PLYMOUTH — The Colonial School District’s current adult evening school lineup offers classes in everything from arts and crafts to yoga. But given ongoing concerns about climate change and other environmental issues, Colleen Falicki’s workshop — Five Steps to Easy Composting — is particularly timely.
The session is scheduled for February 15 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School and costs $15.
Falicki founded Plymouth Meeting-based Back to Earth Compost Crew in 2017. The local woman had previously spent 12 years as an estate agent. But after the birth of her son and daughter, a lifelong interest in environmental issues drove her decision to do “something that would make a difference for their future”. She turned to composting, “working to keep food scraps out of landfills and (to make) the world a better place for generations to come.”
“We were already composting in our own backyard, so I did a lot of research and networking… I reached out to people who were already composting, and it all kind of grew organically,” says Falicki. .
These days, the half-dozen Back to Earth Compost Crew make regular stops at some 400 homes, offices, restaurants, breweries and catering businesses in suburban Philadelphia. Falicki also offers pickups at Ambler, Upper Merion, Malvern and seasonal Bryn Athyn Farmers’ Markets, Ambler’s Weavers Way, and the Home of Education, Arts, Resources and Technology community center in Phoenixville.
Next, e-bike pickups along a residential road in Conshohocken.
Service subscribers pay $194.40 per year or $18 per month for a five-gallon lidded bucket ($270 per year or $25 per month for two buckets) and receive three five-gallon buckets of finished compost in the spring and in the fall.
A one-month residential trial – two pickups – is free, as is a one-week food waste analysis for potential commercial customers. Collections are deposited in a trio of composting sites. Additionally, donations of finished compost have gone “to a number of nonprofits over the years, including Heroic Gardens, Ann’s Heart, and Trellis for Tomorrow.”
In short, “Back to Earth Compost Crew is on a mission to keep food waste out of landfills and back into the soil of our communities,” says Falicki. “With 30-40% of the food supply – almost half of household food – ending up in landfills, it is imperative that we make a change to our old systems.”
Changing these systems means composting much more than “food waste”. As Falicki notes at www.backtoearthcompost.com, compostables also include uncoated unlaminated brown paper bags, torn cardboard, paper coffee grounds and filters, biodegradable plates, corn cobs, shells eggs and paper egg cartons, breads and pastries, cooled fireplace ashes, fruit (all parts), grass clippings, hay and straw, sheets, paper towels and hand towels that do not contain no cleaning chemicals, pasta, pet hair, pizza boxes (dirty is good as long as the box is torn), pine needles, tea bags (minus staples), toothpicks, vegetables (all parts), wood chips and garden clippings, excluding vines and invasive weeds.
According to the US Composting Council (www.compostingcouncil.org), composting contributes to healthier, stronger plants by balancing soil density and pH, improving the soil’s ability to absorb and hold nutrients and moisture. water, suppressing pests and diseases and discouraging weeds. Falicki likens it to “magic…you just put it in the soil and it turns the soil to black gold,” but, she points out, the benefits of composting go far beyond stronger flowers and healthier tomatoes. sweet.
“Climate change is real and it is happening now,” she says. “Composting plays a role in reversing climate change, and the good news is that we can all be part of the solution. Compost diverts organic materials from landfills where they would decompose and be emitted into the atmosphere as methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. Compost also sequesters carbon and makes our soils more resilient. It improves soil health, reduces soil loss and increases water retention. It also reduces the need for chemical fertilizers. So many benefits…it makes sense to stop throwing away organic waste and use it to make a difference.
The King of Prussia native, graduate of Archbishop Carroll High School and the University of Shippensburg, and her team recently oversaw the collection of some 1,000 pounds of old and broken holiday lights in Conshohocken, Royersford and Ambler, and she compares the “challenge of getting more people to compost” to this era’s progressive ease with recycling.
“Recycling or, really, any new habit,” says Falicki. “It’s just a matter of remembering to put (compostable items) in a separate container instead of the bin. I tell people to try it for a month, and you’ll be hooked. There’s no better feeling than realizing you have the power to create change simply by keeping your waste out of the landfill. Just ask one of our composters.
She quotes a favorite quote from cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever existed.
Falicki is hosting in-person and virtual educational sessions by appointment and will be participating in the Philly Home & Garden Show Feb. 25-27 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks. More information is available at 610-470-4680 and www.backtoearthcompost.com or by email at [email protected]