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Compost & Climate: Almanac for Sept. 19, 2019

Food Waste is a Climate Change Issue           View email in your browser

Conservation Almanac Special Edition
          Food Waste & Climate
               Transfer Station Expansion Presents Opportunities
                    Going Global: the Vineyard Climate Strike          

Food Waste is a Climate Change Issue
Especially When You Live on an Island!

Tomorrow's much-anticipated Global Climate Strike marks the beginning of a very big week for local action to address climate change. But let's get a head start today by focusing on one issue with the potential to make a meaningful – and immediate – impact on our Island's own carbon emissions.

No one likes to waste food. In a world where billions of people go hungry, and billions more are food insecure, striving for a more efficient and equitable distribution of food (of which there is plenty to go around) is widely accepted as the serious moral imperative that it is. However, fewer are aware that food waste is also an important climate issue.

Drawing on data from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, reducing food waste is ranked by Project Drawdown as the third more effective strategy presently available to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases. When all the stages of the process are considered – land use impacts and agricultural inputs, transportation, refrigeration, and its ultimate decomposition in landfills – wasted food accounts for about 8% of all global emissions. As the World Resources Institute put it, if food waste were its own country it would be the world's third-largest emitter. (One wonders, would the government of this hypothetical nation have ratified the Paris Agreement? Or would they join the more exclusive club of idealistic iconoclasts?)

Locally, these issues are compounded by the limits of our Island's infrastructure. We don't have a waste-to-energy incinerator on-island, and our landfills were closed long ago. All of our waste – clean recycling, contaminated recycling, hazardous materials, and ordinary garbage – gets shipped off island. Therefore, the most direct way to reduce emissions due to waste is to simply reduce the number of trucks hauling it, and the fastest way to do that is to get the food (and other organic material) out of the trash and into the compost.

For the past year, the Island-Wide Organics Waste Committee, made up of representatives from local governments and nonprofits, has been working toward laying the groundwork for an Island-wide composting system. A pilot project currently underway at Island Grown Initiative's Thimble Farm is already demonstrating the potential for large-scale community composting to both reduce the amount of waste heading off-island and create a marketable product (which carries the added benefit of reducing the number of trucks bringing commercial compost back to the Vineyard).

Read more about the local problems, opportunities, and progress-to-date in this short fact sheet prepared by Eunice Youmans, coordinator for the Food Waste Project.

Tonight: Public Hearing
Transfer Station Expansion Offers Opportunities for Improved Waste Management 

Tonight's regular MV Commission meeting (7:00 at the Stone Building on New York Ave in Oak Bluffs) includes a hearing on a proposal by the MV Refuse District to expand their central transfer station in Edgartown. Please read our testimony to the MVC to learn why VCS supports this project and its potential to improve waste management on our Island.

Note: Last week in this space you may have read about our opposition to another development proposal, the "Meetinghouse Place" subdivision. A subcommittee voted this Monday to recommend rejection by the full Commission. The final deliberation and decision, originally scheduled for tonight, has been postponed indefinitely. We will continue to monitor the situation – stay tuned!

Strike Out Carbon Emissions
Local Events Call Attention to Global Crisis

Inspired by the Global Climate Strike movement, for the next ten days our Island will turn its attention to climate change. What is our role in helping solve a global problem? What is the impact of a global problem on us?
A series of events, activities, and outings will seek to express the full range of feeling – somber, celebratory, indignant, hopeful – that this issue evokes. It all kicks off tomorrow morning at 7:30 with an "Earth First" gathering at the Aquinnah Circle. Read more about this inspirational show of community solidarity, and all the rest of the week's activities, at the Island Climate Action Network website. And then join in!

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