Brie Guenther of Red Deer checks out the garden-worthy compost in her composter. Two parts brown to one part green

It’s a rotten world; use it, don’t throw it away!

No melon rinds or coffee grinds go into the trash in Brie Guenther’s home. The 28-year-old and her fiancé Nathan Schmidt have been composting for almost a year now, thanks to a program from the City of Red Deer. “It fits with our lifestyle. We’re trying to grow more of our own food and plan to have a big garden one day,” said Guenther, a property manager at Sunreal Property Management Ltd. “Reducing our household waste was another big motivator for us . . . We don’t even fill up an entire garbage bag in a week anymore.”

No melon rinds or coffee grinds go into the trash in Brie Guenther’s home.

The 28-year-old and her fiancé Nathan Schmidt have been composting for almost a year now, thanks to a program from the City of Red Deer.

“It fits with our lifestyle. We’re trying to grow more of our own food and plan to have a big garden one day,” said Guenther, a property manager at Sunreal Property Management Ltd. “Reducing our household waste was another big motivator for us . . . We don’t even fill up an entire garbage bag in a week anymore.”

Composting — recycling organic matter into fertilizer and soil — has picked up speed in Red Deer with the Composting at Home program, first launched in March 2012. Since then, over 450 households have been given a free composting bin, aerating tool and kitchen catcher in exchange for a one-year commitment to composting. They also receive free training workshops and help from experts for any problems they encounter along the way.

Registration opened up on March 7 for the 2014 edition of the program, with spots for 200 households that have never before composed. It was full in two days. The 200 spots in last year’s program were also all filled within 55 hours.

“We plan to carry on with this program for the next couple of years,” said Lauren Maris, an environmental program specialist with the city. “We’re looking at this as a gateway to curbside organics pickup, which was mentioned in the waste management master plan completed in 2013.”

About 70 per cent of those homes from the first year have continued to actively compost one year later, diverting approximately 20 tonnes of organic waste from the landfill. Maris said they believe about 19 per cent of Red Deerians are now regular composters.

“I think composting is the single best thing that individuals can do at home for the environment,” she added. “And I think Red Deerians are concerned about waste and that is a major driver behind this.”

Guenther, who set up her bin last April, said she expects to have a good amount of compost once it all thaws.

She plans to use it on her mother’s garden in Lacombe and in Schmidt’s grandmother’s garden as well.

“It’s a great program and it’s free. People think it takes a lot of time but it’s really minimal effort. It takes barely two minutes to empty the kitchen catcher a few times a week,” Guenther said. “It can be a bit messy sometimes — like when you’re checking the moisture — but it doesn’t smell if you’re doing it properly.”

Guenther said she learned how to properly ratio what she puts into her bin during one of the workshops last spring. This means for every one bucket of “greens” you also have to add two buckets of “brown”, she said.

Greens include food scraps, grass clippings and other items rich in nitrogen, whereas browns are carbon-happy, such as dried leaves, wood chips, paper towels, newspaper shredding and sawdust.

Meat, fish, bones, diary products, fats and oils, pet waste and diseased plant material should not be composted, she added.

For more information, visit www.reddeer.ca/City+Government/City+Services+and+Departments/Environmental+Services/Environmental+Initiatives/Land/Composting+at+Home/default.htm

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com

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