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Environmental warrior... or dirty old dumpster diver?

Am I an environmental warrior or just a dirty old dumpster diver?
Some folks would probably suggest that I am a tad over obsessed with climate change and living a life aimed at helping save the environment. There's some elements of that lifestyle which I normally don't talk about for fear of being labelled a dirty dumpster diver. But you know me - I'm gunna talk about them tonight!
I reuse and recycle a lot of wood and stuff. Why would I buy new stuff when the old stuff is perfectly fit for purpose as a garden bed or similar? I have two lovely cupboards that I saved from the council curbside collection. However, tonight I want to talk about organic waste. 
Much of my gardening success is due to the fact that we compost. Very little organic material leaves the property. Food leftovers either get reused; fed to the dogs, chickens, quails or worms; or are composted. Pretty much our only garbage is bloody packaging. 
We are at the stage where I can't produce enough organic waste to make the amount of compost that I want. So, I went afield looking for other people's garbage. I found a great source in the cafe restaurant at my mum's retirement village. I visit twice weekly and take all their coffee grounds. I've also started to try to train them to give me other organics. 
Expired loaves of bread can go to the chooks or in my compost rather than become landfill which makes greenhouse gas. Every so often the restaurant gets ugly veges - they are too ugly to serve when people are paying good money for those meals. I'll take them! I turned ugly tomatoes into soup but I can also make sauce. I turned ugly zucchinis into fritters. If the veges are too ugly even for me, the chooks, quails or worms don't judge. Worst come to worst, they get chopped up and put in the compost. Four liters of expired milk became cheese - I mean, I have to make the milk go off (split) to create cheese anyway so why would I care if it was best before yesterday? Not best for making cheese, that's for sure! 
Don't panic! If you come to my house, I won't feed you any of my dumpster food. I understand people get scared by that stuff. Some folks would be positively embarrassed to tell you what I've said tonight. I on the other hand, am actually quite proud.

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Comment by Andrew Cumberland on August 7, 2019 at 21:45

Hey Valerie, it's like Cres says, I don't ask them to separate.  They do the coffee grounds naturally because they just bang them into a little bin they'll keep near the machine. I have to go through the rest to check for plastics or bones.  That's when I find the good gear!  LOL.  

Comment by Dave Riley on August 7, 2019 at 14:03

Does every little bit count? Perhaps...But in the meteorological grand scheme of things:

I also think that this graph is the most telling in regard of those who are not pulling their all!

And it sure isn't your backyard  or mine.

Comment by Cres on August 6, 2019 at 19:55

If you ever open a milk bottle and it smells off, don't throw it away. Get a paper towel and thoroughly wipe the top/ mouth of the bottle inside and out. The smell is usually just the cream embedded in the screwtop part, thats starting to turn. The milk inside is perfectly fine. Once cleaned you can pour the milk into a glass and smell test. 
When my friend told me about it many years ago, all I could think about was the litres of milk I'd foolishly wasted over the years.

The cafe I got waste from (I posted about cycling two black bins previously) used to throw away perfectly good food. I'd slowly empty the bins out usually to remove the stray straw and stickers but often enough whole fruits would topple out. It astounds me how a few spots on a perfectly good pawpaw or mango resulted in it being binned, no cuts on it at all. I just washed it and ate it. The spotty bits were barely under the skin and the seeds are now trees in the yard!

I scored numerous avocados that had a tiny indentation at the top. That's a lot of money blatantly thrown away.
Given that I processed over a tonne of food waste from them in three months just by inserting my bins into their constant turnover, you can imagine the waste I wasn't bringing back to compost, all going to rot in landfill instead of fermenting in my Bokashi bins.

I follow a few bin divers on facebook just to see the hauls they do. It's impressive and sad to see the waste.

The only bins I dive in are the Bunnings bins and I love it. I have gates, steel posts, mesh and ex-display timber.
I scored two full 1m high water displays made with pond liner and 200x50 x3m treated pine bearers. My wicking beds out the back are all framed with hardwood timber pallets that the timber gets delivered to Bunnings on. All those bent / slightly cracked  lengths of timbers that people sort through when they're in the trade section and and throw back on the pile because they all want the pretty pieces, eventually make it to the bins as well.
Brand new very bent timber is fine with me.  I always ask the staff before doing so and they're usually accommodating.

Mind you after stocking up on free pallets and odds and ends I ultimately spend a small fortune on screws, brackets and things to complete the projects so Bunnings still enjoys the inside of my wallet.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on August 6, 2019 at 19:55

Dumpster cheese!

Comment by Valerie on August 6, 2019 at 19:17

Great on you for doing this. Every little helps.

I've been thinking about doing the same. It's a big ask to tell the catering business to separate onions and citrus though. 

A word of caution with bread and chicken though. It can block or at best fill them up and is not the best nutritional value if we are talking white cheap bread. 

A bokachi bin is a good option for meat, dairy and bread, that can't be salvaged otherwise. You could easily make your own and just buy the grain from Biome. 

I've yet to make the big trip to a bulk shop to avoid packaging but definitely plan to visit one in the near future while work is quiet. Running the co-op for the last 6 years has helped a lot avoiding the unnecessary packaging. 

Charlie's fruit market has a shelf full of cheap 'ugly fruit' which are great value, though getting them for free is a real bonus.

As always, thanks for the inspiration.  

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on August 6, 2019 at 9:37

Thanks all.  I don't have room for a biodigester but I'd love one.  Paul, of the Kilcoy goats, has one.  It supplies all his gas and an abundant supply of liquid fertiliser.  I suspect that if we built them near pig farms and cattle lots, we cut our cities fossil fuel load heaps.  I'd take free non-fosil gas any day!  

Comment by Christa on August 6, 2019 at 8:20

Funny you mention dumpster diving I was viewing a utube video, where an average looking couple would search through bins at rear of shopping centers and take home clothing and toys etc and resell them at garage sales for next to nothing.  Something that I am physically unable to do but I do visit our local tip shop and pick up a piece of Royal Doulton and similar for a couple of dollars.  This is helping the community in a small way by lessening the dump loads. 

Keeping your greens in your own paddock is a good way of living. 

Comment by Jeff Kiehne on August 5, 2019 at 12:27

If you have expired milk mix it up with chicken mash and feed to chooks.

Comment by Dave Riley on August 5, 2019 at 11:39

You could advertise your address and get sign-ons for dumping off stuff. Sort of Community Supported Agriculture.

I'm a dump for grass clippings.

While nothing biodegradable leaves the property here -- on that I'm a tad obsessed -- you need to factor in the challenge of rats, mice and flies. That needs a plan. A protocol.

In my case, I suspect that mulching with grass clippings brings flies -- so I'm in the process of switching to Vetiver. This transition should be completed over the coming Summer.

Bones and meat leftover I bury deep in my  caged mulch towers. 

The dogs may be kept away and any rat doesn't have a chance of a meal but the Sacred Ibises lift the lids off!

My latest project is composting tree limbs and trunks with a steely eye on termite demographics.

When I had rabbits -- interstate and back in the day -- I fed them from veg shop leftovers. Chooks do fine with that, but like so many critters they need grain based protein as well. I'm not sure what the ratio could be as chooks eat anything.

As we speak, the pig industry is collapsing in Australia because of the high price of grain due to the Drought -- and pork imports. If there was ever an excuse for recycling waste -- pigs are it.

I'm sure you agree, Andy, it is simply amazing how much imported matter a 'garden' or 'the earth' can accommodate. Either in the form of manure, mulch or compost -- dirt is greedy.

I am a keen SOC man -- Soil Organic Carbon. I think increasing and recovering SOC is the main challenge facing  agriculture (and humanity) today. What we do in our backyards is a micro fix of a huge problem.

While we may assume it's all about greenery -- trees and plants ABOVE ground -- the most stable carbon, and the most usable, resides below.

Therein lies a huge discussion about livestock grazing, bushfires, Vetiver , not ploughing, erosion  and such.

Related : Old growth forest issues aside, I thought this POV was transcendent:

Many pine trees in managed forests, such as the European spruce, take roughly 80 years to reach maturity, being net absorbers of carbon during those years of growth – but once they reach maturity, they shed roughly as much carbon through the decomposition of needles and fallen branches as they absorb. As was the case in Austria in the 1990s, plummeting demand for paper and wood saw huge swathes of managed forests globally fall into disuse. Rather than return to pristine wilderness, these monocrops cover forest floors in acidic pine needles and dead branches. Canada's great forests for example have actually emitted more carbon than they absorb since 2001, thanks to mature trees no longer being actively felled.

Arguably, the best form of carbon sequestration is to chop down trees: to restore our sustainable, managed forests, and use the resulting wood as a building material. Managed forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) typically plant two to three trees for every tree felled – meaning the more demand there is for wood, the greater the growth in both forest cover and CO2-hungry young trees. (SOURCE)

Needless to say, a bushfire turns your carbon sequestration plans into a puff of smoke.

Comment by Sid Saghe on August 5, 2019 at 8:47

I wouldn't worry about it too much Andy, we're on an accelerating shift into more effective use of our immediate resources so anyone who disparages you on account of not being wasteful will be eating their words (and our dumpster food) soon enough.

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Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

GrowVetiver is a plant nursery run by Dave & Keir Riley that harvests and grows Vetiver grass for local community applications and use. It is based in Beachmere, just north of Brisbane, Australia.

Place your business add here! ($5 per month or $25 for 9 months)

Talk to Andy on 0422 022 961.  You can  Pay on this link

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