Giving Food Scraps a New Purpose
By Diana Rodriguez
Liberty Wildlife Intern
Food waste is a big problem that often gets overshadowed by other sustainability issues, but properly addressing food waste is crucial. The USDA estimated that the U.S. wastes around 30-40% of our food supply each year, that’s approximately 133 billion pounds. Households are the largest contributor, making up 43% of the total food waste sent to landfills. Clearly, we need to make changes on an individual level if we want to alleviate this problem, and composting at home is a great and easy way to give a new purpose to food that would have otherwise ended up in the trash.
What exactly is composting? Naturally, all organic matter eventually gets decomposed by millions of microscopic organisms. Composting is simply speeding up this process by providing the right environment for these microorganisms to thrive. The product we end up with after this process is complete is called compost, or what farmers like to call “black gold” for its high nutritious value for plants.
To start composting at home, the materials you’ll need are a container, food scraps, water, and something to mix it with like a shovel. You don’t need to purchase a fancy compost bin; as long as the container has good drainage, aeration, and keeps animals out, it will do perfectly fine. One popular option is drilling holes into an old trash bin and placing it on wooden planks to allow water to drain. The City of Phoenix even offers compost containers for $5 each as an affordable option. Once you have your bin, it’s best to place it outside in a dry, shady area that is easily accessible by a hose.
Generally, what goes inside your compost bin are browns, greens, and water. “Browns” provide carbon to your compost pile, and consists of dry and woody plant materials. Dry leaves, twigs, shredded newspaper, and dried yard trimmings are some examples of browns.
“Greens” refer to materials that provide nitrogen to your compost pile. Most of the food waste coming from your kitchen will be the greens you will add to your bin. Fruits, vegetables, grass clippings, crushed egg shells, and coffee grounds are examples of greens. Some common items you can’t compost are meat, fish, dairy, diseased plants, and grease. Keep your compost moist by adding water once or twice a week. In addition, use a shovel to turn the contents every few weeks, or when the internal temperature drops below 100℉.
The ratio of browns to greens is also important. The ideal ratio varies, but 4 parts browns and 1 part greens is a good place to start. If you don’t want to be exact with it, you can simply do a sniff test. If it smells really bad or acidic, you have too many greens and should add more browns to the mix. If your compost looks too dry, you might have too many browns and/or not enough water. A compost pile with the correct ratio should have an earthy smell and feel like a damp sponge.
Next, all there is left to do is wait! Depending on how much effort you put into maintaining your compost, it can take as little as 6 weeks to as long as a year or more. You’ll know it’s ready when it no longer resembles the food scraps you once put in. It will be dark brown to black in color, smell earthy, and have a crumbly texture.
There are a variety of uses for compost, the main one being a soil amendment in gardens. Compost is great for growing plants because it enriches the soil with nutrients, it improves the water
holding capacity of soil, and can be used as mulch. Don’t garden? You can always give your compost to someone who does or donate it to a community garden or school who will have use for it. Composting also provides many benefits that exist outside gardening. Aside from reducing food waste sent to landfills, composting helps conserve water, reduces methane emissions which helps combat climate change, and prevents soil erosion, to name a few. Finally, although composting is a great way to reduce our food waste, we should first prioritize reducing our consumption so there is less to waste in the first place.
By: Carol Suits
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
Migration is happening right now!
What’s Migration? Here’s the answer.
Find out how migration has become more dangerous for birds. There are some things you can do to help. Watch to find out.
Birds aren’t the only critters that migrate. How about these sea turtles?
Or how about these seals?
Meet these and other creatures that are part of the greatest animal migrations.
Here’s a video that explains the amazing migration of the monarch butterfly. Once the video ends, WAIT! Then watch the next video of a monarch butterfly swarm with the help of “spy hummingbird”, a really cool drone!
Take a ride on a horse with Phil Torres to visit migrated monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico.
When Raptors Roam
By: Gail Cochrane
Liberty Wildlife Volunteer
Many birds migrate south each fall in search of richer feeding grounds. You and I are lucky in that we can wander into the kitchen for food, and if there is nothing on the shelf, head over to the grocery store. Birds are also hungry every day, and in the winter months in cold climates their options for food can be slim.
Starting about now, birds around the globe begin to wing their way south, traveling along favorable routes called flyways. These flight paths span continents and cross oceans. Many birds will travel thousands of miles in just a few weeks. In the spring they will return along these same routes to their summer breeding grounds.
The mystery and spectacle of this mass movement of birds is one of the supreme cycles of nature. Migration is made up of countless individuals preparing themselves to make the journey, gauging the best weather conditions to get underway, and following sophisticated navigational tools to a specific place. In his book Living on The Wind, Scott Weidensaul states “Birds can track the sun, the moon, and the stars, compensating for their apparent movement to use them as compasses. But birds can also apparently perceive a host of sensations that are beyond our unaided senses – weak magnetic fields, faint odors, polarized light, barometric pressure, even extraordinarily low-frequency sound waves that echo halfway around the world.”
The Hawk Migration Association of North America lists over 1,000 hawk migration sites in North America. These are locations where raptors concentrate in high numbers, in some cases to wait for the best conditions to cross a barrier, such as a body of water. Mountain ranges and other geographical features that offer updrafts attract migrants as updrafts and advantageous weather currents make migrations much more energy efficient. Feeding grounds and waterways are other important elements of flyways.
The Grand Canyon is a migration point with one of the largest concentrations of raptors in the Western United States and Canada. Counts of migrating raptors have been held by HawkWatch International for over 35 years. At these counts data is collected on species, identities of sex, age and color morph, numbers, and behaviors of seasonal migrant raptors. Weather and observation conditions are also recorded. Since they feed at the top of the food chain, occupy large territories, and are found in most ecosystems, raptors serve as important biological indicators to the health of the ecosystem.
The Grand Canyon HawkWatch sets up at Yaki Point on the South Rim. Stunning vistas west and north across the canyon serve as a backdrop for the unforgettable sight of birds of prey streaming across the canyon. Members of the public are welcome to come on out with their binoculars and watch the show. Biologists and educational interpreters are on hand to offer information about the natural history, biology and identification of various species. The watch happens between August 27 and November 5 this year, from 9 am til 5 pm. Check out the website before going. Hawkwatch.org/grandcanyon