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One Year of Vermicomposting

March 13, 2014 Environment, Featured 3 Comments

When I had a yard I’d compost yard waste and occasionally, kitchen scraps. When I moved into a downtown loft with a 5×10 balcony 6+ years ago I thought my composting days were over. I knew of using worms to compost, but I’d never tried it.

One year ago today we started our worm bin — vermicomposting — indoors.

Vermicompost is the product or process of composting using various worms, usually red wigglers, white worms, and other earthworms to create a heterogeneous mixture of decomposing vegetable or food waste, bedding materials, and vermicast. Vermicast, also called worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is the end-product of the breakdown of organic matter by an earthworm. These castings have been shown to contain reduced levels of contaminants and a higher saturation of nutrients than do organic materials before vermicomposting.

Containing water-soluble nutrients, vermicompost is an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. This process of producing vermicompost is called vermicomposting. (Wikipedia)

I was very excited to be starting the bin:

One year ago we had our worm bin lined with coconut choir and the bag of 500 red wigglers ready to add.
One year ago we had our worm bin lined with coconut choir and the bag of 500 red wigglers ready to add.
The worms we purchased came in the compost/castings they were used to.
The worms we purchased came in the compost/castings they were used to.

In the last year I made many mistakes; the bin got too wet, too dry, etc. I added a second bin and have finally found a balance.

Nearly every kitchen scrap gets composted. I was trying to add citrus peels but doing so threw off the PH level, even in small amounts. I’ve found other uses for lemon & orange peels, like scenting vinegar to use for cleaning.

Our original bin (left) and 2nd bin (right)
Our original bin (left) and 2nd bin (right)

Does this take time? Yes, but it also feels good to not put waste down the disposal or into a landfill. The castings are great for our potted plants — both indoors and those on our balcony.

— Steve Patterson


2014 Boat & Sportshow

The other day we attended the St. Louis Boat & Sportshow. The show was interesting because it included a very broad range of boats for most budgets.

A restored boat in the vintage club corner. A vintage outboard motor club also had a great display
A restored boat in the vintage club corner. A vintage outboard motor club also had a great display
Pontoon boats are much nicer now, some include built-in BBQ grills!
Pontoon boats are much nicer now, some include built-in BBQ grills!
Several boats cost over $1 million!
Several boats cost over $1 million!

As a city guy I’m not a lake kind of person. I have spent time on the Missouri River, but not since 1999. My employers in the late 90s had a 37ft Sea Ray with a kitchen, bathroom, and one bedroom below deck.  Such luxury spoiled me for anything less but the twin engines sucked fuel like crazy, each few hour outing cost hundreds in fuel. These things cost more than an average house! The shows offers tips for green boating.

Steve Patterson on the Missouri River, July 3, 1999
Steve Patterson on the Missouri River, July 3, 1999
Missouri River beach party, July 11, 1999
Missouri River beach party, July 11, 1999. We had to anchor out in the river and wade in the water to get to the beach. 

For me, boats are like pools — great if you can afford to buy and maintain. Better for me to know someone with a boat than to ever try to have one. Still, we found the boat show interesting, it continues today and tomorrow.

— Steve Patterson


People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener. Healthier Cities by F. Kaid Benfield

Cover of the softbound book, $25
Cover of the softbound book, $25

Decades ago books on cities talked about razing buildings, clearing away the old to make way for the new, segregating uses & people, etc.  These days the subjects are sustainability, health of the inhabitants & the city, regionalism, etc. This shift requires new ways of thinking about old problems. Enter People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities by F. Kaid Benfield:

With over 80 percent of Americans now living in cities and suburbs, getting our communities right has never been more important, more complicated, or more fascinating. Longtime sustainability leader Kaid Benfield shares 25 enlightening and entertaining essays about the wondrous ecology of human settlement, and how to make it better for both people and the planet.

People Habitat explores topics as diverse as “green” housing developments that are no such thing, the tricky matter of gentrifying inner cities, why people don’t walk much anymore, and the relationship between cities and religion. Written with intellect, insight, and from-the-heart candor, each real-world story in People Habitat will make you see our communities in a new light. (Island Press)

You can view the table of contents and read excerpts at peoplehabitat.comPeople Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities by F. Kaid Benfield is available locally through Left Bank Books.

— Steve Patterson


DollarHelp Contest: Enter to Win a Trip to St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training!

February 15, 2014 Economy, Environment, Featured 6 Comments
Click image to enter contest
Click image to enter contest

This winter has been extra cold and some in our region need help staying warm. The DollarHelp program is an easy way to help those truly in need:

DollarHelp is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1982. Over the past three decades, with donations from St. Louisans across the city and counties, DollarHelp has raised more than $20 million. As a service to the community, Laclede Gas, in partnership with United Way of Greater St. Louis, provides the administrative services to DollarHelp, so that every dollar you donate passes directly to those in need. Laclede Gas Company also donates more than $50,000 in matching funds annually.

Approximately 90% of DollarHelp donations are from Laclede Gas customers who “Check the Red Box.” More than 68,000 Laclede customers contribute to DollarHelp through the automatic giving option, a plan that enables Laclede customers to make regular monthly donations by having the amount they specify added to their gas bill. What if I want to contribute but I’m not a Laclede Gas customer? This year alone, more than $1 million has been contributed by these generous donors in the Laclede service area. Dollar by dollar, we make a difference together.

DollarHelp is more than just making a donation. It’s about people helping people. Through relationships with local social service agencies, DollarHelp grants pay the heating bills for those who have exhausted all forms of public assistance. What are some other public assistance heating programs? DollarHelp is their last stop to get the help they need. And DollarHelp grants pay the household’s primary heating source, no matter the type of fuel. What type of heating bills is covered by DollarHelp grants? The typical grant for a household is $300, but under certain circumstances a grant can range as high as $700. However, when a special medical, housing or financial crisis exists, additional grants up to $400 are available. Where can I get help? Donations to DollarHelp are tax deductible.

DollarHelp heating grants reach families in St. Louis city and the counties of St. Louis, St. Charles, Franklin, Jefferson, Iron, Butler, Madison, Ste. Genevieve, and St. Francois. (DollarHelp)

This year Laclede Gas is holding a contest that should appeal to baseball fans:

You could win the Ultimate Winter Warm-Up – a trip to St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training! Enter the DollarHelp “Share The Warmth” photo contest and you could win a trip to Jupiter, Florida, to meet Cardinals’ left-fielder Matt Holliday and watch the Cards in action! Visit Laclede Gas Company’s Facebook page for contest details. Must be a current Laclede customer with a Facebook account to enter.

Hurry, the deadline is the 19th!

— Steve Patterson


Readers OK With New Light Bulb Efficiency Standards

Last week some of you were probably thinking a poll about light bulbs was trivial. Who cares, right? It was news reports in January that got me thinking about the subject.  You see, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 received bipartisan support, including 36 House Republicans, in 2007 and was signed into law by President Bush.   That didn’t stop Republicans from trying to defund enforcement since taking control of the House after the 2010 mid-term elections. July 2011:

House Republicans on Tuesday failed to advance a measure that would repeal regulations that increase efficiency standards for light bulbs, rules that they have assailed as an example of government overreach.  (NY Times: G.O.P. Bid to Void Light Bulb Law Fails)

Like vehicles, the government isn’t banning the incandescent, just raising performance standards:

Now, incandescent bulbs aren’t “banned” under this standard, as is often suggested. Manufacturers can still produce incandescents, so long as they meet these energy standards. Companies like Philips have been doing just that, putting out incandescent bulbs that are filled with halogen gas, so that the filament burns more efficiently.

But it’s true that the traditional, cheaper incandescents that cost 50 cents a bulb are getting phased out, since they can’t meet the standard. As of Jan. 1, 2014, it is illegal to manufacture or import these bulbs. Stores can sell off their remaining stockpile. But, eventually, those old bulbs will be gone. Home Depot says it only has a supply that will last six months. (There have even been reports of bulb hoarding.) (Washington Post: Republicans are still trying to save traditional lightbulbs. It likely won’t work.)

This, as you might expect, has free market types upset. Never mind that taxpayers subsidize energy production. Some might think this is another example of interfering with business, pushing companies to develop new technologies against their will. Not exactly:

So some years ago, Philips formed a coalition with environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council to push for higher standards. “We felt that we needed to make a call, and show that the best-known lighting technology, the incandescent light bulb, is at the end of its lifetime,” says Harry Verhaar, the company’s head of strategic sustainability initiatives. Philips told its environmental allies it was well positioned to capitalize on the transition to new technologies and wanted to get ahead of an efficiency movement that was gaining momentum abroad and in states like California. Other manufacturers were more wary, but they also understood the downside to selling a ubiquitous commodity: the profit margin on a bulb that sells for a quarter is negligible. After much negotiation, the industry and environmental groups agreed to endorse tightening efficiency by 25 to 30 percent. (NY Times: Bulb In, Bulb Out)

The lighting industry and environmentalists together backed the change in standards!  The new standards are getting people to think about light bulbs.

New energy-efficirent light bulbs at Target this week
New energy-efficirent light bulbs at Target this week

No more 2 for $1. I’m not complaining though, I’m glad to see new LED lighting come down in price. We have three LED light fixtures now plus three LED light bulbs in older fixture. The last three are from Philips, their Hue “personal wireless lighting”  system — I bought the set on the first day available in the US, the Apple Store at The Galleria hadn’t even set up their display yet. Eighteen months later it keeps getting better with app developers improving functionality.

Each weekday morning our lights come on a little one minute before our alarm goes off and over the next 9 minutes come up to full brightness.  When was the last time you got excited about light bulbs?

Anyway, here are the results from last week’s poll:

Q: 40 & 60 watt incandescent light bulbs on store shelves are the last ones, thoughts?

  1. No biggie, I/We use CFLs &/or LEDs 29 [34.94%]
  2. Good, they waste too much energy 20 [24.1%]
  3. Oh no, I’d better go stock up 17 [20.48%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 6 [7.23%]
  5. Other: 6 [7.23%]
  6. I’ve got enough to last me a few years 4 [4.82%]
  7. I was counting on the GOP to repeal the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 signed by Bush 1 [1.2%]

And here are the “other” answers:

  1. Poor Easy-Bake Ovens….
  2. Will miss the heat they provide! Used in thermoregulation e.g. bird rehab.
  3. It’s just light bulbs
  4. I’ll just buy them direct from China
  5. Absoutely against it – why was this not an option?
  6. Incandescent were much better

Hopefully we can move on now as the demand for new lighting has caught up to technological advancements.

— Steve Patterson




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