If you want more reasons to compost, you should talk to Myrna Soper.
Myrna Soper has been a member of the SalemRecycles committee for almost 2 years and a resident of Salem since 2013. Her enthusiasm for waste diversion, finding alternate uses for trash and recycling in order to decrease landfill tonnage, is easy to tell from her high wattage smile and exuberant stories about composting, Salem’s Butt Bin program, and her ability to reduce her trash to just one tiny bag every other week. I had the pleasure of interviewing Marna at The Naumkeag Ordinary in March and learning more about her enthusiasm for composting and how she started.
Beth Melillo: How did you first start composting?
Myrna Soper: I first started composting because of the flower gardens I kept when I was living in Alabama in 1990. The food waste wasn’t even the first thing that crossed my mind, but I wanted to get something for my flowers to grow in. I like having my hands in the dirt and wanted to keep my plants healthy. It wasn’t until after I’d been composting for a while that I thought, this just makes sense! You can watch the stuff you’ve taken from the land go back into it. It just makes sense, even the maggots that come along with compost.
BM: What was one of the first things you learned?
MS: The first batch I made was the smelliest thing! I had to learn that you need to mix leaves and yard waste in with any food in order to make your own compost. It wasn’t until 2008 when I ordered my first tumbler to mix the compost to help it decompose faster. I thought, well, that was easy! Of course you still have to screen it when you take it out if you have rubber bands in there from lobsters, or there are big chunks. That can be a pain.
BM: What’s been your biggest challenge?
MS: I get that it can be time consuming, I understand. If you do it at home, you might need to turn and screen it in your backyard, which takes time. Even if you use Salem’s composting program you need to clean out your containers. I’ve found a lot of tricks for keeping things clean though, and I believe this is worth it. I have a passion for the earth and the finished product smells so good, that’s what keeps me going.
BM: You’ve lived a lot of places, what stands out in terms of composting?
MS: Of course what really stands out is the lobster party my husband and I had together where we had invited a whole crew of people. We just kept throwing the lobster shells into the compost we had in this big barrel, and the corn cobs, and all the other food and in the end there was hardly anything left over to throw out. I thought, wow, composting really makes a difference in what we throw into the trash. I was totally committed and onboard after that.
BM: Anything else?
MS: When I first started composting I only did it in warm climates, so you could do it year round, and it was easy. My foray into composting was always in year round warm climates. When I moved to the northeast I was shocked that my compost froze in the winter and it made a huge challenge. When Salem announced they were starting a curbside pick-up program I was beyond ecstatic. I think I must have been the first to sign up. Now composting in freezing weather was a breeze.
BM: I first met you when we were handing out compost toters for Salem’s compost pilot program in April of 2014. Tell me a little bit about volunteering with SalemRecycles and the composting program.
MS: Yeah! We handed out so many toters over the course of a couple months! Over the last couple years I’ve been excited to keep educating Salem residents about the compost program. As you know we gave everyone a toter [who signed up for the 2 year pilot program] and then Conor, from Black Earth Compost, comes on Thursday to pick up the compost and takes it to his farm. I’ve been to a lot of SalemRecycles events telling people about the composting program, but especially at the Farmer’s Market. I have really enjoyed talking with people face-to-face at the Salem Farmer’s Market about compost, why it’s important to participate, and what the benefits of the program are.
BM: You had a chance to visit Black Earth Compost’s farm operations, can you tell me about that?
MS: I visited Black Earth’s two locations in November of 2015. It surprised me that the tour we went on had a lot of people and that the piles were so large. Black Earth compost explained their process and how they turned the compost. They can really take almost anything up there, even meat scraps and tissues, even things you certainly can’t compost in your backyard pile.
BM: Any last remarks?
MS: Composting makes a difference! Being able to give back to the earth what you take out of it is exciting and you really are helping out to reduce waste and create clean dirt, after all so much food that gets bought also gets thrown out, and I have also heard that food waste in the waste stream creates methane gas in the atmosphere, which is even worse than carbon dioxide. Putting it down the garbage disposal means the cost of processing it, plus it just disappears – all those valuable nutrients “down the drain” !
Salem residents can still participate in the composting program. The 2 year pilot ended on 4/8/2016: however, there is still the opportunity to sign up by emailing or calling Conor Miller, or Black Earth Compost at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: (987) 290 –4610
For more food waste facts visit: End Food Waste Now
Written by Beth Melillo, SalemRecycles