Sara Lozito
ENVS 220
Amy Molitor
Final Report
5.10.2004

 

Alternatives to Waste Management

 

In the fall of 2003, I became a member of the Outhouse. Initially, I hoped to create a proposal for the house to have a composting toilet or living machine installed in the near future. Eventually, I became involved with other things and did not create much headway on this project. This is where the original inspiration came from for this internship. In January 2004, I became the head of the composting system for the Outhouse and through this; I decided to expand my research of waste management systems to include composting and vermaculture. I thought that having the pressure of conducting this project as an internship, would give me good inspiration to work hard this time around.

My goals and objectives were essentially to strengthen my own knowledge of these three alternatives to traditional waste management. I also wanted to involve the greater community in creating their own vermacompoting systems and investigate the feasibility of installing these systems into buildings on campus.

My official sponsor was Amy Molitor , and Whitman College , but as far as daily interactions, I essentially was my own boss. The other members of the Outhouse existed as an important element in this project. They were always willing to provide manpower when needed and acted as a great sounding board for ideas.

* * *

My goals have both expanded and narrowed since January. Initially I wanted to investigate, in depth, all of these systems and attempt to integrate all three somewhere on campus. Although now at the end of the project, I was unable to complete all of the objectives that I initially set out, I am satisfied with the way the semester progressed. Focusing on vermiculture and composting alone gave me the opportunity to research the biological, logistical, and the social aspects that go along with creating a composting system. It has also afforded me the opportunity to unintentionally interact with the community in quite a positive and fun way. Since the compost bins are open to Whitman students and the greater community, I have been contacted several times to help other people start their own composting systems. Moreover, I was able to enlighten my housemates to the intricacies of composting using worms.

* * *

I ended up accomplishing most of my original objectives in that I: overhauled the Outhouse's compost system; increased my and the community's knowledge of vermiculture and composting; and increased my understanding of composting toilet systems. Initially, when I realized that I was not really investigating composting toilets and living machines I was a little disappointed that I had not found time to do so. However, I reevaluated the work I have accomplished this semester and realized that the reason why I was not able to investigate these other systems was because I had become so involved with the process of vermiculture and composting at my own home. Getting the bin started was what took up most of my time. I had to wait on several factors (the arrival of my worms, a drill with which to make holes in the bottom of the bin, the go-ahead to use the bin I found among other various others) which was frustrating. I kept myself occupied during this time with researching so that when all of these things finally did come together, I was able to quickly act and synthesize all the parts.

* * *

A problem I am currently facing is what to do with the worms in the summer. While the regular compost piles can basically be left unattended during this three months, worms really do need constant attention, especially during the hot and dry Walla Walla summer. Hopefully, this will be resolved in the next few weeks and the worms will be safe and taken care of this summer. I am also concerned with the cold winter months. Worms are most productive with temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees F. Higher temperatures are easily combated with water but cold temperatures do present a problem.

* * *

The major challenge I faced in this project was finding time to work. Because of the nature of my internship, I essentially only answered to myself and I had to be highly self-motivated to get anything done. This worked both for me and against me in the sense that I could work whenever I wanted to but I had to keep myself motivated. A good way to do this is to schedule in some time each week that is specifically set aside for this project. Some weeks, were more productive than others have. I usually average about 2 hours per week physically doing things with compost and another 2 researching, reading and talking with people about the systems. Weeks wherein I have to turn all of the piles the amount of time I spend on the project is higher. Usually when I have other work for class, this project becomes marginalized but this does not occur too often though as the end of the semester drew nearer, it did happen more often.

* * *

While this point marks the official end of my internship, I have plans to continue the project next semester with the new members of the Outhouse. Current plans consist of my doing weekly check-ins with the house and conducting an initial lesson on the vermiculture system. This is a good way for me to continue this project and to also hopefully spark the interest that I developed for some other individual in hopes that they will continue and improve the project.

* * *

USEFUL WEBSITES

•  www.composters.com

•  http://www.manualdelombricultura.com/en/

•  http://www.cahe.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h/h-164.html

•  http://lancaster.unl.edu/enviro/pest/factsheets/107-97.htm

 

OTHER USEFUL RESOURCES

•  Earthworm ecology : from Darwin to vermiculture Edited by J.E. Satchell.

•  Backyard composting Pullman , WA : Washington State University Cooperative Extension Program, 2001.

•  The composting toilet system book : a practical guide to choosing, planning and maintaining composting toilet systems, a water-saving, pollution-preventing alternative by David Del Porto and Carol Steinfeld. Concord , Mass. : The Center for Ecological Pollution Prevention, c1999.

•  Let it rot! : the gardener's guide to composting . By Stu Campbell. Pownal , Vt. : Storey Communications c1998.

•  In their own words : interviews with vermiculture experts In their own words :
interviews with vermiculture experts.
By Peter Bogdanov. Merlin, Or. , US Imprint, not USDA , 2000.

•  Commercial vermiculture : how to build a thriving business in redworms. By Peter Bogdanov. Merlin, Or. , US Imprint, not USDA , 1996.

•  Worms eat my garbage. Mary Apelhof . Kalamazoo , Mich. , USA : Flower Press, 1997.

•  The use of earthworms in environmental management. Edwards, C.A. ; Bater, J.E. Soil biology and biochemistry. { Exeter : Pergamon Press.}24, no. 12 (Dec 1992): p. 1683-1689.

 

KEY CONTACTS

Bob Biles

Whitman Recycling

Physical Plant

527.5999

 

The Compost Project

UC Davis

mxvanhorn@UCDavis.edu

 

Starbucks Coffee

Grounds to Garden Program

28 E Main Walla Walla , WA

(509)525.4893