’s begin by owning that as a city we’re already doing a surprisingly good job of keeping our footprint low by simply living in NYC, driving less, living close by to where we want to go, and walking more.  Happy Earth Day!

Now–  let’s talk about garbage!

If you didn’t know already, garbage in NYC is transported to landfills outside of the state.  Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey all have landfills full of old clothes, packaging, paper, the contents of our last closet purge, and lots and lots of food waste.  This last one is the most unfortunate, because food was meant to compost back into the earth and enrich the soil for the next growing cycle.   If we can keep food out of landfill and find a way to send it back to the soil that grows our food, we’re giving our future food the opportunity to be at least as nutritious as the food that came before it.  It’s a simple concept.  However, when you live in New York City where backyard gardens and opportunities to compost are scarce it seems like the only option for our food waste is to throw it into the landfill with the rest of the garbage.

So here’s a happy story about what we’re doing here at the 14th Street Y, a Jewish community center in the East Village of New York City.  Most of the people who walk through our doors are small apartment urban dwellers.  Their days are full and they are busy, either with family life, crazy jobs or a combination of those.  The Y is a place that serves the community.  We’d been composting within the building for about a year (afterschool snacks and banana peels had a different place to go than the trash can) but this March we chose to begin a community composting pilot—an opportunity for our members and patrons to sign up and drop off their own food waste with us.

Like composting itself, the concept is simple.  After signing up with us, people were asked to save all their food waste; this includes the usual stuff like fruits, vegetables, peelings and cores, but also meat, bones, grains,  dairy, even wooden chopsticks and paper take out containers.  They bring their food waste in used milk cartons or paper bags, both of which are compostable, or in compostable bio bags. We used a waste hauling company, IESI to take the compostables to a plant where they would be processed into composting soil and made available to local farms.   We made a goal to divert 1 ton of food from landfill by Earth Day 2013, which we easily achieved.

It’s been amazing to see how many people would like to compost and will compost when there are sustainable ways of doing so. Would you like to compost with us?  Contact Camille_Diamond@14StreetY.org to sign up!

If you’re not currently a member or patron of the Y but want  to get into composting yourself, there are other options available.  Here’s a list of some of the best of them. Every composting program has a list of what they can and can’t take, so please make sure you double-check their lists before dropping off your compost.

  • NYC Greenmarkets have drop off programs for organic food waste, and it’s easy to remember to bring your food waste when you’re going to purchase more fresh, local food for your family.  http://www.grownyc.org/compost/locations
  • There are experts in composting at Lower East Side Ecology center.  They can show you how to do your own composting…with worms!  http://www.lesecologycenter.org/index.php/composting.html
  • Vokashi is a home composting service that lets you compost in your own kitchen with a special fermentation process in an odorless bucket.  Then…they pick it up!  http://www.vokashi.com/
  • You can get involved with your local schools by creating and registering a school garden!  Composting can be a great part of a garden like this, and an opportunity to compost and learn together!  http://growtolearn.org/view/registergarden

Finally, if you would like to start a community composting project like we did at the 14th Street Y, Please let us know!  We’ll put you in touch with the right people and cheer you on from our downtown corner in the East Village.  For more about our program, just visit www.14Streety.org/compost.          

 

Our Community Composting Program

Are you composting with us yet?

In March, we began our Community Composting Pilot to help busy urban dwellers like you keep food waste out of the landfill.  It’s easy to do!  Just collect your food waste at home (even meat and dairy is eligible for this program) and bring it to the Y.  Once you’re here, you can weigh it and text the amount to track your diversion rate.  Each text enters you into a raffle to win great things from our community.  April’s raffle prize is a $50 gift certificate from Northern Spy , an amazing restauraunt that uses local, fresh and seasonal foods.

Our goal is to sign up 150 households, and  divert 1 ton of food waste from the landfill by EARTH DAY!  (that’s 4/22/13)

Have you signed up to compost with us?  Just email Camille_Diamond@14StreetY.org to get started.  Keep food out of the landfill, send it back to the earth, and complete the food cycle!

For more information, visit www.14StreetY.org/compost