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Composting... or nutrient cycling?

Updated: Feb 20

We've been teaching and learning all about composting, including the Green Bin kind (anerobic) and the outdoor, 3-cell system kind (aerobic, meaning "with air"). There's a world of difference even though the word "compost" has come to mean "managing organic waste by sending it to a facility" or "buy some in a bag from the hardware store", as much as something you turn in your backyard or schoolyard, to not only manage food waste but to create a beautiful natural soil amendment for future crops.

Here's (l-r) Tristan, Ella, Aamoo and me, receiving a new compost bin from FoodShare. Great program, great price! After 20-odd years of the previous bin, it is such a treat to start fresh. We take food waste from the neighbours, who kindly save it for us, as distinct from their Green Bin waste. Since the school food program is back to normal after the COVID period, we also pick up a bucket weekly from the school cafeteria, where Charmyne Urquhart cooks from scratch and provides a healthy meal every day at Winchester Public School, as she has done since the early days of the City of Toronto's support for school lunches. For more on this, see the Coalition for Healthy School Food.

To cycle the nutrients for future use, you need to match your "green" (food waste, coffee grounds; nitrogen-heavy) and cover with "browns" (woodchips, leaves, straw - carbon-heavy). Carbon and nitrogen, combined with water and air, create the perfect home for microbes that make the healthy soil amendment we need to grow food for that lunch program, in our slightly sandy soils at Winchester. (Another school hasn't quite figured out the difference between the Green Bin and the compost bin, so we'll keep working on that with them.)

As the first snow of the year falls gently outside my office window, I give thanks for the bounty of the Earth, who nourishes us. Composting is about reciprocity, too. We don't just take-take-take from soil. It needs replenishing, and even better, we are storing carbon in healthy soil, so the deeper it is, the more carbon it stores. There's your climate solution - part of it, anyway.

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