Composting Champions

The weekend started with the shocking news that one of my colleagues had died on Wednesday evening. She was only young with a daughter my own daughter’s age, so there is a great deal of sorrow in my heart at the moment.

My own exploits of today were therefore grounding: being in touch with like-minded souls who want to spread the word about compost.

A group of us met at West Leeds Activity Centre to brainstorm ways in which we could get more of Leeds composting. We will need to have more meetings to develop our plans but we made a good start today, pooling ideas.

Then we were introduced to the massive food composters on the site.

The Ridan Food Composters are a bit stinky but I doubt very much a rat would get inside these containers. They also produce a lot of heat – when the lid was taken off one of them a fair amount of steam came out. So, many tonnes can be made in a short space of time, although once the contents come out the composter they are ‘cured’ with woodchip to rebalance them (eg for pH).

Anyway, three things I learned of particular note are:

  1. About fifty percent of the Ridan’s contents is bread which has been discarded. Yup, we collectively throw away a lot of bread.
  2. Good compost requires water as well as heat, fuel and oxygen. This enables the plant roots to more effectively access the nutrients in it.
  3. Coffee grinds are not acidic. The acid comes out once water is added. So they won’t therefore make your soil acidic either.

Another notable plus for me today was meeting two of the women behind Veg on the Edge, a project in Saltaire, where vegetables are grown around the village in spaces which would otherwise be unused, such as the side of the platforms at the railway station.

It’s great that we have these projects. Those of us who took part in the Future Learn course Grand Challenges: Food for Thought seemed to be quite disheartened by the way our world appears to be going (depletion of fish in our oceans, for examples), so solutions do provide some solace. Not that the Ridan Composter is going to directly help the fish.

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About Helen

I have always been interesting in living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle and used to do what I could. Now, I have come to realise that we have reached such a point in terms of environmental degradation that it is more important - perhaps - to focus on building resilience. I therefore do as much as I can to reuse, grow my own and encourage a supportive community, for example. I also keep reading and learning all the time.
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16 Responses to Composting Champions

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about the passing of your colleague.

  2. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    So sad to read about your colleague. It is heart breaking. One of my colleagues passed away in January, only in her fifties. it is hard for the families left behind.

  3. So sorry to hear about your colleague, Helen.

  4. Such a death is always a shock, no matter how close or otherwise we may have been

  5. So sorry to hear about the loss of your colleague.

  6. What a shocking loss, Helen. I’m so sorry to hear. My heart goes out to you and her family. Such heartbreak.

    Interesting information about composting, especially re coffee grounds. We can pick them up for free here at our local Starbucks.

    • Helen says:

      Thank you, Alys. Being at my parents’ this weekend has helped me feel more grounded.

      What has made it more upsetting for me is that my colleague was my classes co-teacher and of course the students have been very upset.

      At the same time, they are probably wary of how to behave, being in a foreign country. However, my colleagues who are at work today will be explaining a project to help everyone (we hope): a scrapbook of work by the students for our colleague’s daughter.

      Anyway, I’m pleased you read the information about compost/coffee grounds. There’s so much to learn and hopefully I will have the opportunity to teach other people as well as part of the scheme to get people composting.

      • Oh Helen, this makes it doubly difficult to move forward with your vulnerable students while grieving yourself. I’m glad you have supportive parents, and that you could spend time with them over the weekend. It sounds like you’ve put together a number of things for the students to do to help them process this difficult loss.

I love to read about your own experiences and any other feedback you have, so look forward to your comments below.

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