BioCycle May 2008, Vol. 49, No. 5, p. 4
I just returned from a workshop in Atlanta titled, “From The Table To The Farms: Options For Diverting Food From Landfills.” The first speaker of the day, Rob Johnson of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, highlighted the importance of diverting edible food, too often destined for the landfill, to food banks and soup kitchens. “We need 700 million pounds of food to feed 460,000 people who live below the poverty level,” noted Johnson.
Another compelling speaker was Alice Rolls, Executive Director of Georgia Organics, a group dedicated to “integrating healthy, sustainable and locally grown food into the lives of all Georgians.” Rolls pointed out that demand for “locally grown” is far exceeding supply. “We get calls regularly from communities that want to open farmers’ markets, and there just aren’t enough farmers to participate,” she said. “There is a need to ‘Grow More Growers.’” Both Johnson and Rolls discussed the role that community gardens play in antihunger programs and increasing the supply of locally grown food. There are 150 community gardens in Atlanta today, and a recent law passed by the city will allow gardens on public parkland.
Early on in her presentation, Rolls laid out the connection between composting and locally grown food. A key tenet of sustainable agriculture is to “feed the soil, not the plant.” That statement, and a recent New York Times article, “Urban Farmers’ Crops Go From Vacant Lot To Market,” highlights what is so cool about the COOL 2012 campaign – Compostable Organics Out Of Landfills and Back To Soils (www.cool2012.org).
The Times article profiles residents in New York City who are converting vacant lots and parking lots into organic gardens and selling the produce at local (and some times impromptu) farm stands. For example, Denniston and Marlene Wilks, along with a few of their gardening neighbors, received permission to use a vacant lot across from a garment factory at the end of their block. A soil sample identified traces of lead, so they built raised beds out of compost. The reporter also mentions how the Wilkses “took advantage of city composting programs, trucking home decomposed leaves from the Starrett City development in Brooklyn and ZooDoo from the Bronx Zoo’s manure composting program … The Wilkses now cultivate plots at four sites in East New York, paying as little as $2 a bed (usually 4 feet by 8 feet). Last year the couple sold $3,116 in produce at a market run by the community group East New York Farms.”
So what’s so cool about COOL 2012? Our founding committee, the GrassRoots Recycling Network, BioCycle and Eco-Cycle, wanted the campaign to incorporate one of the most recognized and proven benefits of compost – the healthy, productive soils connection. Add the fact that compostable organics in the landfill are one of the leading contributors to human-made methane (a greenhouse gas that is 72 times more potent than CO2 over a 20 year time frame), and COOL 2012 is even more cool. Why? From the Wilkses in New York City to the many businesses and communities that have programs to divert organics from the landfills and back to soils, getting COOL is one thing we all can do to combat climate change today. Healthy food, healthy soils, healthy communities and a healthy planet. Now that’s COOL!