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This page is dedicated to helping you be sustainable and more environmentally friendly. You will find instructions on how to; compost, worm compost, build a rain barrel, conduct a home energy audit, install a tank dam, build a raised bed or even how to stop junk mail.
Some of these tutorials will be ours and some we will import from other agencies and websites. We will continue to build this page, so check with us now and then for new tutorials.
If you have wanted to worm compost but feel a little hesitant about the thought of worms in your house or the time and effort it takes to maintain a large bin outside, the worm tower is the answer. This is a very low maintenance compost concept that began in Europe. It is a simple way to bring the compost directly where you need it, into your beds!
Making a worm tower couldn't be easier. You need a 3 ft section of at least 20" wide pipe and a cap of some kind, if you use PVC try to find Food Grade PVC which will not leach into the soil. I have also seen people use clay, metal, concrete, bamboo and even cardboard pipes! Drill 1/2" holes on the bottom 12" of the pipe. If you want to paint the pipe to blend in, do so now. Bury the pipe at least 18" inches and up to 2 feet into the bed that you choose. You will need to cap the top portion, if you buy PVC there are caps that will fit the pipe width that you choose, or you can use a guttering drain (better air flow and will allow rain to enter the top of the pipe), a clay saucer or a clay pot turned upside down. This helps to control the smell and flies and other creatures from getting into the food scraps.
You will need to put some bedding into the pipe, I suggest Coconut Coir or shredded newspaper, add some red wrigglers, other worms may join them, but they are not as hardy or eat as much as red wrigglers. When you have food scraps, add to the pipe and the worms will do the rest. The worms will live nearby the pipe and some will stay in the pipe itself. The worms that come in and out to eat will spread their casing around your bed, instant fertilizer! During times of drought, you may want to add 1 cup of water to the tower every few days. You can add more towers throughout your garden, or move this one around. Another great side benefit to using these towers, you are creating worm colonies inside your bed that will aerate the soil as well as fertilize and bring some great water retention properties. Take a look at the video below to get an idea of how a worm tower likes and functions.
Each year, the junk mail industry uses about 100 million trees to bring you the unwanted ads, offers, catalogs and circulars to your mailbox that you throw away without even opening. It's time to take back our mailboxes!
Follow these simple steps to remove your bulk.
Step One - Remove Your Name.
Contact the Direct Marketing Association, (DMA) and register with their Mail Preference Service. This provides an effective way for you to dam up the junk mail river. To add your name to the DO NOT MAIL LIST, register online at www.dmachoice.org/dma/member/regist.action or download a mail-in form, there is a $1 fee for mailing it in. Be sure to list each name receiving mail at your address including any misspelled names. You can also contact them at 212-768-7277.
Step Two - Use The Magic Words.
Avoid getting on even more mailing lists by taking precautions whenever you submit your name and address. If you are filling out a form, such as a warranty, subscription or customer info card, add the phrase, "please do not rent, sell or trade my name or address" next to the other information you provide.
Step Three - 1-800-NO THANKS
As soon as you receive an unwanted publication in the mail, call the 800 number located somewhere on the catalog and asked to be removed from the mailing list. Don't forget when you order something via mail or sometimes the internet, your name is added to a mailing list and most likely shared with other businesses, so don't forget your magic words in Step Two.
Step Four - Just Say NO
If you have ever purchased a new home, auto or applied for or received a credit card, you can be sure you name and address is being circulated among an array of credit card companies. To eliminate credit card offers, call 1-888-567-8688 or visit www.optoutprescreen.com . You can choose either a five-year opt out or a more permanent opt out.
Step Five - Your Catalog Library
Catalog Choice is a free website that allows you to opt out of unwanted catalogs. Once you register with the site, you can choose the catalogs you wish to stop receiving, and opt out requests will be sent to those distributors on your behalf. Visit them at www.catalogchoice.org
Step Six - Let Your Fingers Do The Dialing
Even though phone books are recycled, more than 660,000 tons still end up in the trash every year. This waste could be stemmed by first eliminating the delivery of unsolicited or unwanted phone books. Call these numbers to remove your name and address from delivery lists: YELLOW BOOK - 1-800-929-3556, VERIZON - 1-800-555-4833, AMERICAN YELLOW PAGES - 866-735-7050, YELLOW PAGES - 1800-953-4400 or visit www.yellowpagesoptout.com
If this seems like too much work, there are organizations and companies that for a membership fee will handle this task for you. www.stopthejunkmail.com and www.41pounds.org are just two junk mail removal services. The Bay City Area Recycling Outreach Coalition has put together a great junk mail kit that you can download HERE.
If you are artistic you can always make beautiful art out of your junk mail, such as the Elvis portrait above, but as most of us aren't that talented, try taking some of the steps above to handle your mountain of junk mail. The planet will, "Thank You, Thank You Very Much"!
Is your home's energy use stressing out your wallet? Well, find your happy place by conducting a home energy audit.
Conducting a home energy audit is easy and fun! One of the best ways to reduce your impact on both the environment and your wallet is to be as energy efficient as possible. As Oklahoma temps continue to rise this summer, it is more important than ever! Making smarter decisions and choices, implement changes and utilizing some of the tips that follow will pay off in a big way.
The District has produced a downloadable manual titled, "Achieving Energy Efficiency" a guide to conducting your own energy audit. In it you find information about the Energy Star Rating what it means and how to understand the label, it explains a Kilowatt Hour and the OG&E Smart Study and Smart Hours Programs. It includes a step by step guide to checking your HVAC unit, Insulation, Duct works, air filters, water pipes, water heater, thermostat, how to check for air leaks in your fireplace, windows, doors foundations, fixtures and soffits. How different lighting choices can make a difference and the best use of your appliances for energy efficiency. It is well worth your time to conduct an audit.
Last last year, I along with several other local people were interviewed by Metro Magazine or how you can be greener at home. You can find that article here.
Cleaning with all natural ingredients has many benefits to your health, wealth, well being and to the environment.
The District supports Norman's efforts to supply it's citizens with rain barrels, however, if you are not a Norman citizen, you can still make a rain barrel. It is easy making a trash can rain barrel. If you are interested in getting the instructions to make our own trash can rain barrel, click HERE.
We hold Rain Barrel Workshops as often as we can, which is whenever we can find the drums! When we hold these workshops, we provide take home instructions in case you forget any of our pearls of wisdom, I have been asked numerous times to post them on our website and with all the current rain that is blessing Oklahoma, now is the perfect time to do so.
You can download these PDF instructions HERE!
Worm composting is fun and easy! It is the best way to dispose of your kitchen waste; in return you get the best compost imaginable for your garden or houseplants. So, let's Get Jiggy With It!
The first thing I want to tell you is when purchasing your worms, get RED WIGGLERS. They are the champs of vermicomposting. Night Crawlers and Earthworms just don't perform as well. Red Wigglers adapt to the environment of a home compost system very well, and each of them will eat their weight in food every day as well as produce like crazy.
THIS OLD HOUSE - You can purchase a bin system online, or take the greener route and make your own. When I first began vermicomposting 5 years ago, I bought three 10 gallon totes at a garage sale to use as bins, (whatever you do, do not get a tote larger than 18 gallons, or one that is clear - they do not like the light). I left one tote alone without holes, I drilled several larger holes into the bottom of both of the remaining totes for drainage and entry holes. Just recently I saw a video on You Tube that instructed the viewer to use two small round soffit vents for air holes. She drilled one large hole on either side of the tote and pushed the vents through. On the inside of the tote, she covered the openings with an old pair of knee high stockings and secured them with rubber bands. I thought that this was brilliant and I will use this method when it is time to replace my current system. The larger vents allow for air flow and make for quicker compost, not to mention healthier worms. Stack your totes in this order; undrilled tote first, add two bricks inside to elevate the next tote at least 2-3" above the bottom. This allows any liquid fertilizer to drain and be contained for later use. You will want to use it too; it is the best fertilizer on the planet. However, you want to keep it out of the worm bins as worms can drown. Place one of the totes with the holes on top of the bricks; this is the one that you will prepare for the worms.
LOCATION AND CURB APPEAL - You need to pick a spot for the bins that is out of direct sun in the spring through fall if you are placing it outside and in the garage in winter. Direct sun hitting the totes will make them too hot for the worms and will make for some brittle totes. Worms are at their happiest at 50-80 degrees. I keep mine in the kitchen year round. If possible place them near your kitchen for convenience.
HOME SWEET HOME - Let's chat about bedding. I think that every worm farmer has their own thoughts concerning worm bedding, these are mine. I like coconut fiber; it is also called coconut coir. Coconut Fiber has a balanced pH, (as does Peat Moss, but I don't like to use Peat Moss due to the high environmental cost of harvesting it. Peat Moss grows slowly and is usually shipped from already stressed wetland regions in Florida and Georgia). I also don't like to use only shredded newspaper when introducing new worms to the system or at the beginning of a cleaned out apartment. To prepare the bedding, spread 3" of fiber on the bottom of the tote. Your bedding needs to be moist, but not overly moist. Fill a spray bottle and allow it to rest for 24 hours to let the chlorine dispel, then spray the bedding until just right (squeeze test: if you squeeze the fiber and water drips it is too moist, let it dry a little). Add worms and cover the bedding with 2" of damp shredded black & white sheets of newspaper (no glossy circulars) and cover the lid.
BELLY UP TO THE BAR - When worms arrive, them will need to acclimate themselves to your worm apartment. They will be more thirsty than hungry, so only feed new arrivals about 1 cup of finely chopped up food. When you feed the worms, you will place the food under the newspaper and on top of the fiber. This prevents fruit flies from smelling it and helping themselves. Check again in two to three days and feed again only if the previous food is gone. After that it is as needed, or as much as your worms can handle. You will figure out how much they can eat and get a rhythm going. They love tea bags, used coffee grounds with filters fruit, veggies, napkins cardboard and egg shells, cut up as fine as possible. Do not give them too much garlic, onions or citrus, they don't seem to like them much and this changes the delicate pH. Also leave out cobs, peach pits, etc. DO NOT EVER GIVE THEM MEAT, OIL OR DIARY OF ANY KIND. If you ever have more scraps than they can take, put them in a container, clearly marked, in the fridge. They will catch up!
MOVING DAY - After 4-6 months check to see if it is time to move them to the second bin apartment. This depends on how many worms you have and how much you have fed them. If it is time to collect your compost, stop feeding them in bin #1, remove the shredded paper and place the second tote directly on top of the compost. This may also be a great time to drain the catch basin of liquid if there is any. Dilute it with water until it resembles the weakest tea you have ever seen and use it to fertilize your houseplants. Set up your second apartment as you did the first and place food under the moist shredded newspaper and on top of the fresh fiber and close the lid. It could take up to 2-3 weeks for the worms to move from the first tote to the second, but they will, keep checking. When they have moved, remove the first tote and place the second on top of the bricks in the catch basin. Look at your new compost carefully. If you still have unprocessed food present, you need to let it decompose or add it to the second tote and check for strays, this is round up time. If it is good to go, spread it around your beds or make some worm tea.
MURPHY'S LAW - I have never liked Murphy, however, he/she has a point. In a new system it is not unusual to see worms climbing the walls of the bin; however, if it is 3 months down the road, you have a problem. Check the moisture first, if it is too moist, stir in some dry fiber. If it is too dry, give it a mist. If it stinks, you have either too much food (remove some and wait to feed again when the remainder is gone) or there is too much of something that they just don't like and are not eating, (remember the garlic, onion & citrus thing?) remove it. If you have an abundance of fruit flies, bury your food deeper by adding more newspaper. Always check that your newspaper is moist, not wet. Remember food is often moist itself. Make sure it doesn't get too hot, don't stir the food between feedings; you will create a hot compost situation that super heats. Stick a ground thermometer in the bin if you are concerned about the temp, and adjust your location if necessary. If you are concerned that it is too cold in the bin, find a very large bottle, fill it half way with water, bury it in the fiber and add an aquarium water heater. The worms will gather around the bottle if they are cold.
This is such a great activity for your children, and it is the perfect chore for them to contribute to the running of the house. You will find that they can't keep their hands off of the worms. Not only can they watch nature at work, they get their own recycling project. Use the compost in your garden or on your houseplants. If you don't need the compost but still want to compost your kitchen scraps, give it away, believe me gardeners will line up if they know you giving away free worm compost. Let's all get together and fight global warming and promote global worming!!
Nutrient Pollution is a big problem in the United States. To learn more about what you can do visit the EPA's website or download our pamplet, "How GREEN Is Your Lawn?".