Sunday, May 26, 2024

Smells like ‘green’ spirit

ANC to host ‘Introduction to Backyard Composting’ lecture Oct. 1


Hood County residents will soon learn how to become a partner with the environment after listening to Acton Nature Center’s “Introduction to Backyard Composting” lecture set for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1, at the Opal Durant Acton Community Center, 6430 Smokey Hill Ct.

Hosted by Master Naturalist Kristina Del Pino Borgstrom, community members will learn how to compost around their own home.

Composting is a controlled, aerobic (oxygen-required) process that converts organic materials into a nutrient-rich soil amendment or mulch through natural decomposition, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The end product is compost – a dark, crumbly, earthy-smelling material.

“People are always looking to see what they can do with their food scraps or lawn scraps, so it's fun to kind of educate folks on what they can do with their waste material other than putting it in the garbage can to go to a landfill,” Borgstrom said. “With this presentation, I'm really aiming to just introduce people to what composting is. I think some folks really like the idea but getting started can be hard, so I’ll be kind of introducing them to the fun science that goes into composting.”

Back in 2021, Borgstrom had taught composting in a homeschool class and the children got the opportunity to start a compost container at the Acton Nature Center.

"Each homeschool session would be able to put their food scraps in there and the kids would be the ones in charge to help maintain the compost system as part of their curriculum— that's kind of where our local area got started,” she said.

According to the ANC flyer about the composting lecture, over 50% of the waste we produce can be obverted from a landfill, either by recycling it or composting it.

“What I kind of hope to do in the class as well is introduce folks to all these different systems where there's composting available,” Borgstrom said. “If you live in an apartment and small house or if you have a large plot of land, there's something that everyone can do."

Borgstrom, who currently works as an animal care specialist at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, said composting also reveals “fun little critters” that live in compost piles like the Armadillidium vulgare or roly polys.

“My husband also has gotten really into roly polys, and so those are also good composting organisms to use for small scale systems,” she said. “I'll probably have some of those as well for people to see, just some examples of critters that you can find in your compost system.”

Composting for Borgstrom all began as a hobby when she was attending college at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in Wisconsin.

“It's a big natural resource school, and within that we had a student organization called the Green Team,” she said. “Soil science was one of the majors that they offered at that university, and so as just a student leader in the community, we kind of created this Green Team effort to kind of really hype up recycling and compost within student living and then working with the soil science department to create an onsite compost facility for students to use. It was fun, just kind of getting people to understand like, ‘Where does your food go afterwards?’ and ‘How can it be used differently?’ It gave a purpose to your food scraps, so it's where professionally some of my interests developed there.”

One of her favorite activities for both kids and adults, she said, is where she gathers different samples from the compost piles at Fossil Rim and allows volunteers to inspect the piles to show how they can change over time.

"We have what's called windrows, and they're these long piles of decaying plant material and animal poop, and you kind of just set them up in different aged piles,” Borgstrom explained. “Over time, you'll go from something that's really smelly, and you can identify some of the plant material or poop that's in that pile, and over time, bacteria and microorganisms and macro-organisms break that down into a finished soil product. It's called hummus, and after it's all digested by those organisms, it really doesn't have any smell to it, so it's not really stinky, it’s just kind of like this fresh, earthy smell.

“For kids, I like to get different samples of the different age compost for them to dig into — if they're brave enough, smell it — and kind of really see how those products are broken down over time because that's really where a lot of our plants come from too.”

Borgstrom added that she is excited for the lecture and hopes to inspire people to continue to learn more about composting.

"Hopefully they won’t be as afraid of it or don't think it's as smelly or stinky so that they might be intrigued to start their own little system,” she said. “If it's a worm bin that they keep indoors or if they're ambitious enough to start an outside pile in their backyard, (I want to) really open them up to the science behind it and to get a greater appreciation for what composting is and what all those bacteria and organisms out in nature really do for us.”

For those who cannot make it to the lecture, they can register for the Zoom link by emailing | 817-573-1243