Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Green Frustum

Last year we bought a Green Cone which I set up this past spring once the ground thawed. As you can see from the picture, it's not really a cone, so to be mathematically correct, we call it the Green Frustum.

A Green Cone is a distant cousin of the compost bin. Like a compost bin, it's a way to convert organic scraps into something instead of just throwing them away. But the differences are more important than the similaries. A Green Cone doesn't produce compost you can rake onto your garden; the compost it breaks things down into is simply leached into the soil around it. Its primary purpose is to reduce your waste stream to the landfill. They estimate for most families it can reduce the amount you throw away by about 25%, and combined with recycling it can make a big dent in your landfill production. And it can reduce your waste stream even if you also use a compost bin because the biggest difference is that the Green Cone can take any organic waste. Even fats, meat, bones, and other things you'd never put in a compost bin.

Our Green Cone isn't working at full capacity, though. First, we're in a northern climate so it gets less warmth from the sun, and for less of the year. Second, our soil is very wet, so even though I lined it with coarse gravel, the flow of air, water, and soil is slow and cloggy. Even so I hoped it would be able to break down our waste as fast as we produced it, because instead of being a large family, there's just two of us, and post-surgery we don't even eat as much.

However, by autumn the Cone was nearly full, so I've stopped adding things to it for the winter, which saves me having to shovel a path to it, at least. Most of that is that the disadvantages of northern climate and wet soil are greater than I anticipated. But it's also shown us we've been very wasteful when it comes to shopping, especially for produce. Some of the blame for that can be put on our adapting to our post-surgery stomachs and trying to figure out how much of things to buy and cook. But some of it is just that we tend to buy things so we'll have them on hand in case we want them, and let a distressingly large amount of them go unused and get thrown away. That's something we should work on.

But even so, we're going to the dump about 30% less often than we did before having it. Again, some of that can be attributed to our shopping changing post-surgery, but some of it to the Green Cone. So it's another way to help do our part, and one that's really no hardship apart from the purchase price. In fact, it's a bit of a convenience: lugging food scraps to it isn't fun but keeping them from getting smelly and attracting flies in the summer is worse.

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