The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting by Chris McLaughlin

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Maybe you’re already a gardener, ready to plant some vegetables to reduce your grocery bill and gain some peace of mind about what additives you will not be putting into your family’s bodies. Or, maybe you secretly yearn for a yard filled with colorful flower blossoms from early spring until late fall.

If you see yourself in either of these scenarios, then The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Composting: Turn your organic waste material into black gold, is for you. No, this isn’t a book about planting a garden. It’s about how to nourish the soil you will use to grow amazing veggies and posies. And, I have to say, it’s even fun to read….

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9 Months – 11 Buckets of Dirt

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There are many things in life that require patience: the growth of an embryo into a full-term baby, the long slog through a school year, the development of seedlings into luscious tomatoes … and the turning of garbage into rich, healthy soil.

In July of 2009, Joe built a compost bin in our backyard. It was a relatively simple structure that cost less than $100 (it could have been nearly free, if I hadn’t Freecycled the “extra” cinder blocks we thought we wouldn’t need again). We started dumping our food and garden waste — along with contributions from close neighbors — and didn’t give it too much thought.

When the pile grew to the top of the bin, we kept throwing in food. Mysteriously, all summer and into the fall, the pile never grew higher than the lid. We never stopped adding food and leaves and such — even paper towels and toilet paper rolls. We were careful, though, not to add newsprint or any paper with ink on it. Ours is an organic garden.

It wasn’t until winter set in solidly that we had to add more cinder blocks. That’s when the mass froze, and the pile stopped sinking down. (Thank you, Freecycle, for providing more blocks for the extra height.)

Spring finally rolled around, and, as our thoughts turned to gardening, Joe decided to dig out the pile.

Wow! …

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Dirt! The Movie – The Soil Under Your Feet Is Alive!

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Since the beginning of time, of all the planets in all the galaxies in the known universe, only one has a living, breathing skin called dirt. — Dirt! The Movie

We wash it off our hands, our clothes, our cars, our bodies. We walk on it, drive on it, dig in it, build on it. We bury our loved ones in it. And in it we grow the plants that feed us. But how much do we really know about the dirt beneath our feet? …

Recently, I received an advance copy of Dirt! The Movie, a documentary that opened my mind to the wonders of soil. I’ve watched a lot of great videos in the past year: Food Inc., A River of Waste, Blue Gold, and more….

But Dirt!, directed and produced by Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow, stands out for me, probably because the content was so surprising and enlightening. Let’s face it, few of us talk very deeply about dirt in our daily conversations. We may complain about the health of the local rivers and waterways. We may talk about the horrible chemicals added to processed foods, the pesticides and herbicides that coat our foods. But it’s not often that we discuss worms and microbes and the exchange of nutrients in the soil. (Well, maybe you do.)

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Reverb Greens Rock Concert Scene

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If you’ve been to a rock concert — or any kind of outdoor music venue, for that matter — you know that a lot of waste is generated in the process putting on the event. Most visible is the waste the fans leave behind — plastic drink cups, paper napkins, nacho trays, cardboard carriers — all sorts of trash that could be composted or recycled, if handled properly.

But what most of us will never see is the amount of waste generated by the band and their crew. Lauren Sullivan and her husband, Adam Gardner, have a solution for that. Their nonprofit company, Reverb, works to green concerts for each band while also educating fans about local nonprofits — a definite winning combination.

Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) recently spoke with Sullivan to find out how Reverb works and what motivated the couple to start it.

SULLIVAN: Adam and I began Reverb back in 2004. It emanated from both of us being part of two distinct worlds. Adam was and is a touring musician by trade. He’s in a band called Guster, which has a pop, rock, indie sort of vibe that is very accessible. He still writes, records and tours with the band. …

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How to Build a Compost Bin in Your Own Backyard

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Perhaps you’ve been thinking about it for a while now, and you’ve decided that your family needs a compost bin in your backyard. You could go out and buy one of those really nice, plastic-barrel ones, the kind that sits on a fancy rack and rotates with a spin of the handle. But you don’t have to shell out a couple hundred dollars or experience the frustration of trying to assemble it when you get it home. Build your own. It’s less expensive, relatively simple to construct, and — as important, in my mind — easy to disassemble and repurpose if you ever want to.

I’m always looking for reasons to avoid buying anything new, especially new plastic things. I like to use old stuff when I can; it’s eco-friendly and helps create a sustainable lifestyle. Better yet, I prefer to make my own. But I have to be careful to not get carried away. I tend to over-design, and then over-build, so my projects end up costing twice as much and taking twice as long as yours might. Most people build their compost piles with four stakes and some chicken wire wrapped around the outside. That’s an option, of course, but it’s not raccoon-proof, and that was my first requirement…

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Organic Gardening in Your Own Backyard

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Spring in Iowa feels like stepping out of the Ice Age into some of the most appreciated warm weather on the planet. After enduring 20 snow and ice storms from November to March (and more still possible all the way to early May), a person’s patience begins to thin. Mine does, anyway. But a few days of warmer weather, say in the 50s and 60s, changes my whole outlook….

I am ready for spring. I am ready for the rain to wash all those chilly memories away. I am ready for the plants in my garden to return. I am ready to see green buds pushing up through the dead leaves. I long for the feel of dirt under my fingernails. If you live in a cool climate, I’ll bet you’re ready, too.

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Green Living — A Beginner’s Guide

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If you’re just beginning your green journey, it may seem like there’s so much to catch up on: organic food, holistic medicine, natural fibers, hybrid vehicles, and so much more. In general, green living is about making changes to reduce the amounts of natural resources we humans use (and, more importantly, waste), and to becoming a caretaker of our remaining natural resources. It’s about working toward sustainabilty for our society and our planet.

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Praise the Lord and Green the Roof

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Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear about a religious order of nuns that grows its own vegetables and cares for the environment. But nuns sharing a Zip car? Nuns wearing organic cotton habits? And nuns living under a green roof in New York City? Joseph Huff Hannon sent us this fascinating post about a group of green-living nuns who are serving their fellow humans and the planet by living Earth Wise, Money Smart.

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Dallas Cowboys Go Blue (with a Greener Stadium)

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It’s time for Super Bowl XLIII, and the NFL is powering the entire event with renewable energy, as well as planting trees to offset carbon created by activities related to the big game. For 16 years, “going green” has been a part of planning and producing the Super Bowl. But the Super Bowl isn’t the only green venue in the NFL world.

In a press release last October, the Dallas Cowboys, along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), announced that the Cowboys were on a path “to be the first sports stadium to gain recognition in the EPA’s National Environmental Performance Track program.” This bold action is in conjunction with the design and construction of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium, which will be open for business in Arlington, Texas next summer.

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