Composting takes root in West B'more
By now, it seems, a lot of workplaces have gotten into recycling, at least of paper. One office in West Baltimore, though, has taken the plunge into composting - turning coffee grounds, food scraps, paper and other biodegradable refuse into plant food.
A handfull of workers at the Bon Secours of Maryland Foundation started this summer by collecting office paper and old grounds from their West Fulton Street building and combining them with grass clippings and leaves in a compost bin at a nearby community garden run by Operation Reachout-Southwest, a resident-led grassroots organization.
But before long, the initiative of the "Clean and Green" crew spread. Other staffers began bringing in scraps from the previous night's dinner, old produce and paper and other refuse from home. Some say they're now composting at home as well.
"Co-workers who at first thought we were crazy started saying, 'I didn't know it was that easy,'" says Erika McClammy, the foundation's director of housing and neighborhood revitalization and head of the effort to raise employees' green awareness.
"I was surprised at how man things we use can go back to the earth,'' says Latera Wallace, a Bon Secours employee. "I spend so much money every year buying topsoil and mulch for my mother who gardens, when I could have saved money by creating compost just from things around the house."
With the compostable materials being brought in, the workers added more bins in the garden, and a couple months ago took it to the next level with "vermiculture," adding worms to speed the composting.
Buoyed by their success, McClammy and others have made presentations about composting to various community groups, hoping to expand the practice throughout Southwest Baltimore where the foundation works.
"I compost because in Southwest Baltimore many people do not understand the link between the environment and how to live healthy in an urban community," explains Joyce Smith, a community leader and garden volunteer.
McClammy even hopes to rope Bon Secours Hospital into composting eventually.
"Healthy food, healthy people, healthy planet - it's all related," she says.
(Thanks to former Sun colleague Tanika Davis of the Hatcher Group and Erika McClammy of the foundation for the info, quotes and photos in this post.)