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.”

Rain Barrels: A Win-Win for All

By: Jeannie Voeks

Happy Earth Day Month!  Let’s talk about one simple thing we can do for Mother this year in promoting sustainability.  That is saving her gift of rainwater. There are different reasons to want to do this.

There are Economic reasons as well as Ecologic reasons that saving and using rainwater is beneficial.  For lack of space and in keeping with Earth Day, I am going to focus on the Ecological aspect only.

Eco-logical benefits:

Collecting rain in barrels helps slow runoff and encourages rain to soak into the soil more efficiently, to recharge groundwater supplies and protect sensitive ecosystems.

Overloaded municipal sewer systems can cause untreated sewage to flow to lakes and rivers, thus causing pollution to our valued lakes and rivers.

By saving rainwater from wetter seasons, you’ll have plenty to use without taxing the municipal supply, or your well during the summer, helping out during times of not-so-rainy days.

Eco-facts to consider:

Gardens, trees, bedding and house plants are more likely to flourish when they always receive Mother Nature’s pH-balanced rainwater. What could be more simple and natural?

Have you ever noticed how green a good rain turns lawns and gardens?  This is not just “a good cleaning up” by the rainwater.  The soil is replenished by this natural pH water, nitrogen is delivered to the soil and plants thrive.

Rainwater is a constant renewable resource to Earth because of its continuous production cycle and is very pure due to the water cycle it goes through.  Although there are some similarities between rainwater and tap water, there are also many differences.

Tap water contains contaminants due to the many substances collected in the environment.  These contaminants, such as pesticides, prescription drugs, sewage, bacteria, metals, oil, etc. then need to be filtered out, so it can be used for drinking and cooking.

So WHY is rainwater better than tap water for our plants and lawns?  Well, there are a few reasons…

Simply said, it is what Mother Nature intended.  Rainwater is purer, more easily absorbed because it is naturally soft and free of minerals. This allows for healthier growth.

► Salt exists in the soil naturally. In areas where the water is naturally full of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, sodium (salt) is used in municipal water and in water softeners to soften water to reduce deposit buildup. Too much salt is bad for plants, and as it builds up it starves the roots of water. Rainwater dilutes the salts in the soil and pushes them further down, away from the plant’s root system.

► Municipal water services add a lot of chemicals to the water supply to keep it clean as it flows through pipes. Fluoride and chlorine are very common additives. Fluoride is put into the water in an effort to keep people’s teeth healthy. Chlorine is used to kill off harmful bacteria in the water supply. Both of these chemicals affect the pH of the soil, often making it too acidic for maintaining healthy plants. Rainwater contains neither of these chemicals, having been filtered by evaporation, and is pure.

I hope this has helped you understand the benefits and importanceof harvesting rainwater for your plants, gardens, trees and lawn.

Try rainwater for other uses, too.  You’ll be surprised how much you’ll like it for washing your car, bathing your pet, or washing your own hair…you might find that you wont need to buy conditioner, as rainwater is naturally soft.

Many of us are finding ways to go back to a simpler way of life.  This is one of those smarter, simpler ways that make sense, save money and save on the environment.  Give it a try…oh, and if you do, please remember to choose a rain barrel that is good for the environment and won’t end up in a landfill.  Mother Earth will thank you!

Green Planet Rain Barrels, LLC

715-835-4080

greenplanetrainbarrels@gmail.com

Do the Solar Math

By:  Joe Maurer, Next Step Energy LLC

Why install a solar PV system? You can hedge against rising fuel costs! You can own your energy up front! You can offset your own fossil fuel consumption! You can have energy independence!

You probably have heard some of what a solar PV system can do for you, but what about the costs? What does the math of a solar PV system say? A baseline PV costing exercise usually begins by looking at your kWh/per year usage. Here is a sample exercise you can do at home.At our home business, the energy usage is 8,300 kWh per year. To estimate my PV system size, I will begin by dividing my kWh per year by 1.2. This gives me an estimated PV system size of 6,917 watts or a 6.9kW system. To calculate my installed cost, I multiply the PV system size by the cost per watt for a roof mounted system, which in this case is $4.00. This gives me an installed cost of $27,988. Not exactly chump change, I know. But wait! There is more to this equation.

If I am a rural business owner, I can apply for a 25 percent USDA REAP grant. To figure this amount, I multiply myinstalled cost by 0.25. This puts me at $20,991. If my utility participates with Focus on Energy, I can take an additional $2,400 dollars. This Focus on Energy grant is taxed at 33 percent (-$792), so the cost of the system is now at  $19,383. The federal tax credit is considerable at 30 percent. To calculate this, I simply multiply my installed cost minus the USDA grant by 0.30. This puts me at $14,693.70! I know exciting, right? We are not done—let’s look at depreciation. Depreciation indicates how much of an asset’s value has changed. For tax purposes, businesses can deduct the cost of the tangible assets they purchase as business expenses. To figure depreciation, multiply your installed cost ($27,988) by 0.21. Our net solar system cost is $8,816.22! This isn’t chump change either—but it’s a considerable difference from where we started.

So, what’s the payback time? To calculate this, divide the net solar system cost by the solar energy value in year one and multiply by 1.35. To calculate your solar energy value in year one, multiply your annual electric load by your utility rate. For example, for my solar energy value in year one, I multiply $0.11 x 8,300 to get $913. So to find payback, I divide my net system cost ($8,816.22) by solar energy value ($913) and multiply by 1.35 to give weight to module degradation, property insurance escalation, inverter replacement etc. My payback time is 13 years. Or I could say after 13 years, I make money with my system! System life is expected to last at least 30 years.

Check with your tax professional and solar site assessor to find out if you qualify for solar enegy tax incentives.

Growing Minds Growing Gardens

by Sarah Franc

A parent can buy all the toys and electronics in the world for their child, but one should never underestimate the endless hours of fun in playing in the dirt. For children and adults, the rewards of growing your own garden are immense. From sowing the seeds to witnessing your flowers or vegetables/fruits emerge from the earth, gardening is one of the best ways to actively teach your child essential life skills.

Benefits
We live in a society that spends more time smiling at their screens than smiling at their children. Setting up a family garden will be a great opportunity to put the electronics away and spend some quality time with your child doing something productive. Your children will enjoy spending time outdoors and will develop a love and appreciation for nature while putting their curiosity to good use (rather than getting into mischief).

A study by the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) investigated the impacts of gardening in school. By replacing the white board with active learning, the study reported three core areas in which the children’s lives improved:

1. Readiness to learn
2. Resilience
3. Responsibility

More specifically, according to the RHS, gardening encouraged children to:

• Become stronger, active learners capable of thinking independently
• Gain a more resilient, confident, and responsible approach to life so they can achieve their goals and play a positive role in society
• Learn vital job skills such as presentation skills, communication, and team work, and fuel their entrepreneurial spirit
• Embrace a healthier, more active lifestyle
• Develop the ability to work and communicate with people of all ages and backgrounds

Keep It Interesting
The growing process can be long, and some young ones may get discouraged when the results are not immediate. Make sure to keep your children involved and interested in the project. Let them get dirty! The basis of a garden’s appeal for a child is getting to play in the dirt, so encourage it! Also, it is important to allow your child to make some decisions. Perhaps let him or her choose the flowers or vegetables/fruits to cultivate, or choose crops that your child will enjoy. If your little one loves strawberries, plant strawberries! Planting flowers that attract butterflies, ladybugs, and other interesting creatures will be an added bonus for children. This will allow them to spend more time in the garden investigating and learning about nature.

Safety
It is vital that your little one learns and practices garden safety. Keep all fertilizers or sprays away from your child and stay away from the use of pesticides in your garden. One of the major benefits of growing your own garden is that you control all aspects of the growing process. Therefore, you will know what is going into your body. Stay away from pesticides; grow organically. Also, teach your child how to properly use the garden tools and be sure children are properly supervised while using said tools. Lastly, spending hours in the garden in the summer can get hot. Stay properly hydrated and wear sunscreen or protective clothing.

Whether your garden flourishes or not, your children will cherish the memories you made while spending time in the garden. As long as you keep it a relaxing experience and have fun, you and your children will continue to learn through the journey, and hopefully have some beautiful flowers and delicious food to show for it.

Sara is a graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Stout’s journalism program.