24 July 2010

Bunny Poops

This post isn't really about bunny poop, exactly, but referencing my favorite compost ingredient was the only way I could think of to bring a little bit of cuteness to the subject of composting. And really, what's cuter than bunnies?

This morning we went to City Hall for a class on composting. Being seasoned composters, we already knew most of the information that was covered, but the (free) class was a requirement to qualify for a new City of Austin composter rebate (and for someone new to composting, the class really was very good). Now that we've taken the class, we can buy a composter and get a 75% rebate (up to $75) from the city.

Let's back up a bit. You already know how progressive Austin is when it comes to incentives for various household measures that reduce the need for city utility services. We've taken advantage of rebates for our high efficiency (and low-water) washing machine and our geothermal HVAC system, we're about to send in the form for a rainbarrel rebate, and we've got our eyes on the solar panel rebate program (and then there are those free trees...). But the city also knows that landfill space isn't infinite, and they're encouraging folks to throw less stuff in the garbage. Last year, the city established a goal of reducing the amount that goes to the landfill by 90% by 2040. The city offers single-stream recycling (we dump all of our recyclables into a single bin, which is picked up and sorted every other week), and there are three sizes of garbage cans, with the largest costing about $20/month versus $4.75 for the smallest). So, with an eye toward reducing what goes into the garbage, the city has recently unveiled this new program to encourage the diversion of even more waste away from our garbage cans.

In order to get the rebate, we were required to go to the class (done) and to downsize to the smallest garbage can (we've always had the smallest, so done). Now we just need to find the right composter, buy it, and request our rebate.

I'll admit that I'm a little conflicted about this. Our composting to date has consisted of three piles on the ground -- one started last August, which is fully composted, the second one started around December, which is currently brewing, and the third, started around April, to which we are still adding. (The three-pile system is a well-established way of composting.) Anyway, I'm basically fine with the piles, but Steve isn't too excited about it and has wanted to switch to a more structured system for a while. I never thought it made much sense to spend at least $100 on a container to do what we can do just fine for free, but with the rebate, it's a little easier to justify. So we're planning to get a tumbler-style composter (like this one), which makes it a lot easier to turn the compost (an important part of composting, so that the microbes that help everything break down will have oxygen to fuel the process). Since the frequency of turning can make the difference between compost taking a month to break down versus six months, I anticipate that the tumbler will take the place of one of the piles, and we may even be able to go down to a two-phase composting system.

Anyway, back to class. Everyone who attended (did I mention it was free?) got a compost bucket for kitchen scraps, plus a little booklet on composting and some other information from the city's Solid Waste Services department.

Our class was videotaped and will be put online for anyone (in Austin or elsewhere) to watch, and if you're local and are interested in taking advantage of the rebate, you can find more information on the city's website right here.


  1. Another solution for urbanites who don't have yards is the NatureMill electric composter. http://www.naturemill.com/ We are getting one soon. It will also save us $400 a year on garbage pickup. =)

  2. Very cool. I think I saw something like that on Costco's website a while back -- great idea. And four hundred dollars of savings is HUGE!