Day 11: Composting, Red Wigglers Intro

Okay, I am just going to come out and write it….worms creep me out.  BUT I will overlook their sliminess and squishiness for the environment.

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WORMY ❤

So as any responsible pet owner, let’s get acquainted with their needs.  First things first, what is the difference between an earthworm and a red wiggler?

Well, there are physiological differences.  Like the color, size, and segmentation.

Earthworm-vs-Red-Wigglers1
Large worm: earthworm, small worm: red wiggler.  Source: gardeningwormcomposting.com

Then there is the habitat aspect.  Earthworms are great for outdoor composting because they seek moisture by burrowing deep underground.  This is why many people have compost turners to keep the earthworms evenly distributed throughout the bin.  With red wigglers however, all of the waste is kept at an even and consistent level with a normal, stationary bin.

The next variable is temperature.  Red Wigglers are much more adaptable.  They reside on the top soil, ingesting whatever one puts in the bin, granted that it follows the C:N parameters.  Compared to earthworms, red wigglers also have a wider temperature range, (32-95° F, 0-35°C), so that owners have a less likely chance of freezing or frying them.

The last variable is lifestyle choices.  Red wigglers reproduce much more than earthworms.  This leads to much more workers for converting your food waste into usable, rich soil.  Also you can give some of the extra to friends so they too can try vermicomposting ;).

Onto red wiggler shopping!

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Day 9: Composting, Worm House

Okay, before I purchase the worms, I am going to go house shopping for them. Thankfully, I found an old tin bread box on the side of the road. I’ll see where it takes me. 😀

There are already holes on the side.
New holes will be drilled onto this shamrock thing.

It’s amazing how someone’s trash can be another woman’s treasure.  Now to figure out which drill bit to use.  *bites lip*

Online it says high-speed steel (HSS) bits.

Image result for best drill bit for metal

It seems a bit too clunky for the job.  I’m going to use a thumbtack haha.  😛

Day 10: Composting, Contents of the bin

Today, I will be learning by doing.  That way, if the bin proves to be unsuccessful, I can refine it as I go.  My guide for the bin is to go about it layer by layer.

Image result for composting bin layers
Source: Pinterest

The anatomy of the compost bin seems to go from the least dense materials to the most to allow for drainage.  My question is where the worms go.  Also the soil aspect.  So by my own logic, I am just going to put the soil on the top and see what happens.  Or, as they say online: “let it rot.”  Here goes!

I have 3 layers: shredded paper (that I took from work), dead leaves from my windowsill plants for the brown layer and some dried out tea bags for the green layer.  Then soil leftover from re-potting a hanging plant last week. I will position this on a shelf with holes in it so that the runoff can be collected in a dish underneath.

Looking good!

 

Day 8: Composting, Intro

Compost is nature’s way of recycling.  The little critters that nest underground easily outdo some of our most powerful incinerators, without producing the methane or leachate by-products.  What is left is a wonderful, aerated black soil ready for some spring-fresh herbs to enjoy.  At least, that is how the Internet describes it.  I hope to bathe my lavender in such a nutrient-rich display.  But first! Some science.

1 handful of soil has so many kinds of organisms that soil scientists still have yet to classify them all to this day.  Some of the more well-known classifications are archaea, bacteria, fungi, algae, nematodes, ants…and of course, worms (FAO.org).  Together, this group teams up over time to make a new usable product for their plant buddies.  Which is important since plants need the nitrogen in a usable form, as well as other metals, the metabolic by-products, and the detoxification of the soil that comes with it.  The agricultural productivity of crops is highly dependent on this soil.  In exchange, sugars can be exchanged from plants to reward the soil life for their services (at least, as far as I know, the mycelium).  There is a very complex cycle going on here.  Might as well take advantage of that.

compost
The beauty of food rot [Organic waste + O2 —-> (microorganisms) CO2 +H2O + Heat + Compost](Source: Google images)
In the 5R’s of Zero Waste, there is rot. However, there was a problem: I do not have any land to ‘rot’ anything.  Thankfully, I stumbled across Buzzfeed’s ‘Zero Waste‘ video, and lo and behold, there exists vermicomposting.  Vermicomposting is a lovely alternative to regular composting if you live in an apartment and do not own any land/gardening area.  There is no outhouse or large gallon-sized bin where you have to keep your frozen scraps for a whole season.  This process can be done right in your kitchen, with the rest of your food.

The defintion of vermicomposting is:

the use of earthworms and microorganisms to convert organic waste into fertilizer

Red wigglers, to be exact.  It’s basically like getting a new pet. Or–if looking from the plant’s perspective–some humus indentured servants. :0  For the skeptic in me, it says online that this shouldn’t smell if done correctly. Even with water drainage and worm poop. Apparently it is very “earthy” and when opened has the odor of the forest.

Oh well, what’s the worst that could happen? *takes a deep breath*

My plan of attack is to set up a secure compost bin. To do this, one has to make a feeding system that maintains worm equilibrium, which requires the variables temperature, moisture, oxygenation, particle size, and a stable carbon: nitrogen ratio.  Red wigglers thrive best under temperate temperatures (70° F, 20° C) and dark lighting. Since it is wintertime over here, under the sink she goes. Away from the frosty window.  I have a water spray bottle to spritz whenever the carbon materials (paper products) look too dry.  As for the home base, the amount of O2 should stay constant for the worms to breathe. Hence, holes for aeration. Next is the proper nutrients. According to the University of Maryland, “bedding” includes some soil, straw, shredded wet newspaper/cardboard, veggie scraps, and sand. For budget purposes, I will use the dark and light soil found in my local park, along with woodsy scatterings like dead leaves, a mushroom, and moss.   Also some junk mail.  Pretty much the same stuff.

In the end, one is rewarded with a rich soil and a ‘black thumb’ in their herbal arsenal.  I can only hope that my plants last a year after learning this craft.  ^^ It’s also nice to know that these materials will be used for a sustainable purpose.

 

 

Day 7: Recycling, Lightbulb & Batteries Edition

Now’s the perfect time to start an entry on recycling lightbulbs.

Turns out, the unlit one was a standard incandescent bulb. I honestly was shocked because these bulbs had been phased out in 2015.  All the more reason this old apartment is getting a much needed makeover!

The amount of time an average incandescent bulb burns for is 750 hours, and most of that electricity is lost as heat (Statistic Brain). For comparison, an average LED lightbulb burns for 25,000 hours (NY Times).

Incandescent bulb
LED bulb.

I am going to keep the LED for reference. It is a 9W, 120 Hz, 60 Hz greenlite bulb.

Found one! It is close to the same parameters.

Here’s the final product. The brightness and intensity are about the same.

Many forums online say that incandescent bulbs are not recyclable, causing a lot of misinformation. The metal and the glass can be reclaimed and also diverted from the landfill supply (Tufts University). On the Tufts’ site, they list Ace Hardware, Home Depot, IKEA, True Value Hardware, and Whole Foods as places that recycle incandescent bulbs. That is, if you happen to still own these endangered species of bulb.

Onto batteries!

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 3 billion batteries are thrown away in the US each year. This is such a shame considering they are both a) rechargeable and b) recyclable. For common household batteries, such as TV remotes or calculators, you can recharge them using the method posted here. Note: despite the trolling YouTube comments, this is a legitimate video.

Batteries are toxic to the environment due to Nickel, Cadmium, and some Mercury. When batteries are brought to the landfill, it is much easier to leach into the water supply and to disrupt wildlife in the surrounding area. The same goes for car batteries. Online, Auto Zone listed battery charging services. That is all I can really say on the matter since I do not drive.

For the battery demonstartion, I will use my TI-84. Yes, these are useful after high school & college 😀

Here are the 4 AAA batteries that need recharging.

Apparatus:

Electrical tape

Batteries

1 C battery

1 9V battery

Day 6: Recycling, Electronics Edition

Luckily for this challenge, I have 2 electronics that I need to recycle: a phone (Galaxy Note 5) and headphones (run-of-the-mill earbuds). For the phone, I wanted to exhaust all my options first before recycling. It’s a very good phone, it’s just the screen will not turn on. However, if all of the options to resuscitate this old buddy of mine are done, then it will be taken to the recycling plant. For educational purposes. 😭

Its name was Kawaii Fun 。・゚(゚><゚)゚・。

The headphones are just stripped wires. I don’t know if there’s a way to come back from that. In addition, it has also come to my attention that the buds that go in the ears are more liable to cause hearing damage. All the more reason to upgrade to a high quality, over-the-ear ones that do not break.

Day 5: Recycling, Donation Edition

Today, we close in on the 5th day of the 30 day zero waste challenge. Less than 20% complete: so much has been done and so much left to be done. But pushing through always! Right now, I am working on a layout to give this blog some…structure. Dare I say, structure=f(x)? ~☆

Here is the layout:

  • Week 1= Recycling
  • Week 2= Composting
  • Week 3= DIY products
  • Week 4= Dumpster Diving (more on this later!)

juanofwords.com

Still on Week 1 and I would say it is about 75% successful. 3/4 of the materials are successfully recycled every time: aluminum cans, glass bottles, and plastic containers. It’s that bottle deposit incentive, I suppose.

 

To incentivize with paper, one would need 40 lbs, or 18.14 kg of paper for $1 ($0.025/ lb). How it was listed online was $50/ ton. Just a truckload of paper that is not feasible for a studio apartment. So, sticking with the Recycling Center.

Now, let’s proceed with donations! According to SFGate, 2.5 billion lbs. of fabric were kept from landfills in 2006 by thrift shops like the one I am visiting that sell recycled clothing.  In addition, this drives the costs down for selling and re-purchase.  Environmentally, it keeps pesticides, petroleum, and water usage for making new clothes altogether.

First up, Saver’s. Frankly, I’m more of a Goodwill girl myself, but Saver’s was closer.

Today I de-cluttered and am getting rid of the following:

1. a Chinese New Year lantern

2. An organic chemistry textbook from college

3. A cutting board

4. Rubber utensils that are rainbow colored

5. A reusable water bottle

6. A bag of clothes

Surprisingly, they accepted all of it.

In the spirit of the tax return season, make sure to keep the receipt they hand you afterwards for your files. When the government asks about your charitable activity, one can list their donations, with a receipt as proof. A small portion goes towards the tax refund. It just goes to show, anything is better than throwing your stuff away.

Next up, Whole Foods.

I’m just more comfortable with leaving cans & bottles at their customer service desk. I went to Star Market a couple of days ago and they said that the recycling was closed, which was strange since the rest of the store was open for another 2 hours. So I just do it at Whole Foods. Also there are more bulk item options there.

After that, returning Christmas gifts with the tags still on them at nearby stores. If not, I will regift or give to Salavtion Army.

If there is still time before work, the last on the list is a food pantry. I have a huge tub of leftover whey protein my roomie had before turning to plant protein powders. Some free samples when I worked at a health food store. They include anti-wrinkle creams, holistic anti-anxiety supplements, vegan protein powders, and a banana bread mix that expired. I will soon find out if this is acceptable. If not, into the compost it goes!

After these past few days, I have to say I feel a lot lighter, less burdened by consumerism. Before I went shopping, I would be overcome by the things I wanted in the moment.  The shiny tech stuff.  The tasty stuff.  The things covered in kawaii glitter.  Now, I give the purchase a couple of days to rest.  Usually in that time, half of the instant gratification buys end up dying.  Or I forgot entirely about it.

The downside is that food tends to be not…processed.  Obviously.  But the sugar crash is brutal.  The studies are true, sugar is more addictive than cocaine.  Also, in terms of going out, you’re more clunky than the average individual with your jars and bottles.  Also I still have trash:

*insert photo here*

Just not as much.

^^

Signing off for now,

-aforrester365

BTW,

Has anyone ever watched How It’s Made?

^_~