With the coronavirus infecting over 182,000 people in Illinois thus far since the COVID-19 pandemic began, businesses throughout the state have had to adapt to the rapidly changing state of our world. Now that the state has entered Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois reopening plan, a new round of decision-making has to happen to decide how to carry on operations while keeping customers and employees safe. Unfortunately, our We Compost Partners are affected by the pandemic as well, so we checked in with Food for Thought in Lincolnwood.
As a business that primarily relies on catering services, it’s understandably difficult to remain open during the pandemic, as the prevalence of larger events has declined substantially. For Food for Thought, they have had to go “on hold until companies come back to office [and] travel returns.” With a reliance on larger events, the only real option is to wait until Illinois reaches Phase 5, and a vaccine is created to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Many businesses have been working to increase their sanitation protocols and to make sure that the health and safety of both the customer and the employee are highly prioritized. Foodservice providers have a leg up over others since handwashing and cleanliness are already extremely important, and Food for Thought is in a great position since they already “have conveniently located hand sinks and washing stations.” Liz also explained to me that they will be “moving to temperature taking for all staff and guests to our buildings while [requiring] masks to be worn” as well.
While everyone affected by the coronavirus faces unique challenges and hardships, lots of organizations and individuals have worked to find the positives in the situation. For Food for Thought, the “business is based on people gathering so we are taking the time to assess all internal systems, marking and sales initiatives.” While providing an opportunity for some to slow down and reassess practices, the coronavirus pandemic has also provided learning experiences. From FFT’s perspective, they believe they’ve learned about the “vulnerability of our society and the business community.”
Food for Thought has been a We Compost Partner since 2014, and composting with Collective Resource is high on their priority list as it reaffirms their commitment to protecting the environment and making a difference for our planet. Their business plans have to remain on hold until people in the community feel safe enough to host events, and Illinois sees a full reopening of museums and other venue spaces. But they want to reaffirm the importance of caring for our environment as we battle COVID-19. It’s important to Food for Thought that the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition continues to educate the community, consumers, and the marketplace on the importance of composting for our planet’s health, and how people from all industries can contribute to the diversion of food scraps from the landfill. Food for Thought “understand[s] the importance [of composting] and it helps when our clients and customers continue to grow their knowledge of the subject.”
Article from Illinois Food Scrap Coalition Blog
While backyard pit or bin composting, Bokashi and vermicomposting are some of the most common methods to compost food waste, there are other options out there that you can tailor to your needs.
A really popular method is composting with a tumbler. Tumblers are plastic bins that are usually suspended on some sort of apparatus that lifts them off the ground. They’ll frequently come with an attached handle on one side as well. With a tumbler, it’s a little bit easier to turn the compost and keep the decomposing material aerated. All you have to do is add your green and brown compost materials to the container, close it up, and make sure you turn it frequently to keep the temperature high and the materials aerated. These are great for homes without a lot of outdoor space, because everything is contained and the materials are out of sight. A well-cared-for tumbler will also keep your compost pest-free! Depending on how much material you compost, it does take a certain amount of strength to turn the barrel, so it’s important to know that this method isn’t labor-free, but it is less labor-intensive than methods that require lots of turning with pitchforks. It’s also important to keep in mind that you should be able to include a good amount of brown matter with the green matter in the tumbler, to keep the compost aerated and healthy. The upfront cost of a tumbler ranges from $150-$250, but it can last you a very long time, and you won’t need other materials besides your food scraps and landscape waste. Learn more about tumbler composting here.
Another method that is much more similar to pit composting is sheet composting, or sheet mulch composting, as it’s sometimes called. The great thing about this method is it requires no turning at all, and it makes for the perfect gardening space. This method is also sometimes referred to as lasagna gardening because you will build layers of compost directly into the soil, and then eventually start a healthy garden on top. This method is perfect for if you don’t have enough space for a pile and you don’t want to put too much effort into your compost, you can just bury it deep enough in layers and let nature do the work for you. The downside is that it does take a while, so it’s recommended that you chop up the food waste that you compost as small as possible. Then, you have the perfect area to start that garden you’ve always wanted! Learn more about sheet composting here.
Green Cone Digesters
The green cone method is similar to the bin method, except it speeds up the decomposition process by allowing the bacteria and worms that are already living in your garden to do the work. The digester is shaped like a big inverted cone, and you insert it into your backyard so that it’s partly buried in the ground. Then, when you open the lid and add your food scraps, the conical shape will help air circulate and nature can do the rest of the work for you. The average green cone digester is around $100, but it will last a long time and you shouldn’t need other materials. Also, some cities and municipalities partner with green cone digester companies to subsidize the cost to encourage backyard composting, so that’s something to look into. Learn more about green cone digesters here.
Food Waste Recyclers
These snazzy contraptions are made for indoor spaces, so they’re great if you live in a smaller space. Food waste recyclers are very modern gadgets that break down your compost into smaller, odor-free fertilizer that you can then bury in your garden with no fuss. The process usually takes around three hours, depending on your volume of food scraps, and is an effective way to reduce your food waste. It is important to note that recyclers don’t create compost, they create a broken-down food scrap fertilizer that has to be added to a garden to break down into compost. They do tend to run on the more expensive side compared to a lot of these other options, usually around $300, but if you have the funds and you don’t have space or the energy to do a more involved composting process, it’s a great choice.
If you want to mix-and-match different forms of composting, combined composting is the way to go! Combined composting can happen in several different ways. You could break down your scraps a bit in a pile or bin and then add them to a vermicomposting unit, or you can use a method known as compot composting. In this method, you would purchase a bucket like the one pictured which you would insert into a hole in the ground, fill with your food scraps, cap and cover with anything but dirt. This method allows for worms and other microorganisms to work freely in the bucket, directly composting your food scrap materials into your soil. The benefits of this method are that it’s super easy once the unit is placed, you can compost any types of food scraps, and you don’t have to worry about worms dying if you travel since they can move in and out of the material at their leisure. The downside is that it does take a bit of digging and effort to install, and you can’t compost yard waste in the compot, but once it’s installed, you don’t have to move it and you can continue to add your food scraps as they break down. Another great thing to do with a compot is to propagate seeds inside of the lid on top, or you can choose to cover it with grass and mow right over the top without worrying about disrupting anything. Combined and compot composting methods are great options to consider, but combined composting specifically is a little more nebulous than the above forms and is a good option for an experienced composter looking to experiment with their methods.
Article from Illinois Food Scrap Coalition Blog