Sunday, November 10, 2013

Earth Connection 2

Well garnished and beautifully presented food at a restaurant hides the irresponsible story of food waste generated everyday. The scale of the problem is pretty huge and home composting is only a tiny step towards a responsible and sustainable life we all ought to live. 

Composting was traditionally done in large pits dug up in the backyard of a house. The day's wet waste was dumped into it along with dried leaves from the garden. At first, it sounded hectic and tedious. How could a large scale concept like composting be adoptable in our fast paced, space restricted lives? 

After some reading and research, I decided to start with a compost tumbler. Compost tumblers are widely used in western countries to manage organic waste. 

Yard Compost Tumbler
The key to successful composting is to get the right mix of greens and brown. Your kitchen waste makes up the green component and dried leaves, paper, sawdust etc makes up the brown. I tried different ratios of the 2 and finally got to the right mix. 

A plastic drum, aerated on all sides to allow ample oxygen for the compost pile to breath. I applied the logic and with my DIY enthusiasm made my 1st plastic composter. 

Attempt 1 :
I used a plastic bucket and punched holes in it for aeration.

Everyday, I segregated the kitchen and pooja waste in a box and put it into the composter along with dried leaves. 

In a weeks time I saw the bucket heat up quite a bit as the decomposition began. I noticed a lot of brown liquid discharge. Also known as leachate. About 80% of our organic waste is water which is discharged in the form of leachate during decomposition. 
Unlike western homes, we cook alot more. Over the next few weeks, it was difficult to manage the amount of liquid being secreted from the pile.

Our food and waste has a much higher water content than western homes. 
Right now we spend invaluable fuel to haul away nothing but gallons of water from our homes.  

Lesson learnt: Stop aping the west.   

Composter 1 and 2
Attempt 2:
I decided to move to a bigger composter. This time I pierced holes at the base too. This was easier to manage as better aeration made it a more pleasant experience. 

The composter was too big for me to mix the entire pile without assistance. 

Lesson learnt: Short people could tumble into tall composters.

Attempt 3:
 I came across a design for a teracotta ('baked earth' in Italian) composter. This product was perfect since Oman has a rich pottery heritage and culture. 
I got the pots made by an Omani potter with Omani clay making it a 100% local product. 
The 3 tiers separate the organic waste into 3 stages of decomposition. The pots are used in rotation making it easy to manage just enough waste in one pot at a time.

 The biggest advantage of this composter is the material it's made of. Terracotta by nature is a porous material that absorbs any liquid that it is in contact with. 

Excess leachate gets absorbed by the composter walls and the added aeration speeds up the process by 3 weeks.

Lesson learnt: Go back to the basics :)

These 2 composters were small and fit snugly in the corner of my backyard.

I got a little braver with my next set of composters and made them a little bigger in size. These composters were bigger, perfectly aerated and had a surprisingly pleasant smell. 
I gave 2 sets to my friends to try out and I painted mine myself. I named him my Green Bin. 
In bright yellow and green he stands proudly in my front porch composting our days organic waste into nutritious, beautiful black gold.
Photo credits: Guru Acharya
Reluctant model: Devang Sampat

So there....I finally brought home the perfect organic waste composter. It feels pretty awesome when I see my mother-in-law casually discard her used tea bags in the wet waste bin.  We are a family of green warriors taking baby steps towards sustainable living. 

I learnt a few tip and tricks along the way. Managing organic waste is now necessary and extremely fulfilling to me. I cant stop talking about how much I'm enjoying the experience and I'd like to share it with everyone I know. 

Composting is like tasting an ice cream for the 1st time in ur life. You can't explain the rush you feel unless you experience it yourself :)