R,R,R Does Not Equal Readin, Ritin or Rithmatic!
Do you know the three R's? Hint: It's not rowdy, red rhinoceroses, either. It's reduce, reuse and – you've heard this before haven't you?! – recycle! We've all been exposed to the phrase, but few of us have really contemplated it.
At the Composting and Recycling Tent, we meditate for months on end, repeating the R,R,R mantra. The words are in that order for a purpose, and this year we're taking new steps toward the ongoing goal of a zero waste fair. Those of you who think we've got Styrofoam between the ears will be surprised to read that the Fair sends less than 10% of stuff thrown away by visitors and vendors to the landfill. Empowered by some of the most amazing volunteers this side of the troposphere, we sort through nearly all the trash bags.
To reduce that 10% even further this year, the Composting and Recycling Team is working with the food vendors to standardize bowls, cups, plates, forks and spoons. The goal is to have all the food gear (eating utensils and the like) break down in the compost pile.
Can't be done? Ha! What looks like a normal plastic spoon is actually biodegradable, made out of cornstarch. In the warm, microbial environment of our Fair's compost pile, these items decompose along with paper plates, waxed cups, animal waste and unfinished blooming onions. Within a few weeks our pile will be magically (or microbially) changed into a healthy compost mixture to be used on the fairgrounds. If you see a plant growing on the fairgrounds, our compost is enhancing it.
We are also interested in the public's input about how we can enrich the Composting and Recycling Tent Area with vendors. We envision a "Compost Alley” of vendors who strive for zero waste and worship the three R's. These could be artists who create with reclaimed materials, antique associations, businesses with technologies that help conserve…or, how about a junk band?
We hope you can see that R,R,R is more than just something we sweep under the rug. No, we're proud, we've got vision, and as one of the best-kept secrets of the Fair, we have a heck lot of fun doing good work!
Learn How to Compost and Where to Get Bins
Composting is one of the simplest ways to introduce your family to a sustainable lifestyle. Making compost at home with your kitchen scraps and garden trimmings is the best way to give back fertility to your garden, to reduce pollution and trash disposal, and it is easy. If your aren't composting yet or want some of your compost questions answered, try taking in a home composting talk at the Fair.
And, visit the Fair Recycling Area, where dedicated volunteers feed all of the Fair's biodegradables into magical windrows where it is transformed into the good compost that feeds MOFGA's demonstration gardens and orchards.
The Common Throne
Organic Food Recycled Here – or How to Turn a "Waste” into a Resource
If you are a volunteer at the Common Ground Country Fair and have camped in the volunteer camping area, you may have experienced MOFGA's own "composting toilet.” This two-holer outhouse, sitting atop an above-ground chamber into which fairgoers make deposits, turns those deposits into black gold – compost used to enrich the ornamental roses around the Fairgrounds.
A desire to reduce dependence on the blue Porta Potties led a group of people, inspired by Joseph Jenkins' Humanure Handbook, to plan and build a prototype composting outhouse. The Common Throne, as it was nicknamed, was up and ready for the 2004 Fair. During the week of Fair set-up and the three days of the Fair, the hay bale-lined chamber was filled to capacity – our first success!
Then hay was strewn across the top of the pile, and the doors to the outhouse were shut; there the pile moldered through the winter and next summer. A compost thermometer registered temperatures of beyond 150 degrees, and when the chamber was opened in late August, there was a lovely pile of dark, crumbly stuff with a milk snake curled up on it. A sample sent to a laboratory tested well within the acceptable range for pathogens – our second success! The chamber was emptied and readied for the 2005 Fair.
The Common Throne Crew has been making more thrones each year. If you camp in the south parking lot during this year's Fair, be sure to contribute to our recycling efforts. Also, hear a talk on humanure composting in the North Orchard garden shed.