Leadership Steamboat: Earth Cubes to enable food waste to yield fresh produce
Go fund an earth cube
Each Earth Cube for the 2018 Leadership Class project costs $4,500. Donations can be made at GoFundMe.com/2018LeadershipSteamboat. Alternatively, the Chamber of Commerce has assumed fiduciary responsibility and checks can be made out to the Steamboat Chamber of Commerce - make a note of the purpose. Donations of $250 or greater are eligible for a 25 percent tax credit through the Enterprise Zone designation.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The 2018 class of Leadership Steamboat plans to close a gap in the Yampa Valley food cycle by raising funds to acquire three highly efficient composting containers, or digesters, known as Earth Cubes.
One of the new composters would be located within a bear-proof enclosure near the new greenhouse outside LiftUp of Routt County. A second would be on the elevated deck outside the cafeteria at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs. The third location has yet to be determined.
Yampa Valley Sustainability Council Waste Diversion Director Cameron Hawkins, who is a member of this year’s Leadership Steamboat Class, said the opportunity to partner with other local nonprofits on the goal of diverting food waste from landfills is welcomed.
“Earth Cubes are a great solution to Steamboat’s lack of food waste collection,” she said. “And where better to practice accountability than in places of community gathering and learning?”
Earth Cubes are expensive; each composter costs $4,500. But they can be equipped with solar-powered augers to stir the compost mixes, and the models intended for Steamboat will come with insulating blankets to keep them efficient in the cool climate of the Yampa Valley.
Roughly the size of washing machines, they are able to compost up to 50 pounds of food waste daily, with the right mix of roughage like wood chips, mulch or even used brown paper towels.
Leadership Steamboat member and LiftUp Community Support Manager Jeff Modesitt said the Earth Cube could elevate the sustainability of the food bank’s practice of collecting newly expired produce and baked goods from local grocery stores to its clients. The same goes for perfectly good food from the many restaurants in Steamboat that wasn’t served to customers the night before — pizzas, for example.
“I look at it a couple ways,” Modesitt said. “We want zero waste on our campus. And we will have fruits and veggies that are almost gone when they arrive.”
If the food isn’t claimed quickly, it morphs into waste, and in the case of both LiftUp and the college, there is a strong desire to not send it to the landfill.
“Right now, we’re giving (that food) to cattle ranchers and pig farmers so it doesn’t go to waste,” Modesitt said. “Depending on how this comes together, we’ll probably divert that to the Earth Cube so we can create compost for our greenhouse.”
In addition to handling food waste responsibly, LiftUp has been supporting local food producers, including cattle ranchers, by making the freezers at the food bank available to them.
Leadership Steamboat member and CMC adjunct English instructor Katie Carroll said the location of the Earth Cube at the college is ideal to ingrain in students the habit of recycling food waste.
“If we’re successful with the pilot project at CMC, we’re hopeful of bringing in other partners in town,” she said.
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