Today’s post and illustrations come via Fix.com
 
Many of us like the idea of composting but don’t have the yard space to make it happen (I’m looking at you, apartment dwellers!). Luckily you can make your own black gold in the comfort of your own home with nature’s master composters: worms.

If your only experience with worms is seeing them on the end of a fishhook or dodging them on the sidewalk after a good rain, you might think all worms are the same. But they’re actually an incredibly diverse group of organisms. Most burrowing terrestrial worms are oligochaetes, a group with more than 10,000 known species. While their lot in life is to decompose organic matter, not all worms are suitable for indoor composting. Here’s a peek at the most common wrigglers, crawlers, and garden-variety earthworms.

Vermicomposting - Common Types of Worms for Vermicomposting

 

Deconstructing Decomposition

We know that simply layering leftover lettuce on the garden isn’t enough to get the nutrients to soak into the soil and make your flowers grow. We need decomposition to break down the structure of the lettuce and transform the nutrients into a form that new plants can use. But it’s not the worms doing the work. It’s bacteria. Bacteria are mini recycling plants that multiply quickly and use enzymes to degrade organic matter particles from the outside in.

Where do worms come in, then? Worms feed on the bacteria along with the leftovers. In doing so, they accelerate the process of digestion in two ways. First, as matter passes through their digestive system, it gets physically broken down, which provides the bacteria more surface area to act on. Second, worm guts add more bacteria and enzymes to the mix, which helps speed up the chemical reactions required to produce compost. The end products of worm digestion are castings: nutrient-rich additions to your indoor or outdoor soils.

Home Sweet Home

Worms, like any other organism, need food and shelter to keep them alive and happy. Let’s look at how to house your new wrigglers.

The size of your composter will depend on your space and your needs. How much space do you have? How much compost do you want to end up with? Most vermicomposters are stacked plastic bins forming layers of trays. You can purchase a starter kit and get going right away or, if you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, build one yourself out of cardboard, metal, wood, or plastic. Here are some pros and cons of each.

Vermicomposting - Selecting a Container for Your Worms

 
No matter what material you choose, you’ll need to add air holes to keep the soil aerated, and bedding, usually in the form of newspaper strips, to give the soil structure and maintain moderate humidity in your bin.

Worm food

Because worms eat bacteria, the real question isn’t what to feed the worms, but what to feed the bacteria! Whatever you put in your bin will get decomposed eventually, but because this is for indoor use, we want to make sure it’s efficient and both odor- and pest-free. The easiest way to ensure an odor-free set-up is to include only plant-based food scraps in your composter. Leave the meat and dairy for the garbage bin and rinse eggshells if you want to add them to the mix.

Vermicomposting - Feeding Your Worms the Proper Food

 

Watch It Churn

Your bin should be odorless, except for a natural earthy smell. Worms thrive in a humid environment (not soaking wet) that is well aerated and warm – 60 to 77 degrees F is ideal. If your worms are dying or if there’s a foul smell, you might need to make a few adjustments to the moisture, oxygen, or temperature. Here are some troubleshooting tips to help you along.

Ammonia: If you smell ammonia, you’ve got anaerobic decomposition (not enough oxygen). Your soil is likely waterlogged and your worms are suffocating. Drain your composter (adding more drainage if necessary), add dry bedding, and stir up your mixture to reintroduce some air to the system.

Flies: If you have fruit flies, try burying your new food waste or covering it with a good layer of bedding when you add it.

Harvesting

When it comes time to use your earthy black compost you’ll have two options: direct application or compost tea. Direct application is self-explanatory, but the nutrient composition will vary from batch to batch, so you might want to test it and adjust your mixture to meet your garden’s requirements. Compost tea is just what it sounds like. You steep your compost (and add sugar and aeration if you like) to get a nutritious liquid that’s great for regular watering via spray bottle.

If you want to keep your worms for another round of composting, you’ll need to separate them from the compost. The easiest way to do this is to prepare a new bin underneath the old one with some fresh bedding and food, then place a light or two over the top of the bin. The light will encourage the worms to migrate down through the drainage holes into your new, more enticing bin.

Vermicomposting - Havesting and Using Your Vermicompost

 

On Foreign Soil

Most, if not all, earthworms in your garden are not native to North America, since the last glacial period stripped the soil of most life: they’ve been introduced here from Europe. In general, non-native species are a major problem worldwide, both on land and in the oceans, as some species can become invasive, rapidly change an ecosystem, and cause negative impacts on other species and humans. So, while some worms have become commonplace enough to ignore, others, including hitchhikers in your vermicompost, have yet to become established. And we need to keep it that way. New worms pose a major threat to hardwood forests, where they would change the soil structure and growth dynamics of the ecosystem.

In order to be a responsible vermiculturist, just follow these easy guidelines.

Do get your worms from a reliable source. Find a local source instead of shipping them from abroad. This will greatly reduce the chance of bringing in new species.

Don’t choose red earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus), stick with red wrigglers. Red earthworms have a better chance at surviving cold winters than red wrigglers, and thus could pose an invasive environmental threat.

Don’t dispose of worms or compost in the woods or water, as they will survive there. This is the terrestrial equivalent of dumping your aquarium in the local lake. Many species of unwelcome algae, insects, and fish have spread this way.

Do freeze your vermicompost for a week before using it outside. This will kill worms and egg cocoons, ensuring that nothing but nutrients will be transferred to your garden.

Family Fun

Vermicompost can be a great way to get the whole family involved in a science project. There’s nothing wrong with having a pristine composting unit shipped to your doorstep, leaving it in the corner, and checking it occasionally. But if you want to take on the whole project, start small and see how long different foods take to decompose: orange rinds versus potato peels, for example. Fertilize some seedlings with compost tea and others without and watch for differences as they grow. It’s an inexpensive way to keep your kids (and you!) stimulated and thinking about the environment. Use the wealth of resources out there, and don’t be afraid to jump right in and give vermicomposting a go. Your red wrigglers might be the best pets you’ve ever had!

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Ice machines can be the most water-wasteful machines that you have in your restaurant, more than patrons or dishwashers. Ice machines use water for more than just making ice. In a perfect world, it takes 12 gallons to make a fraction more than 100 pounds of ice. In the real world, it takes between 18 and 200 gallons of water to make 100 pounds of ice.

Make Model Gallons of Water Energy Star

Ice-O-Matic Ice 0250A 35.8 No

Scotsman C0330MA-1 18 Yes

KoolAire KD-0250A 22 No

Manitowoc ID-452A 20 Yes

With the emphasis on energy and water efficiency, machines that earn the Energy Star designation are ones which come close to the 12 gallon mark.

How do ice machines use extra water?

Rinse cycles

Most ice machines have a rinse cycle to remove loose deposits. Most water has some mineral content in it even when it is filtered. Over time, the mineral content settles into the equipment and causes problems until it is rinsed out with ice machine cleaner or when the ice machine parts are scrubbed clean by hand.

Clear ice and specialty ices

The ice that comes out of a normal freezer is opaque, but many of the cubes you find in restaurants are clear. The reason is that you can get a clear cube by partially thawing and refreezing ice in cycles. This removes the air bubbles that cause the ice to look cloudy. To do this requires extra water to thaw the cubes out.

The softness of nugget ice in particular makes it easier to chew, but the process uses more water to create each individual cube. This type of ice is used in hospital settings where it’s crucial that the patients do not choke on their ice.

Cooling

There are two types of ice machines: water cooled and air cooled. The water cooled systems have a separate water line that is different from the one used to make the ice. The air-cooled systems are usually somewhat larger than the water-cooled systems, as the air cooled systems rely on outside air to cool the condensers.

Water-cooled ice machines are better for the hotter climates where the ambient air temperature ranges above 80 degrees F on a continuous basis. They also might be more ideal in situations where there is a lot of grease and soot in the air, as the air cooled system relies on taking in outside air. Water-cooled machines save a little energy, but the water usage usually makes the energy savings moot.

Water cooled systems, whether they’re ice machines, refrigerators, or otherwise, are usually once-through water systems. This means that once water is used to cool the equipment, it is then flushed down the drain. Some newer refrigeration systems use a closed-loop system which recycles the water on a continuous loop, but these are not as cost effective as air-cooled units.

The best thing that you can do for water efficiency on your ice machine is to use an Energy Star certified air-cooled machine. These machines have been certified to use less water in their systems while simultaneously staying efficient with their water usage standards.

Mark is from IceMachinesPlus.com with over 10 years of experience in the restaurant and bar industry. With an extensive background in restaurant industry and entertaining writing style Mark is focused on providing quality information and advice to contractors and purchasing managers about the best practices on choosing the right type of ice machine for your client.

 

 

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What makes a restaurant sustainable, and why does it matter?

Let’s address the second question first. With its emphasis on super-efficient operations, sustainability brings obvious financial advantages to virtually any business, which is why is has become a core consideration for successful businesses worldwide. In the commercial sector, restaurants are amongst the heaviest users of both energy and water, so they stand to gain even more than the average business from implementing sustainability measures. In addition, market research indicates that consumer interest in sustainable food production is on the rise, which makes the case for restaurant sustainability even more compelling from a purely economic point of view.

Profits aside, their public profile and popularity enables restaurants to easily assume a leadership role in promoting sustainable practices. They can also positively impact the local and global economy and environment through sustainable sourcing and operations choices.

To answer the first question, let’s take a look at seven of the hottest trends in restaurant sustainability, and how some of the most sustainable eating establishments across the country are implementing them.

  1. Local food sourcing. Seattle restaurateur Maria Hines is passionate about supporting the local organic farming community. Ninety-five percent of the food she serves in her three restaurants — Tilth, Golden Beetle and Agrodolce — is organically grown and local. She even lists links to the farms on her website.
  2. On-site growing. Recently designated the “Greenest Restaurant in America” by the Green Restaurant Association, Chicago’s Uncommon Ground restaurant features a 2,500-square-foot urban farm on its rooftop. The produce they grow on-site is supplemented with food sourced from local farms. “Our mission is to stand as a working model for other restaurants, businesses and home owners,” says owner Helen Cameron, “to show what is possible within an urban environment.”
  3. Sustainability education. Clayton Chapman, proprietor of The Grey Plume in Omaha, Nebraska, is leveraging the interest in local food production his restaurant has generated to work with a neighborhood development project to initiate a sustainable garden. “There are a lot of young families and multiple-children families in the neighborhood, so it’s a great learning tool,” he says.
  4. Sustainable seafood. While seafood is a healthy and delicious choice, the decline of global food fish populations is a subject of great concern. Portland’s Bamboo Sushi proves that with careful sourcing, seafood connoisseurs can have their fish and eat it, too. They do their homework to ensure that all thefish they serve comes from populations that are plentiful and in good health, and that the fish are caught in an environmentally ethical manner.
  5. Renewable energy. Green Sage Café in Asheville, North Carolina utilizes solar thermal panels for water heating, as well as photovoltaics to power their lighting. They have also implemented a large number of energy-efficiency measures to get the most out of their renewable energy systems. Wind is another renewable energy solution that restaurant owners can take advantage of where space permits. Root Down Denver is a restaurant powered exclusively by the wind, and also features recycled and reclaimed interior décor and rooftop and patio gardens.
  6. Recycling and food waste composting. For Spike Gjerde, chef proprietor of Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, waste management is a top priority. In addition to recycling all plastic, glass, metal and paper waste, his insistence on recycling all food scraps makes his restaurant a zero-waste facility. Gjerde contracts with a food waste hauler to take all kitchen and table scraps to a local farm for composting. Even the oyster shells are saved and returned to Chesapeake Bay as part of a native oyster regeneration program.
  7. Water conservation. Minneapolis supper club The Red Stag is the first LEED-CI registered restaurant in Minnesota. In addition to many energy efficiency measures, they have implemented a computer-controlled monitoring system that has helped them reduce their water consumption by 70 percent.

It’s important to note that each of these restaurants has made an effort to embrace a holistic approach to sustainability. Instead of implementing just one sustainable practice (like local food sourcing), they are going all-out to green up all aspects of their business. In the process, they are enjoying incredible customer loyalty, not to mention lots of publicity. Kudos to them, and to the other restaurants across the country that are doing their part to be environmentally responsible!

 

About the author:

Ezra Adler is the Ecommerce Marketing Director for Culinary Depot Inc., located in Monsey, NY. An online retailer for restaurant equipment, Culinary Depot has a large selection commercial equipment and kitchen supplies.

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Waste Free Restaurant

Author: Paul

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Chipotle has followed up their Back to the Start video featuring Willie Nelson with a new animated video The new video has a theme similar to the first video – using a creative and beautiful animation to show a critical view of large, industrial meat production.  This time they used a Fiona Apple’s version of Pure Imagination  from the original Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Oddly, the video was made to promote a new smartphone game…by defeating “the evil plans of Crow Foods.”  Well said!

 

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