By: Jon Thomas
Recology Oregon Compost (Nature’s Needs)
Recology Oregon Compost, also known as Nature’s Needs, is an advanced composting facility located about 20 miles northwest of Portland, OR. Recology has been involved in the North Plains community since we acquired Nature’s Needs in 2009. In the last few years, we’ve planted a large community garden, about 250 feet by 20 feet, using our organically certified Recology Oregon Compost. As the garden began producing large volumes of produce, we’ve since donated the food to local senior centers and food pantries.
Recology Oregon Compost employees did most of the gardening and upkeep, but we were very grateful to have customers and contractors donate their time to the garden by offering plants, seeds, weeding, and harvesting as needed. The organic vegetables were harvested, and within hours were transported to the senior center kitchen and prepared for that evening’s dinner. The center’s manager and residents are always excited about the vegetables that Recology provides.
In 2014, we harvested a total of 4,200 pounds of fresh, organic foods that were delivered to the center, including peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, squash, broccoli, carrots, string beans and many others. We also donated our pumpkin patch (50 total pumpkins) to the city of North Plains for their 1st annual kid’s pumpkin carving contest. Last summer, the heavy volume of vegetables was overwhelming that we enlisted the help of Meals on Wheels to distribute a portion of the vegetables directly to homes in need. According to the senior center’s manager, Margaret Rey, “A lot of people in the area have food on the table tonight because of the work you are doing.”
This year, we plan to expand our garden as well as the recipient list. The adjacent city of Banks has a food bank in need, so we hope to provide our harvest to them as well. We’re now busy preparing the garden for planting and have also discussed the senior center’s preferred vegetables. We’re all very excited for this year’s garden harvest!
“You’re sitting at our table,” says co-owner Rickey Martinez as I sit down with him, his wife Amanda, and Recology Waste Zero Specialist, Misty McKinney. The restaurant’s walls are filled with miscellaneous bric-a-brac and colorful aliens, so it isn’t surprising that the table has blended in. I look down and notice the table is filled with their photos, tickets, and other memorabilia you might find in a scrap book.
“We had a guest, he makes these. So if you look here, this is me when I was a long-haired hippie. This is our wedding invitation. We did a destination wedding in Hawaii. Pictures from our lives. A letter from Senator Harry Reid, welcoming me to the PR field when I was doing that a few years ago. We’ve had a fun ride. Neither of us thought we’d be restaurateurs.”
Amanda and Rickey begin telling me the story of how they came to open the new Redwood City Squeeze In. In Rickey’s family, restaurants became the stage for love, dreams, and community. In the 1950s, Rickey’s grandmother opened a restaurant in Upland, California called The Super. His aunts and uncles worked at The Super before and after school, and eventually it was where his mother met his father.
My mother waited on my dad,” he says, “And my dad left her a penny as tip because he thought the service was lacking. They didn’t know from one another until years later when they ended up working together at another restaurant. She mentioned The Super, so my dad said, ‘Oh yeah, I ate there once. The service was lousy; I left the waitress a penny.’ And she responded, ‘That was me! I was the waitress! How could you do that?’ My parents owned a restaurant when I was growing up. I guess it was only a matter of time before I did.
The first Squeeze In began by flipping omelettes in Truckee, California in 1974. The namesake came from how guests would have to squeeze in to sit at a table, since the restaurant was only a little over ten feet wide. At the time, Rickey’s Aunt Misty and Uncle Gary would drive up from Reno to eat at the original Squeeze In restaurant in 1979. When Aunt Misty and Uncle Gary first started thinking about owning a restaurant, they didn’t want just any restaurant, they wanted to own the Squeeze In. Aunt Misty had the opportunity to meet the owners of the Squeeze In, whom she told, “I love your place. If you sell it to anybody, you have to sell it to me.”
In 2003, Rickey’s Aunt Misty and Uncle Gary went all in on their dream. They quit their jobs and purchased the Squeeze In. In 2005, Rickey went up to Tahoe for his cousin Shila’s wedding, and he helped out at the restaurant for the week. “Low and behold,” says Rickey, “Amanda was working there at the same time. We met and fell in love.”
Love was also in the air for foodies, and in 2010 the Food Network approached the Squeeze In to do a special on restaurants that love their guests. To their surprise, Bobby Flay rolled up in a blizzard to challenge them to a Throwdown. The menu, which dates back to the 1970s, features dozens of items that are named after Truckee locals and family members. The Food Network helped them pare it back a bit, and the menu gained the addition of a newly inspired omelette, the Spanish Flay.
The restaurant began growing and opening new locations in 2008. “People used to drive from miles and miles around, and fly in for vacation every year and have to go to the Squeeze In. So that got the ball rolling,” explains Rickey. Last year, the yoga studio a couple doors down approached them about opening a new location in Redwood City. The momentum grew; it was clear the community wanted their own Squeeze In.
Amanda and Rickey Martinez went a step further when they opened their Redwood City location this month. When Waste Zero Specialist, Misty McKinney, contacted them to assist in implementing a new garbage and recycling program, they decided to give composting a try. “We thought,” Rickey reflected, “we need to minimize the waste.”
“It’s good for the environment,” joined Amanda.
“And it’s good for business,” agreed Rickey. “There was a learning curve the first couple of days. It’s only been a week, and we’ve got a firm grasp on it. So obviously it’s good for us because we aren’t paying as much for trash, but the bigger picture is we are reducing our carbon footprint on the world. When we go to sleep at night, we can rest knowing that we did our part. I think that if every other business continues to do their part, it will help out in the long run. We won’t have to have all these landfills. As much as you want to give us the credit, Recology have given us the tools and the assistance needed to make it as smooth a transition as it needed to be.”
The Redwood City Squeeze In’s official opening is March 30th. There will be a ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce at 2pm.
SAN FRANCISCO: Today GLIDE Memorial Church on Ellis Street received a unique donation – a Recology truckload of fresh, organic produce grown with compost made from food scraps and plant cuttings collected in the City. Recology is San Francisco’s recycling and compost collection company.
“We are pleased to help kick off the Season of Sharing with this donation of healthy, organic food to GLIDE, which provides critical assistance to the needy in our community. We encourage everyone to take steps to help those less fortunate then ourselves,” said Mark Arsenault, San Francisco Group Manager for Recology. “Also we encourage residents and businesses, such as restaurants, to compost all food scraps especially during the holidays, the biggest food weeks of the year.”
(Photos courtesy of Supervisor Jane Kim)
Janice Mirikitani, Founding President of the GLIDE Foundation, said “We are thankful to Recology, not only for this wonderful bounty of fresh, organic produce that will help nourish souls this Thanksgiving, but for encouraging folks to get involved and help others in need this holiday season. We hope San Francisco residents will be reminded to be responsible beyond themselves and care for their communities and do what they can to help those in need and be inspired in their daily actions and activities.”
Supervisor Jane Kim said “I am pleased to help raise awareness of the need for donations of food and money to GLIDE and other care providers in the Tenderloin. Because of the hard work done by of organizations like GLIDE our homeless and poor citizens can receive something many of us take for granted, a hot meal served with a warm smile by people who care.”
The produce donated today includes cases of: butternut squash, collard greens, cabbage, kale, and sweet potatoes. The locally-sourced vegetables were grown at EatWell Farm located in Dixon. For 10 years EatWell has applied compost made from food scraps and plants collected in San Francisco’s urban compost collection program.
A 30-year study from the Rodale Institute, the nation’s oldest agriculture institute, shows that farms that apply compost achieve higher yields in years of drought compared to those using synthetic fertilizers. Therefore composting more of our food scraps and applying the compost to farms presents a way to grow additional food to help feed all people.
This year the employee-owners at Recology constructed gardens at the compost facilities the company operates, and grew more than 1,900 pounds of produce. They donated that harvest to local food banks. We hope to double that amount in 2015 and encourage other cities and universities that are replicating San Francisco’s compost collection program to do the same.
cell: (415) 606 9183
The last few months proved to be significant for California’s environmentalists and waste & recycling industry alike. In addition to signing SB 270, the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1826 (Chesbro), requiring commercial businesses to begin recycling organics.
According to Assembly Bill 1826, organics include “food waste, green waste, landscape and pruning waste, nonhazardous wood waste, and food-soiled paper waste that is mixed in with food waste.” By spring 2016, restaurants, grocery stores, and other commercial food and yard waste producers generating at least 8 cubic yards of organics per week will be required to separate their organics and properly send the materials to an organics processing facility.
Most notably, the move towards large-scale organics recycling will reduce the amount of food scraps and yard waste headed to landfills, and increase materials headed for anaerobic digestion and composting facilities. The influx of organic materials to processing facilities will be converted to renewable energy through anaerobic digestion, or composted for use on local farms.
By signing AB 1826…Governor Brown ensured that all of California shares in the environmental, agricultural, and economic benefits of organics recycling with reduced local emissions of greenhouse gases, new jobs and valuable compost for our farms and vineyards – Mike Sangiacomo, President & CEO, Recology
Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro adds, “Landfilled food and other organic materials produce methane, a major contributor to climate change,” Chesbro said. “Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps 21 times more heat than carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas created by the burning of fossil fuels.”
Rural areas, however, are exempt: “‘Rural jurisdiction’ means a jurisdiction that is located entirely within one or more rural counties, or a regional agency comprised of jurisdictions that are located within one or more rural counties…’Rural county’ means a county that has a total population of less than 70,000 persons.”
Commercial organics recycling is a step forward in terms of increasing the State’s diversion percentages and reducing landfill tonnages. The end goal, however, will always be to return resources and nutrients back to the environment where they originated. We think it will help accomplish all of these goals.
As employee owners, we aim to serve the communities in which we work and live by giving back with more than just our excellent services. Employees at our organics facilities fight hunger locally by maintaining community gardens at many of our organics facilities, including Jepson Prairie Organics, Recology Grover, Nature’s Needs and Recology Northwest Greenlands in McMinnville and Aumsville, Oregon. The wide variety of crops cultivated, from squash and potatoes to eggs and okra, are all donated to local nonprofit organizations, such as food banks and senior centers.
The community gardens use Recology compost as amendment to grow organic veggies and fruit; the same compost that is made from food scraps and yard trimmings, collected from residents and businesses in the areas we serve. This year, our dedicated Recologists grew over 16,900 pounds of produce, with further harvesting expected in the next few weeks!
We’ve seen how the “eat local” movement has gained a lot of attention recently. Local farmers’ markets and family farms are plentiful in and around the Bay Area, yet many people may not understand what it means to eat locally, or why it’s even important.
Generally, local food is defined as food that has traveled less than 400 miles from producer to consumer. Less travel time means a significant reduction in transportation costs and environmental impact. Eating locally not only has a direct impact on reducing energy use and global climate change, but it supports local economies and has a positive impact on local communities.
A few interesting facts about food consumption in the United States:
Did you know…much of the food purchased in grocery stores today is often imported from other countries?
Did you know…the average American meal contains ingredients imported from five different countries?
Did you know…the transportation of our food translates to massive amounts of carbon dioxide emissions, a leading greenhouse gas and major contributor to climate change?
Did you know…the import of fruits, nuts, and vegetables in California by airplane resulted in 70,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, which is the equivalent of 12,000 cars on the road?
Buying, fresh, healthy foods from local farmers, fisherman, and ranchers, helps support our local economy, reduces carbon emissions, and best of all – it tastes delicious! Below are some links to local resources that offer an abundance of fresh and natural foods. Bon Appétit!
Below are a few resources for San Mateo County residents and businesses to purachse locally grown food:
On Saturday, July 19, 2014, 200 Recology and community partners made a tremendous improvement to Little Hollywood Park in San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley neighborhood.
We selected this project not only to beautify the neighborhood park in close proximity to our Recology San Francisco transfer station, but to share our Recology spirit in memory of our late colleague, John Legnitto.
With the help of volunteers, we accomplished the following:
- Weeded and removed invasive wild blackberry and Algerian ivy located adjacent to the Recology property line
along a 100 yard fence on the upper park level.
- Planted over 100 native drought tolerant plants supplied by SFRPD using 30 cubic feet of Recology potting mix for 10 cement planter
boxes and surrounding hillside.
- Spread 60 cubic yards of Recology arbor mulch produced by Recology Grover Environmental Products in selected areas throughout the 1.3 acre park.
- Power washed, prepped and painted 10 wooden picnic tables, 18 wooden park benches, 15 cement trash receptacles, 10 cement planter boxes, a wooden swing structure, a multi-level staircase, railing and retaining walls using tools from Recology CleanScapes and paint supplied by SFRPD.
All work was done in preparation for the park renovation that will take place in October 2014. Together, our efforts for one day totaled 800 hours of service, which amounts to an in-kind donation of over $20,000 to the SFRPD.
Thank you for making our joint project with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (SFRPD) a success!
We first turned our attention to food waste in 1996 when Recology implemented a food scraps collection program in San Francisco. Still in use today, the green bin program ensures that organic material, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, do not end up in landfills. Many other Recology companies and cities have implemented similar programs, including San Mateo County and San Bruno. You can learn more about the affects of landfilling organics here: US Composting Council – Keeping Organics out of Landfills.
Although we think it’s important to recycle food scraps when possible, we think it’s just as important to consider ways to reduce food waste altogether.
Americans throw away 40% of their food, according to The National Resources Defense Council.
The environmental impact of wasted food is fairly large. Imagine the amount of energy, oil, and water is used to produce and transport food across the United States, from farms to cities, and from cities to rural areas.
By preventing food from even entering a bin, we significantly reduce financial and environmental impacts. Here are a few small, but impactful tips for reducing your food waste.
- Plan your meals, buy what you need – There’s a fine line between purchasing enough food and buying too much. Planning your meals for the week will help you stick to a plan, meaning you’re less likely to toss expired food.
- Learn more about expiration dates – Foods that are edible after the marked expiration date is surprising. The use-by dates don’t always indicate spoiled food, but then again it’s good to know which foods are more sensitive to these dates than others.
- Freeze unused food – Utilize your freezer. If you’re unable to finish the pot pie you made last night, freeze portions for quick lunches and dinners.
- Take your lunch or share your leftovers– Using leftovers for meals at work is the best way to use excess food. Pack leftovers in your kids’ lunch, or share with coworkers, family, or friends if you know you’re not going to finish it.
- Proper storage – Learn how to store fruit and vegetables. It’s important to keep pre-cut and chopped produce in the refrigerator in sealed containers.
In honor of International Compost Awareness Week (May 5 – 11), an initiative created by the US Composting Council, we’re sharing our thoughts on this years focus: “Compost: The Solution to Sustainable Soil and Water.”
The traditional reasons to participate in a curbside compost program are to keep materials out of landfills and to return nutrients, in the form of compost, to local farms and vineyards. Those nutrients give farmers a viable alternative to using synthetic fertilizers and help farmers grow healthy food that comes back to the city to support our good health.
But there is a third great reason to compost: It helps California, our home state, save water – tremendous amounts of water.
Compost is 50 percent humus by weight. Humus is organic matter that helps soil retain moisture. Humus is a form of carbon; it both attracts and holds water. When we apply compost to an orchard, farm, or vineyard, we increase the amount of humus in the farm’s soil, and thereby increase the capacity of the soil to withstand drought conditions.
Farmers like to apply compost because doing so helps their soil and their crops get the full benefit of any rain or irrigation. This is particularly important for orchards, which require a lot of irrigation.
Here is a key statistic: If we increase organic matter by one percent on one acre of land by adding compost and by farming environmentally, we can save 16,500 gallons of water per year. Imagine how much water we could save if every city in California participated in a compost collection programs, sending a lot more compost to local farms.
Knowing that composting is a highly effective way to help California save water, many Recology employee-owners have an increased motive to participate in Recology’s green-bin programs. We are doing a good job of composting scraps and plant cuttings in many areas like San Francisco, but we can do much better. What can an individual do on a daily basis to help? Place all food scraps and plant cuttings in the green bin for curbside collection. Also, we can place all food-soiled paper, things like used paper napkins and towels, in the green bin (soiled paper has short fibers – microorganisms in compost like short paper fibers). Soiled paper in a kitchen compost pail or curbside compost bin will also absorb moisture, which will help control odor.
Recology set the trend when we started an urban compost collection program in San Francisco in 1996 to reduce landfill disposal and turn food scraps into compost. Now we can help our state save great amounts of water by extending our good green habit and composting all of our scraps, plant cuttings, and soiled paper.