FAQ: Food Scraps, Compost, and Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law

pexels-eva-elijas-5503338We’re sure that Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law has brought up a lot of questions on composting. For some clarification, we read up on the subject on VSECU’s blog where Anne Bijur from the Waste Management and Prevention Division of Vermont’s Agency of Natural Resources shares information on composting. We asked Anne if we could share her most frequently asked questions and answers – read on for everything you need to know about composting in Vermont.

MECHANICS OF COMPOSTING & WHAT TO DO WITH MEAT & BONES

What types of leftovers can I compost? If you are composting at home, you can include any type of leftover that does not contain meat, fish, or fats or oils. The smell from these foods might attract animals. The law allows you to put these types of leftovers in the trash. If you bring your food scraps to a drop off site or transfer station, you can include all types of leftovers, even with meat or fish.

You said that meat scraps, chicken skin and bones are still okay to put in your trash—that is the first I’d heard of that. Is that specified in the legislation/law? Yes, the law allows residents who compost at home to put meat and bones in the trash.

We have been composting for years. The only items we don’t add to our compost pile are meat scraps/bones as we believe they will attract wildlife. Do we need to bring those wastes to our recycling station for composting? Since you compost at home, the law allows you to put these items in the trash or bring to your local transfer station or recycling drop-off.

I think the public needs very clear directions on what can be recycled and how, what foods can be composted, and how to maximize the effort to compost. How about some posters that give clear instructions? I realize that I have been doing some things incorrectly, so I’d like to know how and why. The Vermonters Guide to Recycling is a poster that outlines what can and cannot be recycled in Vermont. It can be accessed at VTrecycles.com.

We have this graphic of what constitutes food scraps and can be composted, but you should always check with your local composter to see what they accept as their specific guidelines may differ. To find compost guidelines for your area, ask your hauler or go to 802recycles.com to find your local waste management or disposal entity for more information.

What is meant by “a thick layer of browns?” Browns consist of dried leaves or grass, wood chips, sawdust, or shredded paper or cardboard. They are the carbon sources in your compost pile and are necessary for the microorganisms to survive and make compost from food scraps (also referred to as “the greens”).

Can you tell me what I can do with expired canned goods? Eat them! Most of the time these foods are still good to eat. Expiration dates are not federally regulated, apart from infant formula, and are simply the manufacturer’s suggestion for when the food is at peak quality. Open the canister and look at the food in question; smell it. If it looks and smells okay, give it a taste. If it tastes good, then eat it! You’ll save money by not throwing uneaten food away. Another strategy for avoiding this situation is to periodically look through your cupboard and fridge and move any foods that are close to expiration dates front and center. Then create a meal plan to use them up.

How can I combat fruit flies? The best way is to frequently empty your food scrap container so they aren’t attracted to your kitchen. If fruit flies are still able to find you, put some red wine or apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and add a few drops of liquid soap. The flies are attracted to the smell and will get trapped in the liquid. There are also other non-toxic home remedies you can search online.

Where do you keep scraps till you get to the dump? Here’s a great answer from a VSECU member: “Our family collects food scraps in large Ziplock bag(s) and stores them in our freezer to minimize smell. On Saturdays, we drop it off for free at our local transfer station.” You can also store food scraps in a five-gallon bucket with a lid in a garage, basement or shed until you can get to a drop off site.

DISCOURAGING ANIMALS FROM YOUR COMPOST PILE

I have been composting for years. Any tips for keeping animals away? (Small and large) To deter rodents, try installing half-inch hardware cloth (galvanized wire mesh) under and around your compost bin. You’ll have to move your bin in order to do this so best to do late fall when emptying out your compost bin before the winter. See designs for use with the Soil Saver in DEC’s Compost with Confidence guide. If you live in bear country, the first thing to do is take down bird feeders. Bears have a very acute sense of smell (just think about the size of their noses) and will travel miles to track down a food source. Next, make sure you are adding enough “browns” or carbon sources. Browns include dried leaves or grass, wood chips, sawdust, or shredded paper or cardboard. Every time you add food scraps to your pile, you should add a thick layer, a few inches deep, of browns. Each week, or more or less frequently depending on how many food scraps you generate, you need to turn your pile. This will speed up the composting process and reduce odors which is what attracts animals.

ACCESSIBILITY AND COST

I can’t afford to compost and have no idea how to do it. Composting at home can be inexpensive. To collect food scraps, you can use a recycled yogurt container or a simple large bowl. For a larger container, many stores or restaurants will give away their used five-gallon buckets. You can make your own compost bin out of wooden pallets, chicken wire, or an old trash barrel poked with holes or dig a hole in your yard and bury food scraps (this is referred to as pit or trench composting). There is more information on how to compost inexpensively in our guide, The Dirt on Compost. In addition, many Solid Waste Districts around Vermont offer free workshops on how to compost. You can find your local waste experts at 802recycles.com.

Composting food scraps is a great idea for restaurants, hospitals, schools, state legislatures and the like. However, it’s ridiculously impossible for many individuals, especially the elderly. How many families have time for this? Not all of us are retired, and if we are, for how many years can we keep this up? Composting does not have to take a lot of time. You already sort trash and recyclables so you will need one more receptacle to collect food scraps. If you don’t want to compost at home, there are many haulers who will pick up your food scraps. Here is a statewide list.

If you have mobility issues and need help transporting or carrying your waste, including food scraps, try contacting a neighbor or find someone on Front Porch Forum. Your local solid waste entity might also be able to help or have ideas relevant to your community. Find them at 802recycles.com.

WHERE DO THE FOOD SCRAPS GO AND IS ANYONE ELSE DOING THIS?

What happens to food waste that is either taken to transfer stations or picked up by haulers? Where does it go? Most food scraps are taken to one of more than 17 different certified compost facilities or farms in Vermont. Different haulers and transfer stations bring their food scraps to different locations, depending on the facilities in their part of the state. Contact your hauler or transfer station directly to find out where they bring your materials. You can view the list of compost facilities here.

Are other States doing the composting? Yes, there are other states with food scrap landfill bans but most of them ban the disposal of food scraps from large food scrap generators of 1-2 tons or more a week, like hospitals and grocery stores. These other states with landfill bans include Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, California, New York, Maryland, and New Jersey. Several cities have landfill bans including New York and Portland, Oregon.

Please speak to putting food scraps into a garbage disposal that feeds a private septic tank. We don’t advise people to put food scraps down the drain, even when the scraps are blended, as they can clog up the pipes because of the fats and oils. Most septic systems aren’t designed to handle the extra load which leads to more frequent pumping. Public sewer systems usually don’t want food scraps either. This handout explains it further.

COMPLIANCE

Is this law enforceable? Yes, however the staff of Vermont’s Department of Environmental Conservation does not go through individuals trash looking for food scraps but focuses on education and outreach to help Vermonters comply with the food scrap ban. We do conduct sporadic “Spot Checks” at waste facilities to make sure haulers are complying with solid waste laws. Once we can visit facilities, we also do outreach at schools and businesses to help with waste sorts, distribute handouts, and provide technical assistance.

METHANE GENERATED ELECTRICITY AT LANDFILLS

I am a member of an electric utility that makes electric power from methane generated by food scraps. How will the utility continue to generate this power if the methane is no longer created at the landfill due to the government ban on food waste? The short answer is that even with the complete landfill ban in place, there will still be other organic materials like painted wood and sewer sludge that end up in the landfill producing methane gas and older waste that will continue to produce some methane.

We try to ensure that materials are used at their highest and best value, which is why food scraps are better composted than landfilled. When food scraps are landfilled, once they give off methane (and contribute to leachate that also has to be managed), their value is gone. When food scraps are composted, their value is put back into the soil to grow food which is hopefully then composted and the value becomes part of a continuous cycle. This handout provides more information.

WHAT ABOUT INDOOR WORM COMPOSTING?

Here’s an answer from a VSECU member: “At our location we cannot safely compost outdoors because of bears! Now, we compost almost all of our food scraps with a worm composting system, indoors, no odors and no bears, and wonderful worm castings for a fertile garden. There is lots of information available in books and online (YouTube videos). The worms are pretty tolerant; you don’t have to have a fancy system.”

 

This article was used with permission from the author. See the original post here.

It’s Not The Heat, It’s The Humidity: When Do You Need a Dehumidifier

dehumidifiers-kr-2x1-tease-200716It’s been a hot and humid summer here in the northeast. Temperatures and humidity levels have been similar to those in the south. Sometimes the “sticky” feeling creeps into your house making it damp, unpleasant, and smelly indoors. Laundry in the basement level of your house can create the perfect storm of dampness and moisture.

If the humidity level hits 50% then it’s time to take the moisture out of the air. High levels bring unwanted problems – mildewy smell, dampness, and sometimes mold. A dehumidifier pulls moisture from the air and replaces it with dry air. You will need to empty your dehumidifier at least once a day. Many people run a hose to a basement utility sink. Just make sure that the hose doesn’t get knocked out of the sink, then you will have unexpected water on the floor – yes, that’s happened to me, but that’s another story.

Buyers: Ready, Set, Go!

Weaver Team SignGrab a snack and a water and let’s go find a house! Yes, it’s almost that easy. We have relationships with local lenders and an extensive network of colleagues to assist you in your quest for a new abode. Here are some other tips to speed through your home search:

How much can I afford? Get some financial advice and a Lender Letter if you are applying for a mortgage. What you can afford and what you are willing to invest may be two different numbers. Also, how much you qualify for if getting a loan and your target purchase price also may be different. Your mortgage lender should qualify you based on credit, income, and assets.

Where do I find a house? Download your favorite real estate app. We like them all – Realtor.com, Zillow, NEREN.com, but we love our own KW app! Check out houses when you’re out and about and contact Carolyn on the spot – download it HERE.

Everything is selling so quickly? Text or email your favorites to Carolyn 802-238-9779, Carolyn@WeaverTeamVT.com – the house you just saw may be “sold” in less than a day but, when you work with us our networking and connections will find you the home of your dreams!

Take It Outside: 3 Tips To Stage Your Backyard, Porch, or Deck

deck-decorating-63Summer is officially here and it’s time to get your exterior living spaces “show ready.” Even if you’re not selling your house it’s fun to add some quick and easy items to your outdoor spaces.

From decks to patios to porches, here are our top 3 tips:

Patio pots filled with annuals – Colorful patio pots are trending right now. The bigger the better! Instant color and décor for your pool area, deck, or front porch.  If you’re local, pick one up at Red Barn Gardens, RedBarnGardensVT.com.

Summer wreath for your front door – Wreaths aren’t just for Christmas! Add a decorated grapevine or straw wreath to compliment your style. Looking for inspiration? Lemons, strawberries, or even a red, white, and blue theme will make your front door “pop.”

String lights – There’s always a spot for string lights on your porch, patio, railing, or even in front of your garage. If you don’t have an electricity source try some solar lights.

We specialize in staging your home for sale or just for fun! Contact us today for a complimentary home visit for more tips, tricks, and “on trend” advice.

Appraisers, Inspectors, and Assessors: Friends or Foe?

Home inspectorIt’s easy to get mixed up when you’re bantering about real estate terms. Here’s a handy guide to follow:

Appraisers: Appraisers assess the value of your house for a mortgage lender or for your own information. If you are selling your house or refinancing your house the mortgage lender will send a licensed appraiser to complete a lengthy report. The appraisers report is a “wild card.” We don’t know which properties the appraiser will choose to compare to your property. In a real estate transaction the purchaser’s lender hires an appraiser to visit your property.

Inspectors: Building inspectors assess the condition of the structure of a property and its major components. Inspectors write lengthy reports that familiarize you with the property. The report may include items that need to be repaired or replaced. Inspectors sometimes uncover mold, structural issues, etc. that are not easily assessed by buyers or sellers.

Assessors: The town or municipality keeps an “Assessor’s Card” on every property for taxation purposes. Your “assessment value” may not be an indication of the current market value. Assessor’s Cards may also be called Lister’s Cards or Property Reports.

For more information on all aspects of real estate transactions reach out to The Weaver Team, we will guide you through the entire process of selling your property or buying a new home.

Let’s Look Outside: What Buyers Notice

GettyImages-1255835530-scaledIf you are selling your house you may hope that potential buyers are familiar with the idiom “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Meaning, in real estate parlance, that you’re hoping the buyers will overlook the sagging gutters, cracked driveway, tired garage doors, and fall in love the interior of your house.

It’s a fact that your house is being judged by its exterior, the grounds, the lawn, and even the garden gnomes dotting your walkway.

Here are the top 5 exterior items that buyers notice:

Exterior Lights – They should match your indoor “vibe.” If you haven’t updated your exterior lights you may be dating your house.

Gutters – Trust us, worth getting them cleaned, there is nothing more distracting than greenery growing from gutters that need attention.

Porches and Patios – Spruce them up with new furniture cushions, patio pots of seasonal flowers, and even some string lights to make the outdoor space an extension of your living area.

Lawn, Grounds – Get out the rakes, flowers, and mulch, nothing smells better than fresh mulch!

Front Door – Is it time for fresh paint? A new door handle? New welcome mat? This upgrade will make a huge impression.

Looking for more specific ideas for your exterior? Luckily, Jennie is an Accredited Staging Professional and can assess your home’s exterior, as well as interior spaces to help get you the best price in today’s market. Contact us to see how we can help get your home sold!

Where Have All The Vermont Houses Gone?

Essex neighborhoodVermont is small, our population hovers around 620,000. Yes, that’s the whole state – men, women, children. We have never had a housing “boom” like other states. Demand for housing has outstripped our supply over the last few years. In certain price ranges there are perhaps 40 – 50 buyers looking at the same house.

The housing shortage in Vermont is ongoing. History, regulation, geography, topography, economics, etc. all play a role in the current state of our housing stock. Even in a “normal” year people have a difficult time finding a house. In the not-so-distant past buyers could find 10 houses that would be on their list of potential abodes. Now, there are none. Zip. Zero. Nada. Or, okay, maybe one – but there are 20 showings and all contracts need to be submitted within 72 hours. This causes a frenzy. Houses are popping up on the internet and disappearing – all within a day.

Discouraging? Sure. Now the good news. We have, so far, helped all of our buyers find a home. Through it all — the shortage, the bidding wars, the crazy rush to get in – we have guided our clients through the process.

We are here for you too! Contact us to help you find and close on your new home.

4 Updates to Get Your Home Ready to Sell

sidekix-media-UDDULE_eIBY-unsplashWe all want to get the biggest bang for our buck, especially when it comes to our biggest investment – our home. So how do you get the best price possible when you’re ready to sell? You don’t have to go crazy with expensive renovations, a few small and simple updates can make a big impact.

Here are 4 updates to get your home ready to sell:

Declutter. This one is free! This should be the first step in prepping your home for sale. Take down the family photos and knick knacks and pack them away. If you have a room that feels particularly ‘full,’ edit the furniture – store the excess pieces neatly in the basement, garage, or rent a storage unit.

Fresh paint. A new coat of paint does wonders for any room – and it’s one of the most affordable options to update your home. Stick with neutral colors so that buyers can picture themselves living there.

New lighting. Old (usually brass) lighting fixtures will really date a space. Refresh your home with simple lighting in nickel, black, or even a neutral wood finish. When buyers see these fixtures modernized, it makes them feel the whole house has been updated.

Update hardware. Similar to the lighting – old fashioned brass or porcelain knobs and drawer pulls will make a room look dated. Freshen you kitchen or bathrooms with modern hardware in a black finish or metal finish that matches other elements in the room.

Preparing your home to sell is easier with an experienced professional in your corner. To learn more about getting your home ready to sell, or to start looking for a new property, we can help! Contact The Weaver Team today 😉

Are My Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms Outdated?

hannah-busing-5we-PtvuCyE-unsplashTruth be told, cooking at my house often involves a smoke alarm. It’s tempting to climb on a step stool to disconnect the pesky alarm, but I have become efficient at opening windows and doors to “fan” the smoke out of the house. Once the smoke clears it’s a good time to check on the rest of the alarms.

It’s also a good idea for you to check on your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms to make sure you have the proper alarms installed.

The State of Vermont’s Fire Safety site (https://firesafety.vermont.gov/) provides homeowner information. It’s always good practice to check on the type of smoke alarm. The site states, “Many existing Vermont homes currently have old outdated ionization smoke alarms installed. These old alarms need to be replaced. The division recommends to homeowners that when you are replacing alarms that you update to a photoelectric smoke alarm now and not wait until the time when home is being sold.”

When you do sell your house the attorney’s require a Compliance Certificate to verify installation to comply with Vermont’s requirements.

Here is the form: https://firesafety.vermont.gov/sites/firesafety/files/files/forms/dfs_forms_smoke_co_cert.pdf

As always, if you want more information on getting your house ready to sell, contact The Weaver Team and we will get you set up for home selling success!

The Weaver Team’s Favorite Things

Step aside Oprah, our list features everything Vermont and maybe even a little something Pennsylvania 😉

truffles_f07fab6a-5b1c-4d31-b181-87db93b711d4_1024x1024A Box of Chocolates. Our local favorite is Snowflake Chocolates. Everyone loves chocolate and this Jericho-based family run operation has never let us down. We love the traditional assortments and the truffles. The customer service is unparalleled. They ship or you can pick up your order curbside.

Tree Ornaments made in the U.S.A. With a nod to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, we are decking the halls with a custom ornament from Mayhem Metalz in Beaver Falls, PA.

Scented Candles. We only buy them at Willow House located in Shelburne, VT. This month we are burning a Balsam Fir candle. Our all-time favorite is Buttered Maple Syrup.

Warm Woolen Socks. Buy them at Danform Shoes. This is where we stock up on our favorite Darn Tough socks. The wool socks are made in Vermont and you can pick them up curbside.

52301-p-crock-and-tray-hero-w-lrgHandmade Stoneware Pottery. We love the glazes Bennington Potters offers, and their serving dishes and sets are perfect for anyone who enjoys entertaining and serving up a beautiful table spread.

Deliciously Sweet Cupcakes. With a plethora of flavors sure to please anyone’s palate, you cannot go wrong bringing some Superb Cupcakes to a party … or stashing some at home when you need a sweet pick me up.

Netflix original movie The Prom. We like it for Meryl Streep’s line “I’m from Zelienople Pennsylvania.” Jennie’s hometown!