I admit when I first encountered the compost collection bin under my mother in law’s sink, I was somewhat shocked. I knew she was an avid gardener, but was she really one of those super environmentally conscious gardeners that have their own compost piles? I was only familiar with a handful of composting gardeners, but now someone I knew well was actually saving food scraps and reusing them to fertilize her garden in New Orleans! At that moment I vowed to start composting to do my small part for positive environmental stewardship. However, following years of ridiculous excuses, it has remained on my to-do list until recently, when I stumbled upon a local community group making composting simple and convenient for everyone.
According to a recent study by the University of Southern Indiana, every year each American throws out about 1,200 pounds of organic, compostable garbage. Landfills across the country are growing sky high and, not surprisingly, food waste accounts for the largest volume of items being dumped. Here in our food-centric city, the mission of Compost NOW (New Orleans Waste) to “keep community resources in the community” seems like a perfect fit and offers immense benefits from reuse as nutrient-rich soil for gardens, feed for farm animals and to better soil water retention.
In 2017, Compost NOW founder and master composter Lynne Serpe launched the New Orleans program based on the model she started and ran with the Queens Library system in New York that still continues today. By partnering with the New Orleans Public Library system, Serpe and her team of volunteers are able to offer free residential food waste collection in convenient locations around the city to all demographics and ages.
Compost NOW began with drop off locations at just two public libraries but has expanded to over 50 collections per month six days a week at 10 locations. The Rosa Keller Library boasts a whopping weekly collection of 900 pounds! By building a network of community composters in neighborhoods throughout New Orleans, Compost NOW’s total program goal is to divert 250,000 pounds of food waste from landfills to local farms and compost centers by year end. Local partners like Schmelly’s Dirt Farm, Speak Easy Farm, Sugar Roots Farm and Abundance Flower Farm are helping make this possible by collecting and reusing the compost and also keeping their carbon impact low by limiting the amount of transportation needed.
Now that you’re inspired, here’s how you can get involved – and it’s so easy. The first step is to start saving your food scraps in a paper or compostable bag or a reusable container and then freeze them. Why frozen? In agreement with the NOPL, scraps must be delivered frozen to avoid potential smells, roaches and rodents at the libraries, and this also means less of the same problems for you at home; plus, freezing breaks down the cell membrane, speeding up the decomposition process. Accepted food scraps include: fruit, vegetables, egg shells, nut shells, seed shells, tea bags, coffee grounds, filters, plain grains, pasta and breads. Leave out the meat, dairy, bones and oily foods. Find a drop off location and time, dump your scraps and go! A Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality 2019 Environmental Leadership Program Recognition Award recipient, Compost NOW fosters sharing, reuse and welcomes people of all socioeconomic backgrounds by “bringing together the community through composting.”
A little more…
Support Compost NOW by heading to Sylvain for Happy Hour on September 3.
For more information or to volunteer, visit Compost-NOW.org.