New Compost Resources, 2020 Composter Training

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Tompkins Weekly 1-22-20

By Adam Michaelides

Forty-two counties in New York state have “cloned” Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County’s (CCETC) Compost Resources webpage. The many factsheets (and now educational videos) created and updated since the Compost Program’s inception in 1991 are readily available to millions of New Yorkers.

For the past two years, Master Composter and former Compost Outreach Coordinator Mila Fournier has been revamping our series of how-to compost factsheets for the modern era. Print materials now have a consistent look, and many have been revised with updated information. Several new factsheets are also available, such as the Quick-start Guide to Home Composting, 6 Steps to Compost and Choose Your Compost Bin.

For the past 10 years, our program has had only three educational videos available. “Lasagna Layering” has been viewed 2,500 times. As of mid-December, we now have nine videos available, thanks to a 2019 project funded by the Environment Program at CCETC and the Tompkins County Department of Recycling and Materials Management (TCRMM).

Master composter training in 2019 at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. Photo provided

One new video gives a virtual tour of our compost demonstration site to help the viewer choose the right compost bin. Another video focuses on composting on a large property, which includes how to use a three-bin unit, tips for better composting and harvesting and using compost in the garden. This longer video (12 minutes) can be watched in its entirety or in three parts corresponding to the main topics.

Though relatively small and unpopulated, Tompkins County is home to individuals and institutions that lead the way in their fields. Just look at the Cornell Synchotron, Porchfest and the International Rutabaga Curling Championship. There is also a lot happening in the field of sustainability.

Our program exists to “support the goal of TCRMM to divert compostable materials from the waste stream and thereby maximize waste reduction in Tompkins County.”

The latest figures from the United States Environmental Protection Agency show that in 2017, 15.2% of municipal solid waste generated in the U.S. was food, and 13.1% were yard trimmings. Taken together with some paper and wood waste, at least 30% of the waste stream could be composted at home.

If you have ever carried a five-gallon bucket of food scraps, you know that it is heavy and dense. So, composting food scraps at home instead of sending them to the landfill will result in lighter and less stinky trash, less methane and fewer trash tags.

Dead leaves, weeds, garden trimmings and other yard wastes are the perfect counterbalance to food scraps in the home compost. The dry material from the yard provides carbon and air in the pile. So, instead of paying the city of Ithaca to pick up your yard waste or taking it yourself to the transfer station (and paying the fee), keep yard waste at home and make valuable compost.

If you are just beginning, take a look at our Quick-start Guide or the 6 Steps to Compost factsheet on the Compost Program website. Or if you prefer to learn by watching videos, you can start by watching Food Scrap Tips to learn what to compost, Choose Your Bin to see a variety of bins or Lasagna Layering to learn the failsafe method of composting browns (i.e. leaves) and greens (i.e. food scraps).

Another way to get help is to talk to a master composer at a compost education booth at local events and festivals. Master composters are enthusiastic volunteer educators who have been trained to promote responsible composting in Tompkins County. You can also call the “Rotline,” Cornell Cooperative Extension’s compost hotline.

If you are someone who sees the value in composting and wants to teach others, the 2020 master composter training starts in February. Training includes 10 two-hour classes and 20 hours of volunteer time outside of class from February through April. At the last class on April 30, the 2020 class will graduate and become Master Composters just in time for the Garden Fair, Ithaca Festival and a full summer outreach season.

As of next year (2021), the Compost Program in Tompkins County will turn 30. That’s 30 years of training master composters, offering classes, creating educational resources and inspiring spin-off groups like Compost Theatre, Ithaca CRT and Rot-n-Roll.

Visit our website and click on “Compost Resources” to access our free factsheets and videos, or click on “Master Composters” to learn more about becoming a Master Composter. You can also stop by CCETC on Willow Ave in Ithaca, or call the Rotline at 607-272-2292. The deadline to apply for this year’s Master Composter training is 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 27.

Adam Michaelides is the program manager for the Compost Education Program at Tompkins County Cooperative Extension, a program funded by the Tompkins County Department of Recycling and Materials Management.

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