The Science of Happy Gardening

By Dr. Judy Soborowicz

Hard to imagine anyone who is not absolutely grateful for the beautiful beginning to spring in Wisconsin! While spending as much time as life will possibly allow outside in the sun and fresh air, a recent study about soil has me eager to dig into the dirt.  As if we don’t already know how good digging in the dirt feels, the exquisite feeling of sun-warmed black dirt pushing through bare toes is truly hard to beat. As it turns out, there exists a friendly bacteria within soil that acts to promote our brains’ production of natural antidepressants.

According to researchers at Bristol University and  University College in London, our brains are activated to release, and increase efficiency of, the use of our natural serotonin when we are exposed to specific bacteria found in soil. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter, contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness, along with regulation of mood, appetite, sleep learning, and memory. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, aggression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar, IBS, and fibromyalgia.

Apart from how this neurotransmitter affects the brain, it also helps regulate digestive enzymes and helps to control the movement of food and waste through our gut. Because our gut health is a primary player in immune function, this study is a hint as to why immune function so greatly affects our mood.

How fascinating to consider our brain is set up to feel pleasure gardening, which in many ways, over time, has greatly contributed to our success and survival. Perhaps the positive feeling we get from digging in the soil is a part of what has increased the odds of our enjoying a delicious and bountiful harvest. Research has shown it, many of us have experienced it, digging and planting generously promotes well-being.

Judy Soborowicz practices chiropractic and nutrition at Active Health Chiropractic along with her husband John.  She enjoys writing, researching and lecturing on topics concerning chiropractic, healthcare and experience gained along the way.

Did You Know Compost Can…

Did You Know Compost Can:

  • Suppress plant diseases and pests.
  • Reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers.
  • Promote higher yields of agricultural crops.
  • Facilitate reforestation, wetlands restoration, and habitat revitalization efforts by amending contaminated, compacted, and marginal soils.
  • Cost-effectively remediate soils contaminated by hazardous waste.
  • Remove solids, oil, grease, and heavy metals from storm water runoff.
  • Capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air.
  • Provide cost savings of at least 50 percent over conventional soil, water, and air pollution remediation technologies, where applicable.

700 POUNDS

Amount of material diverted per year from each household when you compost

Yard Waste trimmings account for 31 MILLION TONS of municipal solid waste in the US each year.

6.7% of the municipal solid waste in the United States is food scraps – that’s over 13.2 MILLION TONS per year!

Campus Composting

UW-Eau Claire

On Campus: Since 2009, UW–Eau Claire has provided composting services on campus. The Davies Center and the Hilltop Center both have collection receptacles for food waste that will be composted. The dining facilities on campus use materials that can be composted, which are made from paper or corn-based materials. The food services also divert a lot of food waste from landfills by composting it.

Off Campus: Students who live off campus can sign up to have their food waste picked up and used in the composting effort for the campus garden. When students sign up, they are each given a yellow bucket to collect their food waste in. Once a week, they set the bucket out on their front step or porch, and student “eco-reps” come by via specially equipped bicycles to pick it up. This program operates spring, summer, and fall. For more information, contact the Student Office of Sustainability.

UW–Stout

Compostable materials (organics for composting) are collected in every building on campus and also within the kitchens of the dining halls, according to Sarah Rykal, sustainability coordinator at UW–Stout. Stout’s dining services also use compostable to-go containers, and the campus also collects paper towels from the restrooms. Rykal explains that the collection containers are all green with photographs of the things that can be composted. “We do this to make it easy and intuitive for students, faculty, staff, and visitors,” Rykal said. “In 2014, we had 326,583 pounds of compostable material diverted from the landfill.”For more information, contact the Sustainability Office.

Composting in the Chippewa Valley

Earthbound Environmental Solutions, LLC

By: Jan Caroll

Putting a new twist on composting in the Chippewa Valley is Earthbound Environmental Solutions, soon offering curbside organics recycling (compost is the product of breaking down the organics collected) along with traditional weekly garbage and recycling pickup. The company hopes to be up and running by summer 2015. They provide a countertop collection container for household organic waste and biodegradable bags to put the waste in, put in your garbage receptacle, and take to your curb on garbage day. This service package is provided for a competitive quarterly fee. Their website, www.earthboundenviro.com, offers several publications (in English, Spanish, and Hmong) that you can print out to get started with composting and help you along the way. They also offer educational and crafts materials for children.

A local family-owned business founded in 2014, Earthbound seeks to keep as much waste out of land fills as possible and convert it to reusable compost for gardens, landscaping, and lawns. They hope to eventually have compost they create at their facility available for purchase. They also have future plans to open a drop-off site for yard waste materials.

In 2014, Earthbound, and their new business idea for curbside organics recycling, was a top 5 finalist in the Eau Claire Economic Development Corp. Idea Challenge. When owners Zacharious and Jamie Pappas were asked why they decided to create Earthbound, they noted: We were motivated by the many opportunities that exist in our community in terms of participating in environmentally responsible activities, supporting people of varying abilities, taking a more active role in creatively shaping our community. We want to bring an innovative and exciting business to Eau Claire that will change the way our community thinks and feels about waste management and so much more.

Earthbound also has commercial services, offering a compost/garbage/recycling package similar to their residential program, and they can conduct a waste audit for your company. Other services include marketing support to help you connect with clientele with similar environmental values, and support to help you let customers know of your participation in this landfill diversion program.

In terms of community enrichment, the company provides free local educational outreach events where an Earthbound representative will come and speak with your group or organization.

Zacharious and Jamie are excited about the response so far, saying, “We have had a significant amount of positive feedback from Eau Claire residents and businesses with an overwhelming number of individuals in support of the program.”