Monday, September 30, 2013

Letter From the Editor...How We Are Growing

Do you know where the word "editor" comes from?  Rumor has it, it was the title of the person who chose who would go into the next fight among gladiators in Ancient Rome.  Not that what we are talking about is as serious as that.  It may not even be life or death.  It is definitely about life.

We are going to talk to you about life.  Though EQ has been primarily focused on growing things and charities, we are expanding to be about the things that are important in your life, your world.  We are going to talk about food, music, money, art, and more.  We have new writers and contributors and more content than ever before about the things that matter most to you.  We are going to be a voice.

I am guessing that life back in ancient Rome was not quite as fun as my job is going to be, but we are going to see. Let's go!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Local Support...these are the times that count.

I love a good meal and a good time.  This past weekend was perfect.  I met up with a good friend of mine from college and we took a walk in Falls Park and then up and down Main St. looking in shops.  She was feeling a bit hungry and my first thought was the patio at Gringo's.  We went, were treated great, and the food was awesome.

I have worked in and around restaurants since I was about 17.  My mom was a chef and the one thing I can say is that this was just a good experience.  By "good" I mean that as the best compliment that I can give a restaurant and that is a shame these days.  We did not need to be wowed.  We did not need to have a server sing to us or anything like that, just great service and great food.  I am acquaintances with the owner, I did not need him to come by the table and make a fuss.  The kitchen manager popped up from the kitchen to check on something and waved at me, but that was it.  It was a great day with a friend and stopping at Gringo's only made it better.

That is rare right now and in an environment that is being flooded with restaurants where service and customer experience is not really paid attention to, I am glad to see Gringo's where it is.  When I approached them about getting their compost, there was no discussion about how annoying it might be for the kitchen staff or how to do it, just that it would get done and they have not let us down.  They love their community and are willing to do the work to be a part of it.

Apparently, there is a push to close down the patio at midnight and that just does not seem right.  If there WAS ever any place that has earned a place in this community, even though they have been open a short time, it is Gringo's.  I am going to show up at City Hall today and support their bid to stay open later and promote an environment where people can just hang out downtown and have a GOOD time.

It is hard work to become part of a community.  There is a lot that goes into it and a lot that goes on the behind the scenes and I have seen that commitment from too few businesses in the area, but Gringo's is one of them and I appreciate that.  So meet me at City Hall...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mid-Grid: Greening the City

Note:  This is an article about thoughtful and considerate government.  We are NOT working FOR the Greenville Zoo, nor is any part of this project set in stone.  This is merely about how the thoughtful staff at the Greenville Zoo are taking into account the community that surrounds them and the planet on which we live and working to make it better and how I am proud to be working with them to do whatever to make it happen.

I just got a house within sight of downtown Greenville, SC and I have no intention of moving from it any time soon.  Nor do any of my neighbors.  In fact, they are building a condo complex right across the street.  Over half of all people in the world live in cities and that number will increase to 75% in the next 15 years or so.  We have to admit that the average person is not going to pack everything up and move to the country.  This idea, on its face, is impractical.  So, what are we going to do?  Ask questions, that's what.

The city is not going and is, in fact, growing.  The means to solve ecological problems are not out of our reach, especially if we start now.  I found this out personally, yesterday.

I led a meeting with the staff at the Greenville Zoo and we talked about how to institute a composting program at the zoo.  Let me back up.  A couple of months ago, I wanted to start work on a garden system. It was July, the middle of the growing season, and my idea was to focus on fall and the following spring.  Thinking ahead, I thought it would be a good idea to locate fertilizer and begin to work on the soil so I contacted the zoo to get some manure.  I was told that was not something that they do.  I have to admit that I was rather bold at that point and asked if it was something that they would consider.  They connected me with the director of the zoo and the ball was set in motion.

We had a number of conversations, he and I, and there was a lot of discussions about the problems that come with manure.  At some point, it was just easier to toss it, though no one wanted to.  No one at all wanted to but there were many issues at stake and the zoo did not have the resources to get it going.  That was when we began to ask questions.  The first was "how?"

The Greenville Zoo has two elephants.  They are, by far, the largest producers of manure on the 14 acre property.  Yes...14 acres, that's it.  The staff of the zoo focuses very well on the health and well being of the animals and the experience of the guests of the zoo, with few exterior organizations to engage in such an endeavor.  That was another question:  What if someone outside of the zoo were willing to get in on it?

So we tackled each of the things that could hinder this project one by one.  Odor?  We use coffee grounds, popcorn, and other absorbent, fragrant refuse from businesses in the city to absorb the leachate (liquid run-off).  This imparts heat on the pile, getting it up to about 160-170 degrees (we hope 200 degrees!).  This kills off weed seeds if there are any and any harmful bacteria that may reside in the pile.  We keep the core of the pile at high temp, for three days, and when all is said and done, the pile smells like hot coffee.

Space?  With only 14 acres to deal with, space is at a premium, so the hunt for level ground began.  Also we took into account that there are only two elephants putting out about 700 pounds of waste each day (manure mixed with hay and the accompanying moisture of the leachate).  This is not as much as it seems and can be easily managed on a daily basis by one person or a few volunteers.

Cost?  The zoo is not a wealthy entity, no city entity is.  So how is this made viable?  If nothing else, it is profitable from the start because it makes use of waste and unused space.  The idea is to bring together a number of local entities to support this effort.  The manure is free, the coffee grounds are free, the labor is based on interested parties and volunteers and this means someone willing to go to the zoo, and toss compost.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

So we solved all of the problems. I led this meeting and answered questions, but at no point did anyone say this could not be done.  Everyone there did nothing but think about HOW it could be done. There are random permitting issues and paperwork, but there is nothing stopping this because it is so sublime in its simplicity.  A little thought, a little work and we save tons of carbon, generate revenue, and help everyone involved.

We do this because we believe in it, but we are not receiving any funding from the zoo for this work.  If you believe in this please make a contribution!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

More than a ton...

Three Piles...More Than a Ton of Compostable Matter.
So we start off pretty easily.  The basics of compost is piling matter so that it rots the way that nature intended.  We have taken it an extra step.  By actively working with it and creating and environment that supports life on a number of levels throughout the pile, we speed up the process and make it ready for use more quickly.  What began as a slow start, eventually got faster and faster with more and more levels of life crawling through and around the piles and developing an internal heat of more than 160 degrees.

Black soldier flies and other things began to get into the mix and now what started off as one pile of green and crunchy mass is now a dark brown mass of viable compost.
It is not entirely to the finished product but it is getting there soon.
We have saved more than a ton of mass that would normally have gone to waste in landfills.  We have created a viable means of income and more.
As we inch closer and closer to our larger project, we can see that the main thing that we have on our hands is a good start.
Greenville is becoming greener by the moment, but in order for this to succeed, we need more involvement and more support.  One man, hauling compost from a lot of really great restaurants is not going to solve the problem. We have three big piles going on in various places, but we need to get serious about it and turn one ton into 5 and then 5 tons into 20 and so on!

We hope that you will take a moment to give to help this cause!